Designers pp 113-123 | Cite as

Storytelling and Metaphor in the Engineering Design Process

  • Peter Lloyd
Conference paper


‘There seem to be two ways of understanding things; either by way of a metaphor or by way of a story… either [a person] can call on a model - a metaphor - of rationality… or [they] can tell a story’ [1]. The two conceptions are not mutually exclusive, but the distinction seems sound. I argue that, although the popular way of representing and understanding the engineering design process is through metaphor – ‘models of rationality’, there is also another way in which designers understand designing, and that is in terms of ‘storytelling’.

I draw on empirical data from a two week study in a small engineering design company to show: how metaphors relate to designing behaviour, how social experience is encapsulated in stories, and how stories from different organisational departments lead to different understandings of common objects - product specifications for example. I conclude that storytelling is the key mechanism by which a well defined ‘common language’ evolves, and thus a highly economical way of interacting.


Design Process Engineering Design Design Project Design Organisation Organisational Department 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Lloyd

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