Narrative in design/ing ~

  • Design: noun – the intent, the process, the output, the outcome ~
  • Designing: verb – the action ~

Connecting multiple notions of narrative with diverse conceptions of designerly activities is the focus here. A focus in fuzzy zones of knowledge, culture, perception, habits, trends, and much more. We know we don’t know, so let’s get “en voyage”.

Narrative is a general term, for a story long or short; of past, present, or future; factual or imagined; told for any purpose; and with or without much detail. Narrative in design and in designing is looking at how stories support design better, with a focus on phases, in iterative and interactive modes: before the making, during the designing, and after while the designed thing is experienced.

Narrative (the story, the argument, the anecdote, …) is a tool to trigger and channel the expression of intent, as well as for envisioning the innovation impact; narrative allows to move from the implicit to the explicit, and to structure the design journey. Coming up with ideas is quite easy; travelling from an idea (or a set of ideas) into an appropriate experience is a complex journey, full of constraints and contradictions.

Sometimes (often would claim the experienced designer), these constraints are contradictory and this is where the design team has to create conditions for the user to act (or to choose a series of actions), while making sense.

Navigating in uncertain context and interacting with knowns and unknowns require a set of meta-tools and hyper-tools, hence the VIA-Framework, with the Strategic Design Radar and the Narrative Design Radar. It allows to fill the gaps, to feed the gaps, in resonance with some other tools, models, canvas, visualisations, … in order to express the appropriate questions and shape an optimal set of propositions.

Design always begins with a narrative ~ … ~ and gets concrete through interactions, artefacts, environments, infrastructures, experiences and stories.

Design is about making interactions between fiction, function and form.

Designing is about thinking and tooling, about transforming, transporting and transacting.

Intent, Interaction and Implementation. Influence and Impact. Process and Form.

Infrastructures and system(s) for and with humans.

The physical universe is not all that decays. So do abstractions and categories. Human ideas, science, scholarship, and language are constantly collapsing and unfolding. Any field, and the corpus of all fields, is a bundle of relationships subject to all kinds of twists, inversions, involutions, and rearrangement. 

—Ted Nelson, “A File Structure for The Complex, The Changing and the Indeterminate” (1965)

The activity of design runs from intent to implementation with these phases, in non-sequential mode, often iterative:

  • Conversation.
  • Emergence.
  • Narrative.
  • Interaction.
  • Co-creation.
  • Experience.

When meaning and making interact !

Alok Nandi, active at Architempo + Spread Design, is developing the VIA-Framework connecting “Strategic Design” to “Narrative Design”. He works as designer from concept to composition, often busy at the crossroads of things.

To continue the conversation, let’s interact and connect via @aloknandi on Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (see footer) or via the contact zone.