Interaction Design and Storytelling

Séamus Byrne

Director of User Experience

I look forward to presenting my “What’s The Story?” talk once again at WebExpo Prague 2010 conference this September.

Graphic Mint default image placeholder

This will be my third outing speaking on the ever-evolving topic of infusing interactive “Experiences” (including websites) with the craft of storytelling. This has been an ongoing personal narrative for me since Sarah Mattern and I researched the question “How can new web and mobile technologies enhance experiences of story, place and community?” on The Organic City project in back in 2005.

Like most folks, I experienced storytelling as a consumer during childhood through a variety of mediums, comics being my favourite. As a teenager I began prolifically producing stories in the form of songwriting (a pastime I have enjoyed to this day). It’s no coincidence then, that I ended up studying and working in Multimedia, an area where I could create immersive and interactive experiences (which are meaningless without a good story).

As I grew more and more interested and involved in Interaction Design, I missed hearing familiar terms like “digital storytelling” and “interactive storytelling”, which seemed highly ironic to me, considering the the title of the discipline. I encountered “religious debates” and pious distinctions around the definition of “interactive” versus “interaction” design, which I found to be absurd and overly pedantic (a rabbit hole for a later post methinks). I was in a world that really inspired me, as much as multimedia did, yet it seemed to be generally devoid of storytelling.

Since then I have been exploring ways of utilising the strengths and methods of storytelling into my day-to-day work designing customer and user experiences in my position as Creative Director at Graphic Mint.

By no means do I have all the answers. In fact, my attempts to map and integrate aspects from best practices of storytelling to my Interaction Design process has unearthed more questions; but I am convinced there is something valuable to be found in the overlap between the two fields.

Over the next few months, I want to open up this can of worms by writing posts around the topic and by attempting to highlight quick wins and low hanging fruit to help interaction designers add value to their work through the magic of storytelling.

Next Post: Why do stories matter?