Hidden Details: Connecting With Buyers Through Stories
As a society we have grown to a point where we naturally demand more. We want to go deeper, we want to explore, and we want to be entertained. We are looking for meaning and connection with the various ways that we invest in projects, possessions, and people. We crave stories and authentic connections.
You can easily find reports to confirm this that relay a common theme—we are a society that is now willing to spend more on experiences and less on stuff.
“Purchases of clothing and shoes as a share of discretionary spending has dropped. Instead, consumer spending on recreation, travel and eating out has been trending up for more than a decade” -Kevin Logan, U.S. chief economist for HSBC.
I LOVE this news. I love that people are buying less clothes and investing more in spending time with their friends and family. I love that we invest in experiences that open our mind to different cultures and new experiences.
But I have to admit, that as a designer – a creator of “stuff” – it freaks me out a little bit. This shift in how consumers are spending their money creates new challenges for all designers of “stuff.” Fortunately, with these new challenges comes amazing opportunities for growth as designers and makers.
How can we connect with buyers and give them the experiences they are craving?
Through stories of course.
“Everything needs to start with a story. When I work on a collection, the story will give the framework — the beginning, the content and the end,” -Sandra Choi of Jimmy Choo
For some designers, telling stories comes very easily. One of the most obvious ways of telling stories is by incorporating illustrated storylines within a pattern or collection. For example, you could create a character, such as a caterpillar, and create a series of patterns based upon this caterpillar’s life and her adventures. In one pattern she could be dancing amongst the leaves, in another pattern she could be on a boat sailing through a sea of watercolor stripes. You want to take the buyer through the life of the caterpillar, exemplifying the caterpillar’s personality and story through your artistic style and interpretation.
Tip: when creating a collection remember to use different layout styles and introduce new motifs to keep the buyers attention and make your collection more dynamic and entertaining.
Is your work less illustrative? If it is, don’t worry. Designers who have a less illustrative style can still tell stories through their work. A less obvious way to entertain and tell stories through your work is to choose a classic pattern style, such as a damask, and brainstorm ways to replace the expected motifs, usually flowers and leaves, with unexpected motifs or marks, such as brush strokes, dots, or quirky characters.
Textile Design Lab member and Pattern Observer Studio designer Robin Fernstrom, is a master of this technique. She replaces traditional damask and mirrored layouts with whimsical characters such as bugs, sloths, and owls. I recently had the privilege of presenting her work to some of our clients and it was a joy to see them light up once they “discovered” the hidden motifs. “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” filled the room.
As you are developing your story consider who is buying your pattern or product. It’s important that we don’t get so wrapped up in storytelling that we lose sight of our audience and what they find entertaining and meaningful. A caterpillar’s journey isn’t an authentic story for all designers to tell and it is not going to be an entertaining story for all buyers to see. Think about the story that you want to tell and push yourself to tell it in a way that resonates with your customer.
Just like a writer guiding their readers through a storyline, consider how you are leading the customer through the collection or pattern layout. Will their eye start at the leaf motif and then discover the hidden graffiti texture beneath? Will they think they are looking at a dot pattern and then realize the dots are actually cat silhouettes?
Telling a story through your work, even in the most subtle ways, is just one way to shake up your design routine and create a deeper connection with clients and buyers. If you are ready to spice up your portfolio with new ideas I invite you to sign up for our free 5-day Design Shake Up. In this free design challenge I’m sharing the exercises and practices I use to stay creative. Even when life is hectic and busy with work, children, errands, and all the rest, the habits and techniques I will share with you always keep me inspired and creative. I know they will do the same for you. Grab your spot here.