The first time a designer collaborated with me, he downloaded the vision in his mind to mine. We sat in the studio at desks littered with sandwich packets, with a balsa model of a past project on a tilt atop the paperwork. I translated his vision for the island villas and the bay club into words. Together we refined the narrative and next morning it was ready for the presentation boards. It had to be — it was the deadline. A couple of weeks later we heard our project was the winner.
We’ve worked on many projects since, mostly via phone or by email, with one of us, mostly me, working into the night.
Even so, my complete focus is on ensuring a proposal, narrative or content is clear and interesting, and reflects your personality and purpose. I bring to this work principles and standards instilled in me as a journalist and editor at the world’s best quality papers including the Financial Times.
Success in storytelling about design (or any topic) falls to the designer and relies on openness. What is the expected profit for the investor? How will it affect the user?
In managing messages we can easily forget to tell the story.
A story puts people in the picture. Jargon alienates. Show someone a rendering of a large building and they are likely to pull a face and liken it to a part of the anatomy. But sketch a possible life and they will imagine awakening there.
There’s an appetite for stories of design yet many designers receive little or no press. You rush on to the next project rarely pausing to bring people with you. Yet people are fascinated about how you think and want to see how cities and places could be. We want live to be smoother.
What stops a designer from sharing a story? Is it nerves that your vision is too out there, or not out there enough? Are you unsure of how to reach people? Or, is your relationship with the semantics of design uneasy?
Many designers can speak compellingly about their designs but less fluent in writing the language of design. For some walking across hot stones would be the easier option.
There is an old rule of writing called KISS, no it’s not a smooch. It means Keep It Simple Stupid. There is another device, an editor. The guiding principle is to tell a simple story.
Step away from the jargon.
Architectural terminology is OK. Yes! As long as it serves the story. Every word must take the narrative forward.Are you being self-indulgent or striving to impress?
Are you being self-indulgent or striving to impress?
Don’t! Just choose the right word.
The best architectural writing uses words as building materials. It ensures two things: that the house stands up and shows its character.
You can remain true to your technical ambitions but remember while engineering ingenuity impresses, other forces move people. Will this project be profitable? Does this house feel like home? Could I work here?
The best stories come from the source.
Working with architects and designers, I make texts and narratives ready for clients and that can be carried over to PR and marketing.
Recently, I collaborated with a designer on a project that had already sparked big excitement. It unites sensory and spatial experiences of an emerging urban lifestyle, and all from a small green footprint. In the process, we encountered a new name for the project and an image in people’s minds of a possible life. We had fun taking it as far as we could. What’s the point to do otherwise? We don’t want to make the same thing that has been made before. Not unless it’s a fine dinner.
On the way, we encountered a new name for the project and a possible life. We had fun taking it as far as we could. What’s the point to do anything less? We want to make a place like none before.
Marian Edmunds — Telling your story online, in feature articles, a narrative, a white paper, books or through winning proposals.