Articulating design: developing stronger narratives to communicate value

A 90 minute Tutorial by:

Tim Caynes


About this Tutorial

"Your designs are only as good as your ability to talk about them". Or something. A design leader said that. But any discussion on design leadership comes back to this - how do you clearly describe the value of the design that you do? Value to users, value to stakeholders, value to anybody?

Without developing the strong narratives that provide clarity on approach, method and thinking, it's sometimes easy for fear and doubt to creep into a project team. Explaining what you'll do, and what you did, is critical in ensuring the highest degree of trust and confidence - particularly for those stakeholders that may be high on influence but low on engagement.

Experience design artefacts are now part of the language of business, so when articulating design outcomes, it's simply not enough to just describe outputs and their relationships. This is how deliverables get evaluated in isolation. In order to explain the progression from what we understand to the things we make, we should undertake an approach to discussing design based on the behaviours we want to effect and the human outcomes we want to see. This is how we can express value.

This strategic approach to communicating design decisions enables us to construct and deliver design stories based on the context of what we want to achieve. Decisions based on value, not volume.

In this tutorial, we will look at how a structured approach to design conversations can move away from the language of deliverables, using storytelling and narrative development techniques to focus on why, and how, designs have evolved in relation to an initial brief, and, more importantly, in response to shifts in expectations and changes in requirements.

Articulating design is an acquired skill. It can be learned, but you have to practice to get good at it. But once you've got it, not only can you describe more effectively how design makes sense to others, but you get better at how you describe it to yourself. And that's where you begin to understand the real value of what you do.

About the Speaker

Tim is a principal designer at Foolproof, meaning that he's responsible for the integrity of the thinking behind Foolproof's experience design practice.

He works closely with design, strategy and insight teams, and with business stakeholders and third parties, to create evidence-based designs for global brands such as Sage, Santander, Coke, Apple, Sky, HSBC and Shell. As principal designer, he is focused on understanding user needs and behaviours, contexts of use, and interactions with information systems, to do smart things for good people.


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