Establishing Trust through Storytelling

Timeframe: 2020-present

Recent research has demonstrated that it is critical for designers to establish trust with collaborators in their ability, integrity and benevolence for successful co-design. It has also been acknowledged that in part, this trust is established through storytelling exchanges between designer and collaborator. This paper examines this finding across eight cases where stories have been exchanged between designer and collaborator at different stages in the design process. The cases are comprised of interviews with key stakeholders working in collaborative settings from: IDEO; the National Health Service; Glasgow School of Art; Northumbrian Water; Unilever; Royal Bank of Scotland; Tomato; Traffic Penalty Tribunal; and True North. The emerging themes suggest: stories based on real-life settings help to establish trust in ability and benevolence due to the compassion they can demonstrate; stories that employ novel modes of communication help to establish trust in integrity due to the fulfilment of an expectation to be ‘cutting edge’, and, stories that include elements of humour help to establish trust in benevolence due to the revealing of character. These findings are presented as a model for co-design, to help an ordinarily instinctive activity become strategic.