No Story, No Glory!

Ianus Keller asked me to put together a workshop on the creation of scenarios and/or storyboards as part of a series of extra curricular workshops organized to close the gaps students are feeling in their chosen paths, studying at the Delft University of Technology.

I did not have to think long to come up with a general premise for this class, which is why  I started  the first real explorations with an extra ordinary  host: Pieter-Jan Stappers, professor of design techniques at the faculty of Industrial Design in Delft.

thinkingwith pieterjan

Now with some 11 years of design experience of my own we were able to fly-over and dive deep  into the subject of storyboarding or telling user stories. We ended up covering most of the Whiteboard walls in STUDIO TALK, which by the end of our exploration was exactly the skill we wanted the students to (re)-discover. Being able to explore a general idea and find focus by making the start-up process visible and clearly articulate what it is you want to design for whom, is something that even designers still have trouble with. It is however the start of any good design story…so this is why we ended up settling on creating a workshop for groups to find their SHARED STORY and move from being a group of individuals to a DESIGN TEAM with a shared goal and story to realize!

[Writing this now, I realize that we strayed from the given scenario path, driven by a shared frustration of students nowadays attacking any problem with a laptop… The faculty used to be filled with hands on practical MacGYVERS, which seems to have ‘evolved’ into some sort of  an IT-Lounge filled with networked designers. To bring back some HANDY WORK into the way master students start up their design challenges together, logic and practicality takes over to help these design “experts-to-be” pick up a pen and get to the wall… to explore, funnel, discuss, test and improve their ability to think out loud and CREATE at the wall …TOGETHER.]

When going into any kind of process with people you do not really know, it is time well spent focusing on creating  a shared idea and finding the path that fits the team. A DESIGN story will help focus a group to make conscious decisions during the design process itself and give direction to the path to be taken by the different experts in the group. Along the way all the intricate detailed work done by the members of the team needs to connect to the overarching AIM of their DESIGN story. The ability to be flexible in your focus (FLEXIBLE FOCUS) will give a team the opportunities to test and fail early. Improving every time.

flexible focus1

But now for the workshop:

The simplest way of getting a group to function like a team is to make them go through some sort of high pressure make-session… forcing them to pick up a pen and draw out their challenge… like MACGYVER used to do drawing a plan in the sand or Doc Brown in back to the future with his “crude”models of how he was going to send marty back to the future. The objective of this workshop was hidden in its practice. By experiencing the value of drawing out thinking and allowing the group to build upon what is made visible, you are creating a shared story!
In the morning the group found common ground sourced from their own likes and dislikes. If you are totally free to chose your own design…what pain do you solve…together? We explored the unique contexts of 8 groups and what their proposed successes will look like for their stakeholders. This created a shared focus that would guide the group in a high pressure design process in the afternoon. By mapping out current and future desired states you frame your own design space…a luxury not to be underestimated for designers… Something that hopefully these groups will have experienced and will use in future projects…

flexible focus

This workshop was made possible in fact by the FLEXIBLE FOCUS of the day. The overarching AIM of the day was to experience the creation of a shared design narrative using visual techniques, which were shared mostly in the final half hour when all the stories started to result in abstract designs. The small tips and troicks can only be shared when you run into real little barriers. This waqs a great way to share some of my experiences in translating thinking into visuals.

The day ended with a 15 minute run through of all the stories AND a little feedback. Courtisy of Pieter-Jan! Check it out:



For more pictures of the process :