we are all made of stories in neon

A story makes us think: This could be us…. It could be me. 

In their shoes, what would I do? 

Storytelling gives us a new perspective.

It opens up a whole new way of seeing, thinking and understanding of human centred experiences.

Stories in films, books, and plays introduce us to alternative worlds. Worlds where we can  access experiences we might never otherwise imagine, or encounter, based on reality, or fantasy.  

Stories expand our awareness of other people, and the human condition.

They do so in a way that is both accessible and memorable. Much more so than a report chock full of data, graphs and charts.  It is what makes storytelling such a powerful, meaningful and persuasive tool for communication – and marketing.

In TED talks we are used to hearing stories that are sharply persuasive and focused. But we can be also intrigued by the more rambling nature of conversational stories in the The Listening Project.

Narrative 4 aims to express: ‘ Stories that break down barriers and shatter stereotypes’ . The significance of storytelling in contemporary experiences is widely appreciated.

Often it is the stories that evoke quiet emotions and insights that stay with the reader/viewer/listener.  We remember the sense of place, the detail, the mood.  We fondly remember the characters as rounded people in whom we believe, even though they are fictional. 

The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, warns against the ‘danger of the single story’.  

If we persist in only telling ‘one story’ ( as one viewpoint) it is what people assume is the truth.

But, it is an oblique perspective if we never  encounter any other stories ( and viewpoints) because we don’t see them as real stories – or stories of any value. 

History can be told in ways. The facts alone can be misrepresent people their stories, experiences and views: what really happened and what didn’t.

In our everyday real life stories co-exist as a multi-layered expression of lived experience.

Our personal quirks of life situates our own experience as a time and a place. We live in the present but that changes when it becomes the past.  

Everyone has a story to tell. 

For people to openly tell their story they need to feel comfortable  to do so. There needs to be empathy; people need to feel listened to.

Often, it is the softer, unspoken insights that tell the real story; the story behind the story.

To find out what people really think we need them to tell it as they see it.   It is not just about what they say – but also how they say it. 

In 1974, one of the very first TV reality series “ The Family” was shown on British TV.

It depicted a working class family from Reading; their everyday life and family relationships.  This was something never seen before; an unscripted glimpse into the private world of family life.

It made for compelling TV viewing.

Since then there have been many fly-on-the-wall documentaries/docudramas. They may lack high-drama of fictional stories but, because they are authentic and relatable, they can resonate more with people.

Voices, suppressed, hidden, lost and ignored are  powerful because they speak of things that affect us all.  

In interior design ‘the single story’ that is normally presented is:  “Before” and “After”. The standard formula: unhappy client… a problematic space… a difficult process… a wonderful solution.

The designer steps in with a magic wand to re-work the space, solve all problems. Hey presto! 

Before: Misery and chaos. 

After: Happiness and delight.  

Whenever a designer is presented as someone with all the answers to all the problems  it skews the focus away from the clients. How, where and why they make everyday  life decisions – or not.

That is: their experience and knowledge, taste, preferences and tolerances.

Enabling people to articulate experiences, behaviours and ideas is key to understanding their needs.

Good designers spend a lot of time working with people to observe and discuss, to reflect and develop ideas in order to find a suitable and workable solution. It is an intense process of listening and reflection because it involves ‘other views’ in that process.

Their story: how they see themselves, where they want to be, where they have come from – is an essential aspect of the design process.

When we are able to situate a story in a space it adds so much more to the data.

Peculiarities that would never, ever appear in generalised statistics may well turn out to be the key to a solution.

A single mumbled comment or an aside may lead to a revelation and new way of looking at the problem.

Personal accounts and observations are widely used  in design research.

We acknowledge that everyone and every situation is different and therefore each person’s response is significant.

It is how they see it.

It is how it is – for them.

Which is why this website came to be.

Within the process of telling their story different themes emerge and overlap in the context of lived experience of design. This enables the home, as a focal space of people’s lives, to present a spatial context of decisions and experiences.

It places the home as a centre of lived experience. 

This is design in the broadest sense of human centred experiences. It looks at the day to day challenges people face physically and emotionally as a continuum, across different different life stages.  

It is their story, in their words.

A snapshot of a time, place and experience.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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