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How to Use Creative Storyboarding for Business

Creative Storyboarding is a powerful business tool, which can be used to aid alignment and stakeholder engagement. Why settle for complex process maps and weighty project plans, when you can express your message in a visual way, that will resonate better with your stakeholders?

storyboarding for business BraintrustThe Braintrust Consulting Group, Business Strategy, 2015

My guess is that everyone who reads this can confidently name their favourite children’s book or fable, thanks to a helpful selection of pictures that have etched the narrative within our minds. Name any one of the Roald Daryl books, and I can undoubtedly picture the beautiful illustrations by Quentin Blake that lay within.

BFG illustration example

The BFG (1982), Author Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake

 

Comic storyboards and graphic novels expand on the use of visual narration, where pictures trump words as a more favoured method for conveying information.


Whilst comic art and storyboarding have evolved somewhat since their birth at the Walt Disney Studio in the 1930’s, they still remain an essential tool for story sequencing and elaborating ideas before investing in producing physical products and services.

walt-files-mouse-memories-feat-2.1.jpg

The Karnival Kid (1929), © Disney. All rights reserved


If we are accustomed to receiving information in a clear and informative way, why do we settle with complex documentation and abstract terminology? What exactly went wrong within a business setting where storytelling, simplicity and alignment are crucial?


Those familiar with Agile ways of working will be aware of the relentless myth that ‘Agile means no documentation’. This is a common misconception as documentation is just as important in Agile projects, though the focus here is on the purpose, clarity and the method of documentation. We should also be reminded that information should be written in business language so that all key stakeholders remain clear of requirements and fully engaged throughout a product lifecycle.


This brings me back to the power of storyboarding for business. Now, if it feels a little alien to be making use of this tool in a business context, let me reassure you that the principles are no different from traditional forms of process mapping, as the key factors remain the same.

Key ingredients for a Storyboard


Well, for starters, you have a definitive beginning and end point. Whilst the journey from A to B may be fuzzy, the constraints you have on a start and end point ensure that you weed out the chaff from the wheat.


You must ask yourself what are the most salient points you wish to communicate with an audience, and what the key milestones are that you need to identify along the journey. Having a limited number of frames at your disposal is a helpful control measure and a powerful way to emphasise vital information.

No matter what shape your comics take, as long as navigating through them is a simple, intuitive process, that process will be transparent to the reader.”

Making Comics (2006), Written and drawn by Scott McCloud


In the fields of user experience, service design and design thinking, storyboarding is applied as a way of recognising the needs of an end user. By building customer personas you can walk through current customer journeys frame by frame, and identify key pain points along the way. This is a tried and tested way to reengineer a process and create truly customer centric products whilst ensuring everyone has a shared understanding.


It is worth noting that not all stakeholders are conceptual thinkers, therefore pictures are a sound way to articulate a problem and demonstrate ideas.

 

We wanted to find a clear way to present the peaks and troughs of a product’s history to key stakeholders in a way that represented opinions of those working on the product. We found that an illustrated storyboard offered a strong visual narrative and clearly defined our past and future state. Now all key stakeholders have a shared understanding.”

- Frank Tiernan, Senior Project Manager, PDU NAM, Ericsson


This provides an indication of why storyboarding is becoming a popular way to portray a multitude of business stories, from customer journeys and business visions, to project plans and product roadmaps. An illustrated storyboard can also be transformed into an animated presentation or movie, which can take viewers on a lively journey from frame to frame.


Alongside bringing a business story to life in the studio, I have shaped a Creative Storyboard workshop that includes all of the necessary tools and techniques you need to create your very own captivating story in a graphically compelling way. This hands-on workshop will include the building blocks of storyboarding, customer journey mapping techniques, panel elaboration and digital approaches.

Creative storyboarding for business canvas

So if you are faced with a user experience problem or a potential issue with a current process, introduce the storyboarding tool within your teams for a clear and captivating way to present a business need and solve a customer problem.

Author

Stuart Young

Stuart Young

Stuart is a professional live illustrator with extensive traditional/ Agile Project management experience and a deep-rooted appreciation for Agile Principles and Methodologies. He has harnessed his creative skills to translate concepts and processes into engaging visuals during workshops, events and conferences. With international notoriety within the Agile Community, Stuart has provided his services at various Scrum Alliance Global Gatherings/ Retreats. In addition he has illustrated at an endless list of popular Agile conferences such as the Agile Testing Days in Berlin, the Lean Agile Scotland Conference and the London Lean Kanban event. Read more