GUIDE – Storyboarding a Visual Project

If you’re planning to develop a project that conveys a message visually, whether it has an audio narration or not, the traditional method of outlining may not be sufficient for your planning stage.

You may want to use an outline to develop the essay portion of a CDS-style digital storytelling project, but in order to help you visualize which parts of the essay should line up with which visuals, you may want to use a storyboard instead. A storyboard is also an obvious method of planning an animation or comic book.

What is a storyboard?

Storyboarding is a technique for planning a visual composition project (just as outlining is a technique for planning a project to be composed in alphabetic text). You will prepare a storyboard to serve as a rough draft of your audiovisual or visual project, and your classmates will give you feedback on the storyboard.

As with an outline for a text essay, the more effort you put into a storyboard, the easier you’ll find the process of actually composing your digital story. But just as often happens with outlines, you may also find yourself diverging from the storyboard once you start developing the project, which is fine. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to turn a rhetorical rationale for your project that explains the kinds of decisions you made in the drafting and revising process, based on what you thought would be most meaningful to your target audience.

You should follow some set of established guidelines for preparing a storyboard, but you may choose which guidelines seem most fitting to your project and your style of planning. For example, you may use Chapter 4 from the Digital Storytelling Cookbook or one of these resources:

To see a few examples of what a storyboard might look like and how it might help you plan, go to this Digital Storytelling workshop page and watch a few minutes of each video. Then take a look at the storyboard for each video.

I think when you see how the storyboard corresponds to the video, you’ll get a better sense for how helpful a storyboard is in the planning process, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with a having a bunch of photos in iMovie and no idea what to do with them.

Storyboard Approaches

One easy way to develop a storyboard is to use PowerPoint, since you can include both an image and your planning notes on a single slide.

PowerPoint is not necessarily a good choice for assembling the final product, however, as it’s a bit of a pain to add your audio narration. If you don’t have PowerPoint, you can use the Presentation app within Google Docs instead.

Another method students with Macs have found helpful for storyboarding is to launch the Stickies app (in your Applications folder) and put notes for each frame on a separate sticky that is then placed in order.

A third method is to make a two-column table in Word with lots of rows, and on each row, put the image in the left column and your notes in the right column.

If you prefer working with pen and paper, you could use index cards or draw a storyboard on blank sheets of paper. Be creative!

Storyboard Resources