Design as Storytelling


Design as Storytelling – is a talk for Web Expo conference in Prague in Media Hall on Saturday 24.09.2011.


Hello!  As you can judge from my name I’m a Czech citizen currently living abroad. I originally came to the UK for 3 months and have been here for over 7 years. Recently joined R/GA and realized it was one of the best professional decisions I‘ve ever made – and shortly I’ll tell you why.

I’m sure you’re all tweeting, or mailing or basically working hard on your mobile devices. Well – if you do so, as I speak please tweet some question we can answer on the end if we have a time. And also if you want to follow the talk grab the link bellow -

You know it …

You know how it is – your grand father is an engineer, your father is an engineer, even your brother is an engineer so everybody automatically expects you to become one of them, and they were kind of right. Before I became real engineer, I realized that my real passion was’t really to convince the user to use the design I’d designed but to find the solution the user desire and then start designing. I want some real feedback, some interaction, communicate with the people. During my studies at technical university as a Product Designer I also signed up for another college – Faculty of Fine Arts – Graphics Design and Visual Communication.

Suddenly everything made sense. Within the following two years I started researching for MA describing problematic implementations of typefaces within web browser called – digital typography and I become a

Developer, designer of sort and finally Ux Designer – where more than 60% of my time I spend on research, I studied user behaviours and I do interaction design. Balancing between these two core disciplines gave me enough confidence to make a right decision in real UX process.

I believe design is sharing

Today Talk

will be about creativity and how creativity is changing in the digital environment. Also about design as a discipline – where the industry completely changed. Digital branding challenging market place, about different environment as well as about the designers how did they change or even further how they should change to fulfill clients expectation. Finally about our process – how did we change and how do we work and why we work this way. True and false of collaborative work in international environment.


Because sharing is about the ideas lets talk about these at first.


“Who knows what this is” – yes this is a moleskin notebook – pretty much the most expensive sketch book on the earth. I’m sure, you carry one of these around yourself and if not I hope you’ll get one soon – because those back icons help me design the world as I knew it.

Iconic reminiscence

What do we keep in these notebooks? Iconic reminders of all your ideas – where some of them never see the “light of the day”. I’m sure we all have similar things in it, some drawings, schedules, notes. There are still some empty pages to. Those waiting to be filled up, with new ideas or just another piece of inspirations – flight ticket, bill from the coffee bar in the corner or some page from your magazine you still reading in paper form to reminding you the layout you find inspirational.

Blank sheet of paper 

What drives us in finding new possible spaces and solutions. Obviously starting from a blank sheet of paper is the hardest challenge but it gives you more freedom to think what you want to do. It opens other spaces and it forces us to think and be original. Have a strong concept and a strong story rather than picking up something that already exists. Where you need to rely on existing gestures and functionality, where we just changing the order of the elements.
I mean to have a certain framework is FINE but don’t limit your self or experience to be driven mainly by the technology. There is a huge opportunity for all us to direct our projects the way we want it. Maybe people still don’t understand that designing the space is a part of their culture.


The problem I see is - that we don’t understand the digital space as a blank sheet of paper. Be capable to design without limitation – respect the environment and expected behaviour. Build our solution not only for use but for education and engagement of human kind.

It’s always finding right solution ..

Finding right Solution.

Looking for the right solution I realised that designers and especially digital designers needs to go beyond the traditional model of research and methodology. As most of you even I have been in the situation where I have been asked to fix something on existing project. So what would you do is quick wireframe and probably some mind map or user journey to ensure you are on the right direction. But the problem is in the integration and understanding where this functionality can be reuse and why.

Never settle for the first solution

Believe me or don’t – I don’t like to complicate things, but to understand the problem you design for – you need to fully analyse the market place, client position and also understand the target audience. Then the complexity of your problem becomes simpler – because you don’t make assumptions in your thinking process anymore but you rely on the facts.


One of the most expressive methods I is when starting a project. And I mean any project – first we call in developers, Ix Designers, Visual Designers and Copywriters for a workshop. Within a day or two (depending on the project) we gather enough material to understand the robustness of the project, effort, problematic places and technical challenges we need to deal with, as well as the possibility to grow and even more gaps in the market.

Those aspect guide us to re-brief and come with unique solution.

The team is your solution

if you are in the right team the solution is right in from to you. All of your colleagues, challenging each other and opening the rooms for new possibilities. Especially copywriters – in all our projects the copywriter play a major role from the beginning.

The reason for that is simple: brands nowadays are not longer about polished design and smooth interaction – it’s about the story. Overall story is tied with the expression of the brand making it more reachable, more engaging, more interactive, more accessible.

Scale it down

Even when you gather all the data and you get to the end, you need to be prepared to scale down – and this is the hard part especially for designers and their pride. Developers and their standard and mainly client and their own investment – scale it down.

Do you remember the workshop I mentioned recently. This give us enough understanding what we can scale down and why. It also give us confidence to make these decision on the go, because entire team already agreed on the structure and possible scalability.

We also know what is crucial for the launch and what can be done afterwards. All parts of the team are already comfortable if some part of the experience will suddenly drop off – because we all know whole picture.

Digital Designer

As a digital designer are we really prepared to take this place?

Translating brands

into digital form is not about relying on the same principles as print. In 2003 Filip Blazek published an interview with Martin Frederikson in TYPO magazine. The article was about designing bitmap typefaces – more importantly the interview was about “respecting the environment which we design for” it’s all coming back to me again. Respect the digital environment – and gesture for each different solution.

Nowadays designers don’t rely on traditional measurement when they designing the brand. They design transition, animation, and stories about how the brand will not just look but how it feels.

It’s not final stage

We need to understand that designing is not final stage. I don’t mean just flexible layout now, I’m talking about minimum size of the button for the touch, scroll bar (if need it) with appropriate size to hold it with the finger, but even more.

  • Where and how the design / brand will be / could be receive.
  • How many possible form of transition it can be to create from brand experience solid brand memory.
  • How to transform temporary movements to a successful behaviours.

Design techniques change ..

The power of successful solutions is in the flexibility of decision making, but it’s also about the respect of the knowledge of other colleagues based on the ownership. All members of the team are part of decision making – we all participating.


Structure is slowly changing – in the beginning of the 20th century we decided to use folder structure to understand where data was saved. Nowadays you can see many digital repositories without this level of structure – using key-words or even – trigger words to find what we looking for.


And finally navigation is changing – the methodology behind how we search or how we build websites is changing. In the 90’s it was all about navigation and content, 2000 was pretty much about sense of content and then menus (do you remember the blog) and now it’s all based on relevance – how you design something which doesn’t have navigation.

Lauren Cramer in April 2010 talked about designing without the navigation. And I thought it’s quite interesting idea – let’s try some time. One our latest project allow me to test this proposed idea a surprisingly this works and not just on small scale of the project but even on bigger one – and if I mean bigger we talk about 1500 unique pages

So we talk about the creativity in general how this affects us as designers and developers we also touch on a little design education and look at the freedom of designing.

Design as Discipline

and how the traditional design changed?

Center of Design Community

London is definitely a unique place. The creative spirit of London is not in the National Portrait Gallery or V&A but in the many different styles and variety of opportunities. Coming to London you realize it kind of makes sense because it’s a place where the center of design community is. Good quality of creative spirit especially in design.

General Design

Look at the all the French, Italian or even Czech websites that all have same kind of manuscript – and simply the same style. Whether you’re looking at a banks or dentist website there are many elements identical – London doesn’t have that. Design is more general, has more freedom in sense of collaboration between the client and the studio – and the idea is more open. The time for the execution is appropriate to expectation, and I think – it definitely has something to do with trust.

The people hiring you, trust you to bring the solution live.

I was told that most of the clients come to London because they think they can get what they call “the best of design” – but if it’s true or not it’s up to them – I don’t see it this way.


Research plays a key role – I have never seen spent that much time on research in general. I mean development and design research are standard in our field UX / IxD research. Copy & planning are involved in the early stages what’s really makes a difference.

Design Events

And also you have all these events where the curatives share their inputs – Design, Typography, Interaction Design, Agile Development process, etc. Events and lectures are all around you. In a months time you can find yourself pretty busy if you really want to reach all of them. You suddenly realize that you’re meeting up with almost the same people as yourself.


This provides opportunities for conversation and collaboration. I’m not sure you have the same things here in Prague. Every week we have someone who talk about new practices in Agile Dev and another week we have UPA – who share their methodology and strategy with their peers Design talks mostly about typography and design industry eye magazine or St Bride foundation.

The Collaboration

and sharing the ideas or even link over a beer or to has more impact that posting the links on the twitter. People know each other and ask you for the recommendations about touch screens because they know you worked on touch screens the entire last year. To be part of it has some benefits – Not only from the membership or entrance fee you need to pay when you arrive, but from the reference you are part of the group passionate, educated, lecturing about a specific topic.

For example UPA repository helped me many times especially with the research for kiosk touch screens and their positioning. What I’m actually trying to say is that the sharing is not only suck someone blogs but become part of something more bigger more important, more personal.


I’ve been living in London long enough to tell that London “thinks digitally” and I hope other cities can experience this as well and I dont meen just public transportation now London’s tube or projects like chromaroma which most of you probably know, but it’s in the way how the design in general is executed and spared.

The British way of designing is more general in the way they think about the concept. The clients don’t worry about particular typefaces upfront but about the idea and long term solution. Another difference I see in styling, and in many cases European design is made up of the British way of designing, we see the design at the end not as a first things and this I see as a main difference.

Defining the Brand

Brand is no longer defined by vector shape. Designing the brand these days affects how we receive the brand, for example how sound affects or generating the logotype, how the animation explains the story of the brand or even how it is perceived in Digital TV. It’s suddenly all pixel bases and no one know how to transfer it from the printed brand guideline. So if there is a desire from the client we make a logo which moves and sounds – but not only for their website but also for the all kind of mobile phones or even TV screens.

First Place

The first place where the user sees the brand is probably on their portable device or even in TV. This is the place you have to make it right first, no one cares about the business card anymore.

Emotional Brand

Than you begin designing the shape which affects how the brand is used. This happens rarely, but some times you can see that there are some brands who change their logotypes based on user behaviours. This is a clear indication that there are massive opportunities for all digital agencies to react and push their brands to came up with more emotion and sensible solutions for brand expression. (more at –

User Generated Brand

You can end up with co-creation of the logotype where the user designs small elements and you animate them in the way their are shaped. Immediately you have a brand which your audience designed and participated in creating and they feel more engaged and more involved in the process. (more at – - User Generated Branding: Integrating User Generated Content Into Brand … By Ulrike Arnhold)


We are living in the most revolutionary age.

The Book

Two of my colleagues wrote a book in 2009 called – OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT SHOULD I DO? I’m sure you’ve read it and if not please do so I’ll supply the link on the end of the presentation.

This book has 150.000 collies sell by tweet – you can tweet it and download it. (

Christian & Leif have done extraordinary work where they unified the digital environment and the possibilities of the change in horizont of 2-5 years. We’re currently experiencing a time of change – a change during which a whole generation is evolving; this generation is growing up with an entirely new media behavior. It can’t imagine a world without new media. Now, also, the marketing industry must adapt, since you can hardly reach this generation using means and methods from the past.

Please let me borrow only one paragraph from this book


In many agencies, you can find the same type of bosses: mostly male and growing old. They also like talking about change and about the fact that digital and interactivity are becoming increasingly important at their own agency, too, of course. Yet when you ask the creative teams, you often get the answer that they haven’t really noticed anything yet. In every briefing this is part of the agenda; however, there’s no real outcome in terms of interactive or even integrated campaigns. No wonder, since in most cases, these executives have no idea of how to deal with New Media. It’s not their fault, since they haven’t grown up with these, unlike the youngsters in their teams.
(© pay by tweet – Leif Abraham & Christian Behrendt)

So as I see it. It’s really is up to you and not up to your bosses to decide which direction you should go.

  • Educate your colleagues
  • Educate your bosses
  • Educate your clients
  • Educate clients Users


It took us 40 years to make a radio available to everyone.
It took us a decade to introduce the telephone to over 10 million people…
YouTube reached 10m accounts within 5 years and
G+ achieved this 20m in two weeks.


How about the brand? Obviously this is another question where we need to be really sensitive. Most of brands realize that their position is not only in manufacturing goods but also to take care of your audience and communicate properly to every single person.

Communication is no longer one to one but one to many.


… and the campaign. All studios do the digital based campaigns over and over again and they could continue until the client realizes it’s not enough. We think campaign is part of something bigger that only sends the message to the audience “we have a new product”

We incorporate campaigns in to a model where we specify what is the outcome from the campaign apart from the marketing revenue. Do we educate users about the possibilities of the product, is there emotional engagement, where are we reaching the user and what type of response do we expect? All these aspects apply to our expectations about a campaign.

Creating a Memory

It’s not about a single moment of selling something, but from the single experience that creates a solid memory of a story we just took you through. Using the same techniques as we did before, now with differentiation of a story tied together with design and technology.

Beyond the Campaign / Brand

We must look beyond the campaign. User buy what we’re selling, but what is the benefit? how do we know that the user is successfully enjoying product, sharing their experience with their peers and creating awareness through word of mouth. This also brings more people to the site / campaign but no fo reason to by but for reason to compare and share their experiences.

The user becomes the advert itself.

And I think this is the way how I see the brands an their growth - let’s go to something more practical and look at the brands over a last 50 years or so.

Linear Integration

The linear integration refer to model where the company build the the brand around the product. To get more from the market the company create another product, which increase revenue. The problem of this solution is – it’s not scalable enough. Also more product on the market means more confusion for the potential buyer and more-over consumer don’t build the loyalty to the brand.

Role of Agency

the role of the agency in this model is simple to deliver campaigns to the consumers, but in many sense this in end to end solution. This doesn’t allow the agency and also even client to grow in terms of relationship. Obviously you can bring more work by bringing new product, but challenge will be grow to integrate product and convince client to believe new marketing message.


The functional integration rely on the brand experience and loyalty. The client represented by the product introducing services around the product. Campaign and local support even another product supporting main product.

Other Perspective of the Brand

Visual design becomes more than just semantics when put in the context of executing a project. When all departments falling into the trap of losing focus on the user experience as we put our heads down and grind away the story holds the ground.

Questions like “Do we really need copy here?” and “Why can’t these just be icons?” are testaments to designers falling into the trap of potentially sacrificing a strong user experience for purely aesthetic purposes. The same thing happens for developers and UX folks who take shortcuts/sacrifices to make their slice of the process a bit easier.

Ultimately, we’re all visual designers in the sense that we’re creating visual/tactile user experiences. We need to ensure that the user experience is our priority, and that our individual skills (graphic design, programming, UI design, et all) reinforce that experience.

Design Process

The Final section is Design process – are we prepared to take a lead and start the designing in a digital environment. I’m sure we are, but my question is will users be?

What is UX

Before we dive in to a design process, lets talk a bit about UX itself. It’s a fairly new discipline and everyone describes it in a different way. At one of the UPA events in London I asked my colleagues what does UX mean to them and to make it even simpler I streamed this into single words – so here they are.

All of these themes have something in common. No matter what type project you are on, no even matter what type of client you have, no matter how much research you need to do …
no money … (obviously in czech environment it can be money)
diplomacy … (certainly)
Collaboration (even closer)


I’m glad you say that because communication is a real challenge and key factor not only international teams but  but also for local one. We all need to know where and what to communicate. We always have to keep diving deeper and deeper.

Dave – (one of my colleague) uses the terminology Paddling, Swimming, Diving where Paddling – is mostly talking about the concept, “hypothetically”  Swimming – is in many respects talking about “how we can make this work” and finally Diving – where we talk about “why we are doing this, this way and not another way”.


We divide our deliver-ables into two main categories – Hard & Soft. Those where the project cannot live without and those which make a difference and secure the client in terms of his spending.

In to the Hard category we count:

  • Sketching
  • Wire frames
  • User journeys
  • Flows
  • Site maps
  • Logic diagrams
  • Module specs
  • Prototyping
  • Dev documentation

And also the elements that provide context and insights:

  • Use cases
  • User stories
  • User research
  • Content audits
  • Competitor benchmarking
  • Personas
  • User testing

This differentiation gives Ix Designers full understanding of deliverable but also the process we need to go through. This is closely tied up with development design and copy department.

Effective process

Three pilot disciplines where the fourth one overarching and ensuring we are heading in the right direction. Between UX and Dev. we primarily discuss functionality and dependency on data. Design and Dev. discussing mainly pixel perfect layout, data optimization and loading process etc. and finally between design and UX we discuss layout, visual hierarchy, and data flow this all together is over seem by copywriter – to understand which type of copy we need but also understand the story we’re aiming to deliver.

The Team

Teams it self plays key role to deliver the project. Each team is structured by the client needs. The core of the team is always PM – project manager who hold all the contact control the budget and keep everybody happy.


Around the PM is already presented 4 leader from 4 different departments. Dev, Visual, IxD/UX and Copy all on the same level. These people as a one – drive the show. What ever happened these four solve it and make a decision. Time effective and engaging collaboration where everyone has part of the ownership and responsibility to be part of any decision made on time when required.


No matter if you work on Agile or waterfall – scrum / stand up is our daily routine ensuring that everyone is on same page. If you have a time and would like to discuss this further stop me afterwards and we can dive in to it.


We went through Creativity and challenge of blank sheet of paper, we talked about the brand and campaigns how they are integrated in our system and how we and a designer can take a benefit of it. We also open the door of Design and industry which pretty much changing on daily bases and we need to reflect that.

We all have a possibility to be a “design heros” and deliver outstanding experiences. Only think I can wish you a fly …


  1. amazon-silk / introducing-amazon-silk
  2. london buses flowprint


If you have any question in EN / Czech drop me a line or post a comment.
I’ll reply as soon as I can.

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