Day 14: Honesty and Story Telling
Sitting two rows from the front, guffawing at the work they were presenting, I was struck by a recurring theme.
It wasn’t what the conference organises had said their conference was about (which almost everyone ignores anyway), nor was it in the style of work or the same brand of skinny jeans everyone was wearing.
The one thing that connected almost all of the work was honesty. Their work was surprisingly honest.
Gone were the models with fake smiles, the stock photography and boring typography that showed how clever they as designers were. I wasn’t looking at the work thinking how good they were as designers, but admiring how good they were as story tellers. None of their work could have logos replaced by those of competitors without any notice offered by the audience.
It was amazing. Two years on and I still remember what the designs were for.
To be honest in your work you need to dig deep and understand the problem better than the client. And you need to not lie.
So much of the design and advertising we see lies. We’re told this coffee is better than that coffee when it isn’t, that this place is more beautiful than any other when it isn’t, that this magic solution will make you loose weight without any work, when it never does. These are big black nasty lies that we might not be involved in very often, but the little white lies almost always buzz from our work because we enhance the wrong things. So much effort is put into over explaining the ways in which a product is better than its competitors instead of just telling us whats great about it.
Every design is an opportunity to tell a story. Every problem gives us the threads we need to pull at in the hope of discovering what we need so this story can be told and so that the number of possible solutions is narrowed down to the most valid and unique few. This means asking a lot of questions and thinking about a lot of solutions. It means research, great reams of research, research that takes days or weeks to complete, so that you can find that one unique thing this product before you offers.
This honest story telling is beneficial because it allows your client to gain the trust of its audience. An oversold product that’s been purchased is an insult to those who give over their hard earned money and heartbeats. When it doesn’t deliver, your client, and you as designer, are telling the audience that you do not care about them.
They remember this. Unfortunately this is something we’ve become use to because almost everyone now lies, but they still remember.
So imagine what happens when you are told the truth and a product over delivers? When it does exactly what it says it does and more? That’s not just being honest, that’s showing that you respect the audience and tells you the one thing that it honestly does better than anyone else?
There is so much joy in telling stories when they come from a place of truth. The truth can serve as an anchor form which the vessel of the design is placed. And the more honest you are, the more fantastical the audience will allow you to be with your story telling, allowing us to tell fairy tales and adventures and thrillers and mysteries without needing to lie.
Coolest of all, it gives the audience something to connect to – it allows them to feel as if they are part of the story, as if they are little footnotes in the history of the product. This naturally leads to an emotional investment – this is priceless, as no ad campaign is as powerful as a satisfied audience member telling saying to their friends, “Hey, I’ve got this great story to tell you.”
Inspired by It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be: The World’s Best Selling Book by Paul Arden.