Kicking off design projects in 3 acts



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People love stories. Telling and listening to stories is a fundamental part of the human experience. Great narrative isn’t only engaging, but motivates cooperation and fosters empathy—exactly what your client workshops should achieve. That’s why you should structure your design kickoff meetings like stories.

So, we invited Caris Hurd and Todd Nienkerk from Four Kitchens to give us an InVision DesignTalk about using the classic 3-act structure to develop a meaningful, human narrative to engage clients and stakeholders at kickoffs and ensure project success.

Watch their full talk below, or read on for our short recap.


Use your imagination

Todd began the presentation with a taste of Four Kitchens’s methodology by having us imagine this scenario: A friend bursts into your house and tells you that you have to grab 2 things and come with him. You can pick just about anything—your laptop, a knife, a rope, sentimental objects, anything. However, you have no idea where you’re going, and your friend says there’s no time to explain.

A few hours later, you find yourself on a desert island. Todd asked, “Would you change what you decided to bring?”

Most people would—and that’s because you have a deeper understanding of the situation.

“To understand what we should do, we have to understand why we’re doing it.”

This imagination game serves 2 purposes:

  1. It gets attendees actively participating, talking, and laughing first thing in a workshop and sets the stage for collaboration
  2. It also introduces the concept of the “why,” and how the “why” affects the goals of a project. In this game, the missing “why” is where you’re going. The “what” is what you bring with you. To understand what we should do, we have to understand why we’re doing it.

Drama class

Todd and Caris recommend structuring your workshop like 3 acts in a play. They outlined specific exercises and tools that you can try out in each one of the 3 acts.

  • Act 1: Setup and scene setting
  • Act 2: Confrontation
  • Act 3: Resolution

To learn more about the 3-act structure Four Kitchens uses in their workshops and what makes a good—and bad—workshop, I encourage you to watch the video above!

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Margaret Kelsey
Margaret Kelsey leads content marketing at Appcues. Before Appcues, she built content programs for InVision’s design community for 3.5 years and has roots in painting and PR. She’s a big fan of puns, Blackbird Donuts, and Oxford commas—probably in that order.

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