Storied design : narrative matters in design presentation

Tjhien Liao

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Presenting a design can be straightforward, when it concerns an object that can be brought into the room' for demonstration. In the fields of interaction and service design, however, the object of design typically cannot be presented this way. Rather, a disposition needs to be developed that pertains to both a design as well as its narrative counterpart, in order to represent the design in a particular way - its outcome being a storied design. This thesis is a study of the structure of design presentations given to a general audience in the fields of interaction and service design. The purpose is to clarify what is involved in presenting a design in these fields of design practice and, through this clarification, explore how it differs from a more conventional product design presentation. It establishes the concept of storied design, which is arrived at through the empirical study of a set of video recordings of design presentations. The study looks closely at how interaction and service designers talk, argue, represent and explain their designs. A theory emerges through a process of grounded theory in which the concepts of storied design are successively elaborated. This study draws from, and contributes to, design research concerning the role of narrative, storytelling and the use of visual material in design, with a focus on interaction and service design practice. The resulting theory explains why an interaction or service design presentation relies on representations of the object of design, rather than a demonstration of the actual object. It shows that such an object does not ‘speak for itself’ but is given meaning through a narrative that needs to be designated; that the designation of such a narrative is key to constituting how the object is to be understood by a given audience; and that such a narrative can be various and is not necessarily determined by the object, although it may remain conditioned by the object. The theory is further put to use in showing how design methods provide the narrative means, which are mobilized in support of representing the object of design in various ways during presentation. It draws attention to the conclusion that the interaction or service design itself may only exist in the collection of representations and can be understood as a storied design. The theory allows for distinctions to be drawn in storied design practices between interaction and service design presentations and more conventional product design presentations. This distinction to interaction and service design presentations allows for further exploration on how the development of a storied design and to what degree the scope of what is storied about the object of design pertains to a strategic value in indicating what can and cannot be designed about it.
Translated title of the contributionStoried design : narrative matters in design presentation
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Supervising Professor
  • Hyysalo, Sampsa, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6806-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6807-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • design presentations
  • interaction design
  • service design
  • storied design
  • narratives


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