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  • Daniel Ling

4 Tips of Telling Power Stories You Wished You Knew

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”

- Seth Godin

Stories will help your audience empathise with your design direction. In a sea of Keynote presentations, Word documents and summary reports, a simple narrative is what it takes to convince your audience of your idea. Stories emote and inspire, moving your audience by tapping onto their empathy. Stories help your audience visualise your problem better and connect them to your message in emotive terms.

"North Korea was indescribable" - North Korean refugee

Stories reveal how people think, make decisions, justify their actions, how they understand their place in the world and how people create meaning in their lives. Story-telling forms a big part of design thinking, since the need to communicate and convince occurs at all 5 stages of design thinking.


Take for example:

How might we design a new way to save up for children?


Jaden is 6-year-old Primary One student in a middle-income Singapore family. He has the desire to buy a brand new remote control car by the end of the year. However, he ends up spending every week without much pocket money saved for his dream car. How might we design for Jaden?


Obviously, with the power of story-telling, you will find that your design intention becomes more compelling, emotive and engaging.

We are all drawn to good stories, we buy into stories. A pair of shoes you buy tells the tale of a better future for a poor child, a new policy you sign up for promises the narrative of a better tomorrow and even your lunch lets in on a story beyond your plate. How do we create stories that we so eagerly lap up as consumers?

Here are 4 key pointers to take note:


Your audience should feel and empathise with the problem you are inherently aiming to solve. Promise a greater purpose instead of spelling out every detail of your problem and solution. Harness the power of visuals and audio to strengthen your point and do not be stressed over performing for your audience.

Show your story using the power of visuals, audio and emotions- Silence of Love, Thai Life Insurance


Your design presentation to stakeholders or your first meeting with your users do not have the luxury of time. Therefore your story should not have the cinematic pompous of a 3-hour film but the brief and moving details of a 5-minute pitch. More importantly, audience bore easily and losing their attention could cost you. Remember that the simpler the story, the more likely it will stick with your


To simplify your story- always use "kinda-like" bridge to connect the dots with the audience immediately to their experience. For example- Design Thinking is iterative. Iterative is "kinda-like" a free-and-easy package that allows you to go back and forth when required, whereas the Linear Process is a one-way tour journey.


Write, speak and present in a first-person narrative to create a stronger bond between you and your audience. Allow people to empathise with you by speaking in a first-person narrative. Signifiers such as “I feel”, “I believe”, “We think” appeal to their heart more than to the head. Emotions will allow your audience to understand the problem statement more, and you will be more likely to sell your design intentions.

For example- When Peter saw his telco bills, he felt like a heart attack, but it was lower in his gut. It is like the pressure coming down as if someone was sitting on his neck!


It is easy to get carried away when romanticising the message through a narrative. While it is important for people to feel, it is also important that they do not feel cheated or manipulated. Your story needs to be believable and backed by your design thinking work. The personas you have created has to be from deep insights that you have interviewed or observed.

Stories and storytellers are all around us, so do not forget to pick up great tips the next time you watch a compelling video advertisement, listen to your child’s day at school or donate to a moving cause.

Last Words

I will be adding more articles on Design Thinking throughout the year. Articles of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test will be added periodically to give my readers a broader insights to Design Thinking.

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About the Author

Daniel Ling has more than 10 years of Design Thinking experience and has moulded himself to be a “designer in a business suit”- strong in the Design Thinking process and yet relevant to the financial and business industry- across OCBC, DBS, NTUC Income and Lazada. He trained close to 500 professionals in the area of Design Thinking, Innovation and Strategy. He authored the Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals and the book is sold worldwide via Amazon, iTunes, Ingram, Lulu and Kinokuniya.

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