The power of

story telling...

The power of story has been alive and well since the beginning of time.  As kids we played by them, as students we learned through them, as parents we shared with them, and as creatives we design with them.  Understanding what makes a story intriguing, and understanding the key elements of a great story translates directly into the design of the space that tells it.  Good stories affect us and move us in a desired direction, they have both purpose and power.  So how we craft the story and develop the elements they  

possess informs the way the space responds in design.


Elements of a good story, and likewise, in the space that tells it, possess the following:

1. Story and Space Should Possess Emotion and Drama That Connect With The Guest

Emotion and drama are made up of many elements working together.  They should leverage all the senses and may include elements such as:

  • suspense & mystery

  • anticipation & expectation

  • conflict & tension

  • surprise & wonder

Making a great story and space involves the assembling of a series of complex ideas that flow so seamlessly together that the parts cannot be individually discerned.

2. Story and Space Should Vary in Rhythm and Structure

While there are formulas for writing styles, a formulaic approach should only be used as a reference when required and not as a crutch for lack of creativity and imagination.  In the same way, space has a rhythm and stride that should not dictate the design but rather support it.  Sometimes space is like an eclectic piece of jazz music with unexpected notes that are difficult to anticipate but in context make sense; other times it is like a traditional piece of classical music with conservative pace and emotion.  Sometimes short punchy sentences are the best way to communicate a story - sometimes long complex sentences are the better presentation. Between each extreme, be careful of monotony, run on, and superfluous ideas that don't contribute in moving the story forward; the same applies to the design of the space.

3. Create Believability Balanced With a Suspension of Disbelief

We love a good story when we can become a willing participant; a good story allows us to suspend our disbelief and buy into the fantasy.  If a story goes too far and goes from plausible to impossible it becomes more of a distraction and we lose sight of the story, plot and drama.

Like characters of a successful story, both story and space share some common characteristics:

  • one of a kind personality; memorable and relatable

  • intriguing and unpredictable

  • complexity and simplicity

  • distinctive and unique

  • familiarity but never before seen

4. Create Effective Nodes

Chapters move us from one major thought to the next.  Space does the same with a hierarchy in design.  Each part of a story needs to contribute to the objective; anything else is a distraction.  Each story and space has a great opening that creates anticipation; it is supported by a captivating middle; and ends with unexpected closure.

Effective nodes may include:

  • obstacles or situations that appear to help or hinder the anticipated outcome of the story

  • subplots that support the story and give it depth

  • methods and elements of the story to help move it forward without revealing it all at once

  • connection to the reader or guest in a space

5. Does It Belong?

Like every line of dialogue in a story, everything in a space needs to belong.  Every character in a story has it's own purpose, and personalty to support that purpose.  In a good story, characters create the illusion of being real but not ordinary; they provide an entertaining escape to move the story forward.  A good story reveals and develops; it helps us understand what has happened, relates to what is happening, and creates anticipation of what will happen.

6. Create an Immersive Setting

A good immersive setting, whether a story or a physical space, allows the participant the opportunity and ability to craft a personal story and experience.  Immersive space is not merely a spectator activity, rather it encourages participation.  Good story and space allows the participant the ability to suspend disbelief in a safe environment.

7. Create a Journey

Like all good stories, or a memorable piece of music, space too has a beginning that draws us in and creates intrigue; a middle that carries that intrigue forward and draws us in even deeper; and an ending that helps us resolve and conclude the premises set forth at the beginning. The conclusion should:

  • resolve the primary conflict

  • increase in tension before providing the final outcome

  • not be predictable or take short cuts

  • be believable but not ordinary

  • satisfy the reader or guest in an outcome that is unexpected and desirable

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