Practice storytelling in design with Pitchify

May 13, 2022

Qiong Peng defended her thesis at the department of Industrial Design on May 10th.

Source: Shutterstock.

Everyone loves a good story. In design, storytelling plays an important role, especially in human computer interactions. As evidenced by terms such as “design as storytelling” and “designers are storytellers”, stories are broadly applied in design in different domains and phases, and often visualized and shared in the form of storyboards. For her PhD research, Qiong Peng explored the empirical use of storytelling in design and created a new toolkit called Pitchify to support the planning of stories.

Qiong Peng.

Storytelling is a promising way to assist designers in discussing human-related aspects, which explains the popularity of storytelling in design for experience. Prior studies on storytelling in design provide useful insights and references from various perspectives, but additional studies are advised as literature mostly highlights the values of storytelling, but is empirically weak with regard to the actual design practice in storytelling. The challenges and problems seem to be underestimated and need to be investigated 

Starting with StoryPly

For her PhD research, Qiong Peng considered an empirical exploration of the adoption of storytelling in design. Peng started with insights from the StoryPly method, which was developed within the Systemic Change group at TU/e and aims to support designers to envision and discuss user experience through crafting and visualizing stories.

A discrepancy between the slow acceptance of storytelling by students of industrial design and the theoretical claims on the benefits of storytelling was observed. Inspired by such insights, Peng and her collaborators were motivated to conduct research to understand how industrial design students adopt storytelling in their design practice, what problems they encounter, and what alternative approaches or solutions could address issues.

One specific issue was how storytelling in design could be better supported by appropriate tools and methods. Peng focused on the development of tools or methods to facilitate student adoption of storytelling in design pitching as storytelling is required and happens naturally when pitching.

Meet Pitchify

Peng conducted an investigation on the ideation, development, and evaluation of tools in support of planning stories for pitching design concepts. Guided by a research-through-design approach, she created a toolkit named Pitchify, which is a set of templates and cards that can guide design students through the process of planning a story for pitching a design concept. The toolkit has been tested and accepted as being useful by participants, such as industrial design students from diverse cultural backgrounds. 

Peng showed that the industrial design students’ acceptance and adoption of storytelling in their design practice can be enhanced and improved provided that this is facilitated by appropriate tools or methods.

Two contributions are worth mentioning. First, the gap between the literature, which predominantly highlights the benefits of story/storytelling, and the adoption of storytelling by industrial design students in their design practice is investigated, and the lack of accessible tools is identified as an important obstacle. Second, a toolkit specifically aimed at planning stories for pitching design concepts is iteratively designed and evaluated.

Title of PhD thesis: Practicing storytelling in design with Pitchify: A tool to assist in pitching design concepts.  Supervisors: J.B.O.S. Martens and Caroline C.M. Hummels.

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Barry Fitzgerald
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