COMMUNICATION

Storyboards

Storyboards are an incredibly versatile tool, long used across a broad variety creative fields. Use storyboarding to map out your user’s experience, to build the narrative of your presentation, design the frames of a website and so much more.
Goals
  • Visualize a narrative
  • Create a first draft of 
presentation slides
  • Map out a user journey
Tool themes
  • Storyboarding
  • Visual thinking
  • Prototyping
Information
Group size 1-3 people
Time 30 minutes
Material Post-its, markers and a timer
Level Easy
Facilitation Intermediate

Sketch out your story.


Perhaps you already know that the most impressive and memorable animated movies all started out as storyboards. First invented at Disney Studios, the storyboard soon became a standard tool in film production as a way to chart a story and share it with others. Nowadays, storyboards also play a significant role in user experience design. Companies like Airbnb, Google and Facebook use storyboards to define the customer’s journey through their products, helping to make more informed decisions in product development. Whether they’re comprised of rough sketches or more sophisticated designs, storyboards always communicate a story through a sequence of images.

We use storyboards as a tool to produce more effective visual presentations. Because images make your story easy to understand, a storyboard can help you share your ideas with stakeholders instantly. We create storyboards with Post-it notes, building them on the wall as early in the creation process as possible. This functions as a graphic organizer to help evaluate the narrative structure of a presentation. It provides an overview of the story arc, as every part of the presentation is visible at a glance – something no presentation software can match. Another advantage of Post-it notes is that rearranging the sequence as you go couldn’t be easier.

The first draft of the storyboard functions as a rapid prototype. The goal is to get your ideas out of your head as soon as you can. Think of the storyboard as external storage, freeing up cognitive resources to keep honing your presentation. Once your story is down on paper, it’s easy to revisit it frequently, to add new ideas and take out what isn’t working.

Storyboards are also a great tool to create a common understanding of an idea within a team. The visualization of the thinking process is an effective way to invite others to step in and collaborate on a story. It keeps all team members on the same page – literally. This fosters a deep sense of ownership, as everyone can contribute.

The best way to design your slides is to start with pen and paper. Storyboards help you organize, analyze and simplify your content. Even before starting on the design of your digital slides, you’ll first plot the outline of your presentation – and the main events of your story – using pen and paper. Don’t fret over the details – it’s absolutely fine to use stick figures and rough sketches of what you’re trying to convey.

Our storyboards usually consist of simple drawings with corresponding captions. Make the images the primary content – the captions should only be very brief additional descriptions. The rule of thumb is to convey one idea or message per Post-it (and later, one per slide), using one image and one very brief sentence. The storyboard should not consist of illustrations alone. You can also just use text, or add photos. Whenever we come across a fitting image on the web, we print it out – a screenshot of something inspiring, for example – and add it to our storyboard.

The neat thing about working with pen right from the start is that it forces you to think deeply about your content and simplify your material. In addition, this visual method makes it much easier to internalize your story’s flow, as our brains store textual and visual information in different areas. If you storyboard a design solution, you are forced to think about aspects of the idea that normally would not come to your mind.

What we especially like about storyboards is that they help to organize and analyze content at the same time – turning vague ideas into solid content. Or as Robert H. McKim, one of the leaders in design thinking, once put it: “Drawing helps to bring vague inner images into focus.”


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