Telling a story...with a storyboard


Designers are usually telling a story of some sort. Even a static logo will evoke some inner conversation in the mind of the viewers. A cereal box, or a frozen TV dinner, or a web page header may all trigger associations in your mind. Pay attention to your reaction and you may find old memories coming back, or your imagination may construct a short story.

The very best tools for storytelling are time-based media; the audio, video, animation, and graphics. Coincidentally, that is what we are learning.

The Phases of Production

Someone decides to do a project; usually the producers...the business people who find concepts, money, talent, sign contracts, and say "go". Then it all happens; pre-production, production, and post-production are the general divisions of the process.




...the Storyboard

Your storyboard is where the project flows out the writer's and designer's heads and onto paper for all to see. It begins in rough form, like thumbnail layouts, and may, or may not, evolve into finished renderings similar to graphic novels.

The storyboard is the tool everyone uses. It shows what will happen, where it happens, what props, costumes, equipment and lighting, transportation, catering, electrical power, etc. will be needed. The financial backers will want to see the storyboard and OK it before the project can proceed.


Multimedia projects often become group efforts. Pre-production, production, and post-production bring together many specialists.

The storyboard will give everyone involved a chance to learn the story and preplan for their role in the production. On a large production the storyboards are the tool to preview the final product. This is a vital reference for the clients, producers, investors, director, director of photography, lighting director, location scouts, actors, sound designers, production graphic designers, rights management, catering, etc.

As the production designer you will work with the directors and writers to visually lay out the story. You'll create the key scenes in rough form, develop them into drafts, refine, and review.

Most productions can be preplanned with storyboards to illustrate the images that will accompany the words and sound.

Interviews and news projects are unpredictable and may not be storyboarded before shooting; though you may do sketches to plan the style and suggest compositions.

The Exercise



Make a shot list:

The script:

Martin Scorcese's storyboard for Taxi Driver

From Berkeley; the structure of stories and their boards.

A tutorial from Clay Butler. For movies and commercials.

A more basic introduction, from Stanford

This is how Pixar does storyboards.