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Introduction to design narratives

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Yishay Mor
13 February 2013

A detailed description of design narratives is available at:

The slidecast below highlights some key concepts and provides tips for constructing design narratives.

Creative Commons Licence This work by the The Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at theOpen University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


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Jane Nkosi
9:45am 28 February 2013

Hi Yishay,

I have watched the presentation on slideshare. It is quite informative and easy to follow. I like the tips you are giving, especially on trying to be objective in writing the narrative.

Jane Nkosi

Jonathan Vernon
6:38pm 28 February 2013

Golly. I haven't learnt not to be impulsive so wrote and posted my narrative first. On reflection I do this all the time and think I covered it in the first pass, improved it on the second then added comments. I did this without either looking at my 12 or so clouds or external blog posts which I ought to do. Unusually for me I have observed more than taken part, these last three weeks in particular reading emails, Google+ shares, watching all the videos and clicking through what others were doing.l Great Slideshare. Blunt, informative and surprising - I'm an enthusiast for Haruki Murakami, so if I say that at times I feel I have been down the bottom of a deep well you might understand - better than being skinned alive.

Yishay Mor
10:38pm 28 February 2013

Hi Jonathan, but where is your narrative? I can't see it in the cloudscape!

Alice (Xin) Huang
2:18am 1 March 2013

Very informative presentation! One thing I definately remembered is "narrative to understand" not "narrative to be understood"  This is where I got wrong before. I will try this appraoch to my work.  Thanks! Alice

Briar Jamieson
5:22am 1 March 2013 (Edited 5:23am 1 March 2013)

It is interesting to see Slide 9: Be a STARR, as I usually associate this technique with HR behavioural interviews (past experience is the best predictor of future actions).  Obviously, in an job interview you want to present 'your best side' and highlight the challenges that best represent your success (so even in your failure you have reflected and learnt something).  However, given the nature of the interview, you might tone down some of the context and smooth out some details.  And this is where I am often 'stuck'.

How honest to be in design narratives when describing 'challenges' faced in a project? (Slide 7. The Good Story: Context, Challenge, Success, Reflection. )

In my last blog post  it was easy for me to point to my own shortcomings or challenges that affected the design process, but I consciously avoided presenting other force map 'push/pull' tensions for self preservation (lol). I did want to present more challenges, not to gossip, but to share more 'lessons learnt' yet I held back because I am not sure how my description might be perceived by (or impact) other 'characters' if they read my story.  

In any design project there are many stakeholders with different sides to the story, groups with multiple agendas and spectrum of personalities that I wonder how others feel about presenting challenges? How open are people to being reflective of the process? Is it the goal of design narrative to have multiple stakeholders comment or produce their own stories so that more can be learnt about the process, those 'oh, I didn't know that my ___ affected your ablity to do ____" revelations?


Yishay Mor
9:28am 1 March 2013

Brair, as always - very perceptive!

First - well spotted. The STARR technique is indeed borrowed from HR methodology. Except that there the object of study is the designer, and here it is the design. There it is used to discern who you are, by observing how you handled a situation, whereas here it is used to learn about the situation and the innovation that emerged in response to it. 


I think your other question touches not only on our natural tendencies to protect our image and identity (and that of others we fear may be affected), but also on the tension between openness and sincerity. When you post your narratives in a completly open medium, like this, you are wary of how people might read and interpret them. If you were keeping them in a vault I'm sure you could be much more candid and critical. But then you wouldn't enjoy the benefits of feedback and interaction. 

I'm afrain I don't have an answer to that, other than I wish we could establish a culture were sharing our faults and mistakes was highly valued.

Tom Reeves
8:55pm 1 March 2013

Yishay wrote: "I'm afrain I don't have an answer to that, other than I wish we could establish a culture were sharing our faults and mistakes was highly valued."

Perhaps we need something like a “Morbidity and Mortality conference” for learning designers. Hospitals have had M&M conferences for over 100 years. They allow surgeons and other healthcare professionals to share their mistakes in an open forum that is non-punitive and confidential. With the aim of improving patient care and avoiding costly and sometimes tragic mistakes, healthcare professionals share cases that have gone wrong with their peers, debrief them, and identify ways of avoiding similar errors in the future. Although they are primarily associated with teaching hospitals, other types of hospitals hold them too, often on a weekly or monthly basis. Here in the USA, there is a new television program based on these conferences called Monday Mornings ( ). Here is a description of the process from the Emory University School of Medicine here in Georgia:

Imagine if we could establish something like this for learning designers and teaching staff in our universities and colleges?! 

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