Brands, Digital Storytelling, & the Appearance of Age

A couple of items from my family's story, complete with the signs of use and age.

A couple of items from my family's story, complete with the signs of use and age.

Our culture is increasingly defining itself through story: appearance of age, Instagram, weathered surfaces, distressed type, Facebook Timeline, Path, Twitter; the resurgence of tattoos. All of these speak to the histories, hardships and events that shape us. Events in time and place. Sequence.

'Story' can take on many forms: the rise and fall of ideas and empires, the coming and going of friends. Microblogging; the birth and death of dreams. The realization of hope. Point A to point B—anything that proves there is change. We have story because we have movement.

Increasingly designers are encouraged to 'tell the story' of products and brands. Tell it visually of course (leave words to the 'word people')—but by all means give the story credibility and impact.

I think the design community in general has been pretty intuitive about the importance of underlying story, and we generally strive to preserve it.

So now, let's bring into focus the problem: often we design for authenticity, which leads us in the direction of historical accuracy and 'brand truth.' We naturally strive for consistency which ends in static layouts and static brands.

Herein is the issue—'static' does not equal story.

So here's a daring prediction. And a prescription to go along with it.

The coming trends for print are the pieces that fit together in a sequence and invite the reader into an unfolding of events. Outdoor will increasingly rely on multi-part campaigns. Web will be a tool of empowerment for audiences to tell stories, to intertwine their story with that of consumer brands. Cross-media campaigns will showcase ideas in formation and draw increasingly on audience feedback loops; brand evolution propelled by the masses.

Everything will begin to take on a multi-state stucture to infer time, transformation and movement. In order to preserve meaning in our design we must not only tell the story, but draw our audience into it.

We must no longer describe, but invite.