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Creative tools > Storyboarding

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it when defining a problem situation to bring it to life.

Use it to explore the dynamics of a solution.

Use it to communicate a story about your idea.

Use it to plan implementation of a solution.



      X    Long



      X    Psychological



      X    Group


How to use it

Develop the story

First consider what you wish to explore or explain. Many situations or ideas can be brought to life by showing what happens over time, illustrating the very real stories in which they do or may exist.

Explore the dynamics of the situation. Talk to people to understand their lives. Draw out their stories. If you are developing ideas, you may then seek to overlay these onto the lives you are plotting, to see where they go. Consider how your idea shapes and guides the story, dramatically or subtly changing what would otherwise be.

Find a coherent storyline, with actors and a complete plot. Good stories build tension and include unexpected surprises. They evoke emotions. They show struggle and learning. And they end by resolving the tensions and leaving the reader satisfied.

Draw an illustrative sequence of pictures or diagrams

Think about the visual pictures you can create to make your story leap off the page. What are the key turning points in the story? What are the main things that happen? What are the main messages?

Your pictures need not be 'professional' at all. Stick figures work very well in storyboards. You can also use computer clipart or good old cut'n'paste from magazines.

You may include people but sometimes people are not a part of the story. You are the storyteller and are in complete charge. They only constraint is what you want other people to think and feel when you display your story.

Storyboards can be very short - as little as three pictures. They can also go on for several pages. Again, the only constraint is your imagination and the interest of the reader.

Storyboards may also be told with text and diagrams. If you are showing improvements in a business system, a simple before and after process diagram plus performance charts can tell a very powerful story.


I am exploring ideas to help infirm people move upstairs. I use a storyboard to develop an idea and share it in a slightly amusing way with others.


How it works

We understand much through stories and it is a key medium for communication. When people converse, they tell each other stories of their lives. Stories are thus natural media by which anyone can explain something to another.

Stories are also great for learning, as we naturally follow along the path they lay down to the ideas and conclusions that the author has crafted.

We take in a lot through our visual senses, and so using pictures allows a lot to be communicated in a few scenes.

When we watch or listen to the story of another person, we put ourselves in their shoes, feeling and experiencing as they do. Stories are great for hooking people in and generating emotional responses.

See also

Exploration, Guided Imagery, Role-play, Unfolding


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