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Designing Narratives

The New Mediators creates communications that are easy to understand not only through the use of a simple design language, but the application of narrative to complicated subjects as well. This application of a narrative to an often non-narrative subject is key to the New Mediators’ approach. Such an approach requires bringing the lens of narrative analysis to the research phase of a project.

The New Mediators uses style of narrative analysis related  to that of Vladimir Propp. Propp was a Russian Formalist who analyzed Russian folk tales and distilled them into their most basic plot components, which he represented as a series of functions. Propp’s functions were expressed in a formulaic manner:


the formula reads”A tsar, three daughters (x). The daughters go walking (Y³), overstay in the garden (z¹). A dragon kidnaps them (A¹). A call for aid (B¹). Quest of three heroes (C↑). Three battles with the dragon (H¹-I¹), rescue of the maidens (K4). Return (↓), reward (w°).”  While Propp’s technique achieves little in terms of understandability, he has created a robust structural framework that can be applied to a variety of narrative situations. The New Mediators’ design language creates a similar framework designed to be used with non-narrative situations.

A complicated subject, like the credit crisis, can be broken down into a series of scenes. A scene can be a short explanation of a term or relationship. For example, in the Crisis of Credit Visualized there is a scene explaining leverage, a scene explaining collateralized debt obligations, a scene explaining sub-prime mortgages, etc. Laying out all of these scenes next to each other, the New Mediator can begin to explore ways in which a narrative can run through these scenes. Based on the characters and concepts involved, a linear narrative can be created that differs from the actual, mechanical workings of the situation, but is easier to understand and still true to the subject.

A Design Practice as a Provocation »

The Crisis of Credit Visualized »