Episode 53 — Storytelling

storytellingWe talk with mechanical engineer, product designer, educator, and executive consultant Craig Sampson about the importance of storytelling in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast.

  • Carmen likes the universality of engineering stories, in that all engineers eventually encounter similar difficulties in dealing with customers, managers, and organizations.
  • In a prior episode of this podcast, guest Bob Schmidt talked about the importance of stories in conveying information about problem-solving methods and approaches.
  • Our guest for this episode is Craig Sampson, who is founder and principle consultant for TBD Innovation.
  • Jeff and Craig were classmates at Stanford University in the early 80s, while both were taking the Smart Product Design (ME 218 A/B/C) sequence of classes.
  • Craig was good at math and science in high school, so he gave engineering a try at the University of Colorado.
  • Jeff and Craig joke about programming in FORTH during their Stanford days.
  • Larry Leifer led the Smart Product Design program during the time that Craig and Jeff were students.
  • Craig has fond memories of watching a robot arm that performed ballet-like movements to the music of Trois Gymnopédies, composed by Erik Satie.
  • Also on the Stanford campus at the same time as Craig and Jeff was David Kelley, the founder of Hovey-Kelley Design, which later became David Kelley Design (DKD) and eventually merged with two other firms to form IDEO in 1991.
  • Craig started the IDEO office in Chicago, which now employs more than 60 designers.
  • Paul Rand designed the original IDEO logo, which saw various alterations over the years.
  • Craig finds the term human-centered design (video) preferable to design thinking.
  • Our guest references a book by Tom Kelley (brother of David Kelley), The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm.
  • Joseph Campbell outlined the classic “hero’s tale” in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
  • Storytelling is the process of making your engineering work relevant in the lives of others, according to our guest, by presenting a believable vision of a better future.
  • A good book for understanding service design and innovation is Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.
  • Craig is a Senior Fellow at Farmhouse, the Innovation Center for advertising leader Leo Burnett.
  • Our guest mentions the book, Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future.
  • According to the drawing by Hugh MacLeod, “The market for something to believe in is infinite.”
  • Craig recommends the Dan Pink book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, to engineers who think there must be more to life than the daily grind.
  • Personas are fictional characters that are imagined using a product or service.
  • Our guest has started a class at Northwestern University, within the Segal Design Institute, called “Designing Product Interactions.”
  • An influential book on addressing human expectations is Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things.
  • Our ability to integrate visual and auditory information is pushed beyond its limit by the McGurk Effect (YouTube video).
  • Pareidolia describes human perception of a random stimulus as being significant; this is a form of apophenia.
  • Synesthesia is the phenomenon that occurs when stimuli normally associated with a single sense activate a secondary sense, such as sensing that numbers have colors, or words have tastes.
  • Craig notes that our confidence in a product is completely intertwined with our confidence in ourselves.
  • It is increasingly the case that designers are creating tools, rather than products, for their customers.
  • SketchChair allows people to sketch out the profile of a chair, which is then delivered as a set of cross-sectional cutouts that can be assembled.
  • Skeumorphism is the use of a stimulus that is referential to other products or experiences.
  • Jeff mentions the Dan Saffer book, Microinteractions: Designing with Details.
  • Our guest encourages all engineers to think about how their work might positively impact the experiences of others.
  • Craig can be reached at TBD Innovation.

Thanks to René Wouters for the photograph titled “Storytelling Academy #IEDP-42.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.