Speak or Sink is an interactive story that helps young female professionals develop assertive communication skills.

The challenge

How can young women thrive professionally in a work culture that still buys into gender stereotypes? How can they be unapologetically themselves in a society that still holds onto traditional expectations on how they should behave? 


If young women can’t break with a bleak self-image and stereotypical behaviors, they won’t experience a fulfilled professional life. Professional female networks want to help young professional women gain more self-confidence, master office politics, communicate assertively and advocate for themselves. Claim their seats at the table. 


An interactive story shows young professionals in an engaging way how their decisions have a real impact and persuade them to leverage the support and mentorship of a female network.

The objective slide shows a happy Lena smiling at user.

The process

Responsibilities: research, instructional design, scripting, interaction and visual design, eLearning development
Target Audience: young female professionals

Tools: Articulate Storyline, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Audacity

Language: English

Year: 2021

I designed and developed this interactive story by working closely with young female professionals and a communication coach. I also got continuous feedback from other interactive storytelling professionals. 


I applied an action mapping approach, storytelling principles, and scenario-based learning, getting inspiration from Broken Coworker, a classic example of scenario-based eLearning.


I researched the topic by reading articles and a bestseller book. I interviewed young women working in different companies with about three years of work experience. After this, I followed the action mapping approach to identify the key problem, the actions to solve it, and the desired outcome: 

Young female professionals can speak their minds in an unapologetic, still respectful, and confident way that helps them leverage their competencies and skills at work and advance in their careers. 

Three comic frames showing Lena struggling with her feelings.

Story Design

I developed a persona based on my research and focusing on my interviewees’ motivations, frustrations, and goals. I used this persona and the most important desired actions to craft a realistic story and write a text-based storyboard: 


Lena is a young woman working in the digital marketing department of a multinational company who often struggles with communicating assertively. This situation affects the way people perceive her at work, and she often feels frustrated. 

Visual Design

I created a mood board and a style guide based on my persona and her story. Since my protagonist’s story is one of transformation and she is the hero of her journey, I decided to go with a comic-style design. I used stock illustrations that I adapted in Adobe Illustrator to match my story’s different moods and scenarios. 

After creating a raw hand-drawn visual mockup, I designed the first templates directly in Storyline. I selected black, white and pink as my primary colors. Black and white is a standard comic format and pink, as the reframed color of feminism, should highlight my protagonist and her discovery journey. 

I understand the importance of a cover title to catch the user’s attention and motivate them to go through a learning experience. For this cover, I got inspired by the cover of the series Jessica Jones.

A moodboard showing the cover of Netflix series, some illustrations in the colors pink, purple and black.

Interaction Design

I put the user in the center of the learning experience using scenario-based learning. By giving them a relatable character and asking them to make decisions, they actively drive the story, see their choices’ outcomes and experience the corresponding consequences. You give the user a sense of autonomy and control and you address them at a cognitive-emotional level, so they get engaged in the story and become more receptive to the message. 


Consistency in frame design and concise dialogues give the story a good rhythm and flow. The user always has control over the progression of the scenes.

I used game mechanics to score the choices behind the scenes and lead the user to a good or a bad ending. In the end, the user can review the different scenarios to see personalized, constructive feedback based on the choices they’ve made in each situation. This is one more opportunity to recognize good decisions and/or directly address the points that need improvement. By this, you’re reinforcing the story’s message and motivating the user to try again. 


Once the text-based storyboard was completed, I developed an interactive prototype of the setup and first scenario. I gathered feedback from my target audience, SME, and interactive storytelling community.

The second scene of the setup shows Lena leaving Florian's office.

Full Development

I developed a full prototype and tested it again with my interviewees, the communication coach, and my interactive storytelling community. For the back-end score and personalized feedback I especially made use of variables and conditions in Articulate Storyline 360. 


I added soundtrack, sound effects and engaged professional voice-over talents to reinforce the personality of the characters. After final refinements, I published the interactive story.

The results

Since its release, numerous users have gone through the whole interactive story. I’ve got great feedback from users on the visual design, the storytelling and the instructional design. They especially appreciate the opportunity to get a final overview with personalized feedback about their choices.

Sharing is caring! Don’t hesitate to share it with someone who can benefit from it! #SpeakOrSink #LearningDesignerin

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