Storytelling in Design Presentations

Storytelling in Design Presentations

Learn why storytelling is so critically important for designers when they are crafting design presentations, and find six storytelling techniques you can apply when crafting your own presentation.

Reading Time 5 mins

As a product designer, I’ve seen talented product designers with wireframes that achieved cosmic perfection fail. I’ve seen lesser (albeit capable) product designers succeed time and time again. The reason? Successful designers know how to tell amazing, memorable stories in their design presentations to sell their work. 

Why Do UX Designers Create Presentations?

Design presentations serve a few purposes. They are a chance for designers to connect their decisions to the needs and problems facing either the business or the user. They also allow designers to gather feedback and alignment from the team.

So, say you work at a tech company that (like most) prides itself on making decisions based on data. Why not just prepare a series of charts and diagrams? While data does an excellent job of narrowing decisions, it doesn’t capture human problems particularly well. To evangelize a product team and give an engaging UX presentation, you need something more potent, something that transcends the boundaries of statistics and wireframes—enter storytelling.

Why is Effective Storytelling Helpful When Presenting UX Work?

Imagine you’re presenting a new feature to your team. You could list the features you’ve designed, the user flow diagram, and maybe even some specs for the work. I’d argue this style of presentation doesn’t rationalize your design or sell your audience on your work. Instead, it proves how much work you did, which isn’t the goal of a design presentation.

Successful narrative design in presentations is all about walking your audience through a set of problems facing a user, a sequence of how they look for solutions, and ultimately, how they experience relief and delight from that problem. Executives believe in the value of storytelling in business, because they know it helps sales, marketing, and engineering align around a common set of goals and advocate for excellence. (Not to mention a study that found 65-70% of information retained via storytelling versus 5-10% for simple charts and graphs.) 

“You don’t sell a house by talking about sheetrock. You sell it by getting the buyer to picture themselves in the neighborhood.”
– Mike Montiero, Mule Design Studio

Storytelling fosters empathy. When we put our audience in the shoes of a user, it opens the door for more thoughtful discussion and problem solving because it invites non-designers to weigh in on problems they understand instead of feeling removed from technical jargon.

6 Storytelling Techniques to Apply to Your Design Presentations

Now that we’ve established the importance of storytelling, let’s dive into some practical UX presentation techniques that designers can apply to their presentations:

Craft a Compelling Narrative

Good narrative design in presentations relies on a satisfying structure. Start by setting the stage—introduce the protagonist (the user) and establish the context of their journey. What are their pain points, frustrations, and motivations? It’s important to make sure you also talk about how your user attempts to solve these problems as you introduce them. Then present a hypothesis or assumption on how your solution offers them relief, and how you intend to prove it. Finally, conclude with the transformation—how your product makes their life better, and most importantly; how you know.

Use Visual Storytelling

People process and understand stories a lot faster than non-narrativized content. Are you explaining to us how airport security lacks efficiency? Show us a flow chart. Does your design presentation center on how customer support struggles with call volume? Charts and pictures can help us understand the magnitude of the problem. Visual storytelling in design can take many forms, but rest assured your narrative will resonate with your audience and hold their attention if you include strong visuals. 

Use Assumptions to Create Contrast

You will encounter dozens of story structure models, all with their own merits—but one of the easiest and most engaging UX presentation techniques is to present an assumption, and compare it to a reality you encountered in your process. Sometimes this reality is revealed through user testing, other times through research and iteration. This technique helps you gain credibility and gives you moments of surprise; a “plot twist” to grab your audience with.

Invoke Emotion

Don’t be afraid to tug at your audience’s heartstrings. Is your story about elementary schoolers? Show us some cute kids. Global hunger? Give the audience a statistic or quote that illustrates the magnitude of the problem. Emotion is the fuel that drives engagement and empathy. Share anecdotes, testimonials, or case studies that evoke joy, frustration, or excitement. Help your audience connect with the human side of your design, and they’ll be more invested in its success.

Keep it Simple and Clear

While storytelling adds depth and richness to our presentations, for impactful design storytelling, simplicity is key. Avoid jargon and technical details that may confuse or overwhelm your audience. Focus on conveying your message in clear, concise language, ensuring that everyone can follow along and understand the story you’re telling. 

Invite Participation

Lastly, make your design presentations interactive. Encourage questions, feedback, and discussions to foster a sense of ownership and collaboration among stakeholders. It’s okay to think about your presentation as negotiation and Invite them to become co-creators of the narrative, shaping the future of the product together. A great way to engage your audience is to tell them what type of feedback you’re looking for so they can keep an eye out in your presentation for opportunities to chime in. 

In Conclusion

Storytelling is a powerful tool that can help you make engaging UX presentations and earn credibility if done well. By explaining the value of design instead of its contents we can inspire, educate, and ultimately drive meaningful change. So, the next time you find yourself preparing for a design presentation, remember to channel your inner storyteller—because that’s where the magic happens.

Ready to Learn the Foundations of Product Design?

Any product design role requires a foundational knowledge of design thinking and user-centric design. If you are ready to start your journey as a product designer, apply now to Flatiron’s Product Design Bootcamp. Need more time to decide? Take a look at our syllabus and see how we teach designers to succeed in tech.   

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of March 30, 2024. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Zach Saul

Zach Saul is a senior product design instructor at Flatiron School with 10 years of design experience in politics, banking, and healthcare. He enjoys white boarding ideas, and learning about the newest…

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