Evaluation by narration

Evaluation is an important step in the process of interaction design. One way to do evaluation is narration.

What is narration?

In the readings there were a lot of different terms all around narration. The most read one is "storytelling". But what's the difference to narration?

  • narration: noun The action or process of narrating a story.
  • storytelling: noun The activity of telling or writing stories.
  • narrative noun A description of events

Somehow the oxford dictionary didn't clarify it for me. So I dived deeper and found an interesting blog post by Patricia Lane.

Her conclusion is:

"Could we say, if striving for simplicity, that if a story is the WHAT, the narration is the HOW?"

This somehow fits to the fact that:

"A narrative is not just an unresolved story, but a system of stories, some resolved and some not." – https://csc.asu.edu/2013/03/21/the-difference-between-story-and-narrative/

I am still not sure whether I got it right but it makes sense to me, to differentiate from "what?" and "how?". Especially from the perspective of a designer.

What is narration good for?

Using narration can help you as a designer gathering information from users, improving empathy, lead to innovation, make it easier sharing ideas and understand situations or problems better.

Therefore narration is useful for example when pitching ideas to investors or future clients. Sometimes a good idea alone does not sell itself enough. A good story can help to put an idea into someones head.

The dangers of narration

We need to be careful, that we do not simplify the narrated story too much.
Also often it does not make sense to come up with a story after the design. Meaning that inventing a story can feel unnatural and cheap.
Often the viewer recognize if a story is not honest or does not transmit enough intimacy.

tangible user interface and radical atoms

Something rather complex that can be easily explained in a story are radical atoms. Radical atoms are described by Hiroshi Ishii as a "dynamic material" that itself becomes the interface and we can interact with whatever it represents directly. For example the nano tech suit of Iron Man.

This is still a bit futuristic. In todays world only tangible user interfaces (TUI) are present. TUIs make digital information a bit more physically explorable and interactable. For example the project "Transform" by the MIT.


Auger, James. 2012. “Demo or die: Overcoming oddness through aesthetic experience”. In Why Robot? Speculative Design, the domestication of technology and the considered future. PhD Thesis. RCA, London.

Hertz, G. & Parikka, J. 2012. “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method”. In Leonardo. 45:5. 424–430.

Ishii, Hiroshi & Ullmer B. 1997. “Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms”. In Proceedings of CHI ‘97.

Ishii, Hiroshi, Lakatos, D., Bonanni, L. & Labrune, J. “Radical Atoms: Beyond Tangible Bits,Toward Transformable Materials”. In Interactions. 19:1. January/ February 2012. 38-51.

Kim, J., Lund, A. & Dombrowski. 2010. “Mobilizing Attention: Storytelling for Innovation”. In Interactions.

Loch, Christopher. 2003. Moving Your Idea Through Your Organisation. In Laurel, Brenda (ed.). Design Research. Methods and Perspectives.

Additional Readings

Brown, D. M. (2010). “Competitive Reviews” In Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning. 254­-263. Berkeley: New Riders.

Nelson, Ted. 1974. Computer Lib. Dream Machine. Seven Dollars.

Quesenberry, W. & Brooks, K. 2010. “Why Stories?”. In Storytelling for User experience. Rosenfeld Media.