Designing Products That Tell a Story

Product design is tricky business. On one hand, you want to appeal to as many end-users as possible; on the other hand, you don’t want your product to be so bland that it appeals to nobody.

Yesterday I spent an afternoon discussing design with Lara Stephenson, designer and founder of Ann & Arayata. Lara creates beautiful clutches and handbags woven from raffia, a fiber from a type of palm tree.

Over lunch and multiple rounds of Americanos, Lara and I talked about how to design products that are not only beautiful but also meaningful. In short, how do you design a product which tells a story?

Ann & Arayata has a great story: the weaving technique is a specialty of rural Filipino artisans, who use only 100% natural materials and water-based dyes. By supporting this indigenous craft, Ann & Arayata is contributing to local development in these communities while also donating funds to infrastructure, food and education projects via charity L.I.F.E. For Health.

Storytelling has always been one of my strengths but product design is another matter. Talking with an expert like Lara really helped me clarify some of my thinking about design.