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Lessons from the art of storyboarding

Storyroom Here is a good short video reviewing the art of the storyboard as it's used in story development and production in the motion picture industry. Storyboarding as we know it may have been pioneered by film makers and animators, but we can use many of the same concepts in the development of other forms of storytelling including keynote presentations or short-form presentations such as those made popular at TED. The storyboard process allows you to flesh out themes and look for patterns as you apply your creativity toward presenting your content. Watch below or here on Google.

Below I highlight directly some of the key ideas as I heard them from the video above. I hope this helps.

Walt_disney Storyboarding is a great way to begin to visualize the story of your content. (In animation) storyboards are used to develop the story. A great storyboard artist is a great communicator (not necessarily a great illustrator/animator). Walt Disney developed the use of storyboards in the 1920s. Storyboards allow film makers to see a blueprint of the movie before going into production. You tack them (your sketches/ideas in visual form) up on the wall so you can see the entire sequence, flow, continuity, etc. Storyboards are an effective, inexpensive way to develop the story. You can "board it up" on the wall and see if it works. Because ideas can be changed easily and quickly, storyboarding works. The key is to put down in your storyboards the minimum amount of information that gives a dynamic and quick read of the content (and the emotions) of the sequence.

A good storyboard artist is a good storyteller. The drawings do not have to be pretty, but they must have the meaning and the feelings behind the idea. A good storyboard artist is a good pitchman. Walt Disney, they say, was an amazing pitchman/storyboard artist. Walt's great ability was his passion and vision behind the pitch. The storyboard pitch is one of the great performance arts developed in the 20th century at Disney (yet no one ever gets to see it). The use of storyboards is one of the reasons Walt Disney's early films were so remarkable; the practice was soon copied.

Walt Disney: "At our studio we don't write our stories, we draw them."

With storyboarding you tell the story in the simple form (storyboard reels) before entering the more complex form. The storyboard lets the whole team in on what's going on with the production. The storyboard is "an expensive writing tool, but an inexpensive production tool." The storyboard can cut out a lot of unnecessary work. Storyboards allow you to see what is not working (and toss the bits out that don't work).

Kevin Costner: "If I can make things work on paper, then I can make them work on the set."

Applying the concepts
How can you visualize your presentation like a comic? No, not literally perhaps — but something like the sequential flow of a comic or rough sketches in storyboard form. You can do this on a whiteboard, but one of the best analog ways is with sticky notes (Post its) on a wall on in a notebook (a technique Bert Decker, Nancy Duarte, and others have talked about before as well).

Suggested reading
From Word to Image: Storyboarding and the Filmmaking Process
by Marcie Begleiter
Directing the Story: Professional Storytelling and Storyboarding Techniques for Live Action and Animation by Francis Glebas
Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know by Jennifer Van Sijll


Nick Morgan

Great post. Storyboarding is an excellent way to work out the logic and flow of a speech, an article, or a book as well. I use it all the time with clients and in my own writing.

Stephen Montagna

Garr, great post - the video was a great way to wake my mind up while having breakfast this morning.

More and more, I've been beginning projects in "analog" mode, and I find that the paper notes I generate in the brainstorming phase pay tremendous dividends when I move into putting the thing (presentation, brochure, script, whatever it is) together on my trusty Powerbook.

And paper of course can always be recycled... as can many of the ideas...


Thanks for that interesting post.
There is also a thinking tool called story boarding that is used in creative problem solving to help people to come up with action steps that bring them from their problem to their desired solution.


It should be noted that the video shown above came from the second disc of Disney's "Lady And The Tramp" DVD.

Roy Jacobsen

I don't believe in coincidences; therefore, the fact that I read this post yesterday, and then today, purchased a bunch of grid-ruled notecards and Sharpies(R), and THEN stumbled across this blog--

Well, it all must mean something.

Karen J Lloyd

Another good idea is to prepare for the storyboarding process by 'thumbnailing' out your sequences before you go to a finished drawing.

These are just small, rough 'stickman' drawings to help you get it out of your brain and down on paper quickly. Then it's easy to view as a whole and make changes at this early stage.

For some projects, it may be all you need to plan out a presentation.

If you don't mind the link, I have a blog devoted to the craft of storyboarding at

There's even free templates. : )

Avi Solomon

Bill Peet was one of Disney's Storyboarding geniuses!

You might find this essay I wrote on how to use Storyboarding to detect patterns in one's past and proactively envision one's future life of interest:

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