[VIDEO] Expanding Storytelling with Transmedia Design

Posted July 29, 2021

In 2020, global demonstrations and activism against systemic racism continue to remind us that we’re still not including enough voices in our work and enterprises. In this video episode of the TIDE Generator Podcast, ESI Design’s Mary Franck, Creative Director, joins host Kirsten Nelson and Wiena Lin, Creative Director with Public Good Labs; and Senior Experiential Media Producer Daniel White to examine of how we can expand storytelling through transmedia design — telling stories using multiple mediums and reflecting multiple voices.

Expanding Storytelling With Transmedia Conversation Highlights

Something that Mary has been thinking about is how experience design can incorporate multiple stories and storylines, and allow people to become co-creators. Hallmarks of storytelling reference Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces, which features just a singular protagonist. But in today’s modern age, it’s become clear people crave narratives that aren’t single-point, and these lend themselves to being more inclusive.

Kirsten ponders whether the realtime nature of experience design perhaps lends itself for more narratives to exist in a free-form format where it they can shift and change. Wiena agrees, and suggested that during the pandemic designers have been asked to reconsider what an experience looks like “at home” as opposed to an experience that requires your physical presence. The home experience can look much more individualized. Mary Franck shares an early example of a simulated installation environment that was used as a hub for a virtual experience incorporating with feeds from individual homes and wonders if this model could also bring to a physical installation site too.

Wiena poses the question: How much kinship or emotional connection can consumers feel by watching on as other people in their community engage in a brand experience? Could this be improved by the brand speaking to them directly, where they are. Perhaps new tools could help tell a less-linear narrative, one that is more immersive and allows for increased audience participation. For the audience, this could feel more cinematic, and less like a website. When you put the controls in the hands of the audience, you end up with something closer to a conversation, Wiena concludes.

Daniel suggests that the industry was previously very focused on metrics such as impressions or foot traffic, but the pandemic shift has encouraged a broader view to engage people on bigger canvases. Mary agrees that this is a key moment for experimentation.

Personas are often used by designers to help think through the types of people who will be using a space, says Mary, and how long might they engage. Daniel suggests that an easy way to design more inclusive experiences, is to create a more diverse group of audience personas. Making sure they are reflective of the population in that area is a straightforward and active way to ultimately design an experience that attracts even more people. As part of this process, Wiena suggests brands and companies take time to listen to the community, and find ways to amplify the platforms and needs the the community have already identified.

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Explore Multi-Narrative Storytelling

An example of such multi-voiced storytelling is at The Peopling of America Center at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, which allow visitors to choose from a variety of videos of real immigrants sharing their first-hand accounts of arriving and living in the US, reminding visitors that people come to this country for many different reasons and face many different challenges. Such first-person narratives offer an added benefit: putting visitors in other people’s shoes sparks empathy, helping them gain an intimate understanding of
experiences much different from their own. This is something that more and more museums are making part of their mission.

Sometimes visitors are invited to contribute – through an online photo competition, for example – helping to create a genuinely community-driven experience. There are many ways exhibits can invite contribution during or after a visit to better engage the audience and keep the content fresh, giving visitors deeper involvement and a sense of ownership. The SIM at Edward M Kennedy Institute has an open software developer kit (SDK), which allows local schools and colleges to create new topics or modules for the Senate chamber to debate.

Read more of our thinking of muti-narrative storytelling here in this article we wrote for Attractions Management Magazine.

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ESI Design

NBBJ’s New York experience design studio, ESI Design, transforms places into experiences that seamlessly weave the physical and digital worlds together.

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