Storyboarding is a brainstorming technique where you stick pictures on a wall to frame out stories. In the book, Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition), Michael Michalko writes about how Walt Disney originally came up with the idea of storyboarding to see at a glance how far along a project was.
What Is Storyboarding
“Storyboarding can be likened to taking your thoughts and the thoughts of others and making them visible by spreading them on a wall as you work on your problems.”
The Story of Storyboarding
“Walt Disney came up with the idea of having his artists pin their drawings on the walls of the studio in sequence so he could see at a glance how far along the project was. Each scene was then used as a point around which a complete story could be told. The story was told on a wall covered with a special kind of board, hence the term ‘storyboard.’”
How To Storyboard
Michalko outlines the following guidelines:
- Topic. Tape or pin the topic card on the wall. In our example, the topic is to “create a new restaurant.”
- Purpose. Each brainstormed purpose is written on a card and posted beneath the “purpose” card.
- Headers. Identify and list headers, which are primarily the major issues, attributes, or solution categories of the process.
- Miscellaneous. It’s a good idea to include a miscellaneous header to contain all those items that don’t fit within the other categories.
- Brainstorming. Group members use each category as a stimulus for problem solutions and write these ideas, solutions, and thoughts on cards.
- Hitchihiking. During a storyboard session, consider all ideas relevant, no matter how impractical they appear.
- Flexibility. Keep the storyboard flexible and dynamic.
- Incubating. The process continues until the group generates a sufficient number of ideas or time is called.
Key Take Aways
I use storyboarding as a software development technique for framing out user experiences. I’ve used the technique effectively over the years, but didn’t know it was originated by Disney. I think the key to the storyboards is that they help you get the big picture before spiraling down on the details. At the same time, they’re a useful backdrop to elaborate on a given area as needed. The real beauty is that everybody can talk in pictures, so it can help get over communication barriers – what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG.)