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December 01, 2016 Thursday 06:39:18 PM IST

Storyboard Your Ideas the Disney Way

Creative Living

There is a saying attributed to Confucius, the Chinese philosopher: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture tells a story just as well as, if not better than, a lot of written words.

The art of pictorially representing ideas had its origin in the prehistoric stone-age. Humans depicted their mind on the walls of the caves they inhabited in as a means of communication among themselves the natural and supernatural experiences they encountered. Leonardo da Vinci had the habit of putting his ideas up on the walls of his room to facilitate better examination and analysis of the same. Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein, the legendary Russian (formerly, the Soviet Union) film director, developed this practice into a standard procedure prior to shooting a film. He called such pictorial representation of the scenes as ‘Visual Stenograms’, which helped him to develop unique frames for the silver screen.


Story of Storyboarding

Walt Disney used such Story Board System widely to develop the characteristic animation films already by 1928. He called it storyboard system. He put up a large number of drawings developed by his artists on the walls of Disney studio, by pinning them up on the walls. It helped him to check the progress of the work with greater ease and facilitated him in adding , discarding or modifying a particular cartoon, thus to improve the quality of his animation films. He enabled him to develop an overview of the entire animation and to judge its overall effectiveness at a glance.

According to Diane Miller, the daughter of Walt Disney, the first complete storyboards were created for the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs. Disney on his part has credited animator Webb Smith with creating the idea of drawing scenes on separate sheets of paper and pinning them up on a bulletin board to tell a story in sequence, thus creating the first storyboard. Gone with the Wind (1939) was one of the first live action films to be completely storyboarded by Walt Disney studio.


Even today, storyboard is being used in the film industry, helping the film directors, cinematographers and artists to visualize the scenes they are going to shoot to eliminate possible inaccuracies and thus to reduce the overall cost of production and time. Theatres also follow suit. For example, the German dramatist Berthold Brecht used storyboards to create his famous ‘fabels’ (Short narrative, not to be confused with ‘fables’). The practice of storyboarding is further used in comic books, novels, web development and even in software development.


During his tenure as the head of Disney University, Mike Vance refined the concept of storyboard and perfected it into a professional tool for developing creativity skills of business managers. Seeing the possibilities of this method, Vance left Disney to become a full-time consultant of storyboarding. Mike considered Storyboarding as a natural tool for generating creative concepts to solve business problems. Today storyboarding method is used in the industry and business to develop designs, procedures, projects, proposals and presentation. The common element in all these applications is the ability of storyboarding to provide a holistic and simultaneous view of different pieces of information that constituted the concept. A total view of things supports strategic planning and development of creative solutions to the vexing problems. It also facilitates systematic introduction of quality improvement process into an organization.


Michael Michalko, a leading a creativity expert from the US said: “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.” (Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques, Michael Michalko, Ten Speed Press; 2nd edition, 2006). Storyboarding is found to raise the levels of creativity so as to help solve problems effectively. It also promoted visual thinking and improved interpersonal understanding thus making brainstorming efficient to produce more ideas and to generates easier consensus inside the group.


Types of Storyboarding


Depending on their diverse applications, we may identify five major kinds of storyboards:


1. Idea Boards

A form of continuous brainstorming to trade information of the stakeholders. The board could be a cork board, a chalkboard, a white painted wall or a Bullet Board System (BBS) in the Internet. They are created based on a specific theme and purpose. Ideas need to be entered into the storyboard and cleaned on regular basis.

2. Planning Boards

A kind of scenario generator. Here the stakeholders are allowed to plan different processes, milestones and timelines of a given project. The different scenarios thus emerged are further developed or modified with ease and at will.


3. Organization Boards

A type of freewheeling teambuilding. It helps you to see through the organization of a program defining different roles for the stakeholders. It helps them to see and to decide who’s who, what’s what, where’s where and when’s when. The basic organization plan is circulated with blanks to be filled and given room for feedbacks. Organization boards are usually developed as a Power Point presentation, which is emailed to the members of the group. Visual cues are profusely used all over to bring clarity on individual roles and items.


4. Creation Boards

A sort of collaborative creation. Here people are invited to collaboratively create a concept. They are given freedom to contribute various kinds of inputs, within a specific time frame to develop the creation board. The individual members are encouraged to use different media like colors, sounds, textures or forms as a part of the process. The concept continuously undergoes refinements and organic development through its lateral collisions with multitude of novel and unpredictable ideas, transforming the original concept into something totally new.


5. Communication Boards

This is not a physical board as such. Rather an open and dedicated communication channel is created here to pool ideas from the stakeholders 24/7. The communication channel could be a dedicated telephone line or webpage or an intranet site. The collaborators deposit their ideas in this channel to be collated later on.


Elements of a Storyboarding Session

Michael Michalko outlines the following guidelines to develop a typical storyboarding session and to generate creative concepts:


1. Specify the Topic

Tape or pin the topic card on the wall. The topic shall be made as concrete as possible.


2. Set the Purpose

Write the purpose of the individual brainstorming on a card and post it beneath the topic card.


3. Define the Headers

Identify and list headers, which are primarily the major issues, attributes, or solution categories of the process.


4. Include a ‘Miscellaneous’ Header

It’s a good idea to include a miscellaneous header to contain all those items that don’t fit within the other categories.


5. Brainstorm in Group

Group members use each category as a stimulus for problem solutions and write these ideas, solutions, and thoughts on cards.


6. Hitchhike Ideas

During a storyboard session, consider all ideas relevant, no matter how impractical they may appear.


7. Keep Flexibility

Keep the storyboard flexible and dynamic.


8. Incubate more Ideas

The process continues until the group generates a sufficient number of ideas.


Be Creative and Critical

A storyboarding session shall consist of two distinguishable phases:


1. Creative Thinking Phase

The purpose here is to generate as many ideas as possible. Judgments are suspended during this phase to promote idea generation. Ideas are just proposed and not discussed at this stage. Make sure that even crazy ideas find place in this phase; all ideas being considered good and useful. All the proposed ideas without exception are depicted on the storyboard.


2. Critical Thinking Phase

In this phase, the proposed ideas are discussed, criticized, and prioritized. The duplications are eliminated. It attends to the trends and recurring themes. The refined set of ideas thus developed contains the best ideas of all stakeholders participating in the storyboarding session.

Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran

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