Telling stories that “move” at the Animating Stories Workshop

| By: Emily Iles
Emily Iles

Once upon a time, Almanac sponsored a workshop. It was called Animating Stories, by Jorge Canedo Estrada [Associate Creative Director and animator at Giant Ant], and designers in St. Louis were elated.

On Friday night, designers gathered to listen to Jorge’s lecture and worked to unpack that way-too-ubiquitous word: storytelling.

To hear Stefan Sagmeister tell it, it’s the most overused and useless word in design language today. On the other hand, the concept is as old as time, and deeply ingrained in all of our communication. We tell stories—over beer and while planking (we swear it helps the minutes fly by). We instruct, we learn, we share our humanity and personality. There’s no grand scheme to the stories we tell. We just do it. And we fall in love with the good ones.

Jorge’s lecture focused a lot on how we tell stories — and how we move believably from one thought to the next, so that our audience hears what we’re saying, even catching the nuances in the way we’re telling the story.

One of the most valuable parts of our process at Almanac is developing personas to guide our storytelling. In these exercises, we imagine the person who is going to receive a particular piece of mail, purchase a product, or be asked to donate to a cause, and develop their profile: their name, where they work, type of car they drive, the kinds of stressors they have in their lives, their technology preferences, etc. Afterwards, your target audience of young moms looks a lot more like Stephanie, a 33-year old mom of twins who just dropped them off at Granny’s and now has four precious hours to spend (and on…).

Telling yourself a story about Stephanie, is critical in gaining an understanding of her, so that you can write a story that Stephanie cares about. It’s so very interesting to me that in pursuit of great stories, we spend significant time as listeners and watchers, before we ever get to the “telling” part.

Beyond simply telling a great story, the workshop the following day was a deeper dive into the process of bringing a story to life through animation, case studies about real Giant Ant projects, and a step-by-step breakdown of a simple (that’s subjective!) animation that focused on realistic movements, and the kind of playfulness of motion that makes something interesting to watch. [Check out the 12 Principles of Animation for a very adorable explanation].

I could easily geek out on the technical treasure trove of knowledge I left with, but I’ll spare you that and instead leave you with a reminder to listen intently to the stories that are happening all around. Notice what’s happening in the moment that you become immersed in a story. Study your favorite storyteller—whether it’s Martin Scorcese or J.K. Rowling. And live happily ever after with stories of your own.

Image courtesy of AIGA St. Louis.