Episode 116

How the Worlds of Storytelling and Design Intertwine

It’s 2002. I’ve just come up with a brilliant idea with someone I met at a networking event. We’re in the right place at the right time as this idea involves the creation of a software application that’s never been done before.

We get the greenlight to develop this software application for TED. But there’s a problem…

As a technologist who has written books on Flash programming, I have a vision for how this might work. Yet I’m not a designer.

However, I happen to be running a technology conference and know that the best designers and developers in the world are right there! So we ask for the best to come on board and help this idea take shape by creating an email titled, “Want to Play?” in the subject line.

Eight weeks later, we unveil this back-of-the-napkin idea to HUGE success! And it is 100% because of the design, interaction with the software, and what the experience felt like for clients.

My special guest today, Ryan Ford, has over two decades of experience as a professional, award-winning designer influencing the stories of products, companies, and brands. And today on the Storytelling School Podcast, he joins me to talk about how the world of design and the world of storytelling intertwine.

So if you’re curious to know:

What’s the difference between people’s perception of design and its reality? How can you cater your story to different audiences when pitching ideas? How does the design process itself parallel storytelling?

Then tune in as we cover it all. And along the way, you’ll be treated to stories involving anime, outcasts, an ice cream cone-licking sloth, and one movie studio’s ability to drive your emotions better than most businesses you’ll encounter.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Why design and storytelling go hand-in-hand
  • Why you should look at audience first, then story second
  • How you can successfully reposition a long-told story with a simple change

Who is Ryan Ford?

Ryan Ford is an accomplished designer and leader with over 24 years of design experience. He’s built design teams and helped businesses that have had significant cultural impact such as Chime, Deviantart, and Crunchyroll.

Among his many other acknowledgements, he received recognition from the California Senate for contributions to eco sustainability through design. Ryan focuses his time on authoring transformative design thought pieces and mentoring young designers, when not enjoying time in his day job or with his family.

Want to take your storytelling skills to the next level?

I've got your back!

Learn how to craft a story that will make your brand unforgettable

The Proven 5-step process to captivate any audience


my proven 5-step process for short-form storytelling that you can apply to your stories forever


and craft your own Spotlight Story that you can use in a plethora of scenarios


on where and why to use storytelling in a variety of business situations to become unforgettable


clarity on the most common mistakes storytellers make and learn how to avoid those

...and so much more!

I want to stand out!

The best storytellers are memorable for a reason.

Traver Boehm

2-time TEDx Speaker, Author, Coach, and Founder of the Uncivilized Movement

Mo Barrett

TEDx Speaker, Anecdotist, Connector, Mischief-maker, Retired Military Commander, Keynote Speaker

Katy Stevens

Musician, Performer, Recording Artist, Voice Teacher

Greg Smith

TEDx Youngstown Organizer and Voice Coach, Chairman and CCO of Compco

Than Baardson

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Connector, CEO of Unseen, Humanitarian

Cathy Sommerville

TEDx Speaker, Coach, Advisor, Leader, Author, Vice President


I'm ready to stand out!