TsoDa place written by Daniela Panfili

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December 22, 2014

UX and visual art: looking for a common methodology (part II)

Starting from the previous post in which I talked about the relation between visual art and UX , I would like to share with you more insights about a methodology coming from the narrative, that is actually part of your daily life as UX designer: the Storytelling.
I asked to an artist with who I worked with, Diego Mazzaferro, to introduce the subject of Storytelling applied to the visual art, to give a better understanding on how this works. Building the bridge between the Storytelling’s usage in visual art to the User experience design, is evident from this post.

Me: Why do you create this link between art and Storytelling?
Diego: It is possible to successfully apply the logic of Storytelling, originally intended for the art of writing, to the visual art. Especially because it is still an unchallenged domination of spontaneity without rules, but we need some rules to create…
Rules are made to serve, not to enslave the mind and exceptions are a way to better-fit rules into your work! Here following, I can explain you how.

Me: Could you introduce the Storytelling methodology?
Diego: A narration is composed of two basic elements: time and contingency.
The narrative is strongly tied to memory.
Memory places events in ordered sequence that you can see as a “straight line”.
Narrative does the same: it defines an order of key events one after another, it records a sequence into your mind, like the memory’s straight line.

As it’s made for humans, art is a social object: it has its own space, has its own time, and its existence depends critically on the perception of the subjects. “A sculpture that size can only be seen from Mars cannot be a work of art” (ref. Maurizio Ferraris).

If you think to the art in terms of communication, you can define the similarities between the act of Storytelling and making art.

Both forms of expressions first start from a pre­text (the idea) and then define a text (structure) amending and redefining the pre­text itself by giving a new view, that we can also call, new morality. Why this name?
Let me do an example. If I use an old story to express a modern concept, my audience will not understand the goal behind, because it’s too far and old related to their lifestyle. So we need to “create” a new story based on the old one to adapt it to our time.

Beyond this first point in common, there are others numerous points shown in the following graph:

Comparison graph between Art and Narrative schemas

Each of the points expressed in the chart deserves a separate discussion, but to better define the situation, we are now going to develop the concept of structure, comparing the structure used in narrative to the structure of a visual work.

Looking at the chart, you can recognize the cyclic structure of a narrative. The same you can apply to a visual work, switching from an ordinary world (reality) in an extraordinary world (utopia) and then finally return enriched to feel and know in an ordinary world, in reality.

Vogler, a writer that worked for Hollywood, wrote clear guidelines about this structure.
Starting from the schema that he defined for screenplay (Hero’s Journey), you can recognise:
● The main character that has to accomplish a mission and to realise it, starts a “trip” > the public that goes through your work
● The mentor >the introductory concept that explains your work
Characters that help him/her accomplishing the mission and Characters that are against him/her > There are helpers comparable to the objects represented in the art work
● There is even the antagonist who is identifiable in that part of the work that goes some way to obstruct the clear understanding of the message
● There is the reward and the return to reality enriched by a new feeling and a new idea.

For me, these concepts that I’m telling you, are the basics to start exploring and understanding how certain rules can help creativity.

Me: I think that there so many useful point to inspire the design and not only the art, I even don’t know where start to point them out!

Conclusion.
Also if literary text and a visual work use different approach to provoke emotions, one describing and the other evoking, it’s evident as you can use the same rules applied to the storytelling to structure your project working on making art.
It’s also evident how Storytelling works for art, much more can be useful into user experience design, to structure users’ stories. Maybe you already use this, but now you can have a deeper knowledge and references.