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What is a Storyboard?

By Aaron Sherman

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A storyboard is a graphic organizer that plans a narrative. Storyboards are a powerful way to visually present information; the linear direction of the cells is perfect for storytelling, explaining a process, and showing the passage of time. At their core, storyboards are a set of sequential drawings to tell a story. By breaking a story into linear, bite-sized chunks, it allows the author to focus on each cell separately, without distraction.


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A Brief History

Depending on the source, either Howard Hughes, with the 1930 film, Hell’s Angels, or Walt Disney, with the 1933 animated film, Three Little Pigs, is cited as the father of modern day storyboards. In 1939, Gone with the Wind was the first live-action movie to be completely drawn out on storyboards before filming.

The original storyboards showed stories broken up into pieces. Each piece of the story was drawn out on a card or piece of paper and pinned to a board in sequential order. Collaborators were then able to talk about and revise the story by looking at one part at a time, check to be sure it made sense, and plan for the production. Instead of redoing a large-scale drawing when changes were made, a single card could be reordered, redrawn, or even deleted. The ability to make changes easily ahead of time saves a lot of time and money!


Application: How can I use a Storyboard?

Over the last 80+ years, the use of storyboards has grown. Following the roots of animation and movie-making, storyboards are used by advertisement agencies for commercials, directors for plays, and artists for comics. Storyboards have also found their way into the business world for modeling how customers will interact with new products.



We all need to plan for something, whether it be at work, school, or home. Storyboarding out your desired outcome, even in a very simplified manner, helps you prepare for potential issues, make sure your plan is sound, and/or communicate ideas with others. There are many uses for storyboards in the entertainment industry, the business world, and education. Here are a few ideas to get you started!


Entertainment IndustryBusiness WorldEducation
  • Plan for shots in a live-action video
    (commercial, vlog, TV show, film, etc.)
  • Pitch a product idea
  • Keep track of characters in a text
  • Plan a narrative for animation
  • Make "How-To" instructions
  • Summarize a text
  • Plan scenery for a stage production
  • Illustrate potential outcomes
  • Show steps in an experiment
  • Plan or create a graphic novel or comic
  • Present ideas to peers and colleagues
  • Create an illustrated story

  • Film and Entertainment Industry

    The ultimate in visual storytelling is film. Storyboards were first used for this purpose and work just as well (if not better) than they did in the 1930s. By storyboarding before filming, you can better plan out your camera angles, setting, props, actors, effects and so on and be more industrious during production. Storyboarding ahead of time also checks to see that your script makes sense and allows you to correct errors before they become too expensive to fix.

    These are some film projects that greatly benefit from storyboarding.

    Cinematic Direction
    Create your own at Storyboard That SCENE 1 SHOT 1 SCENE 1 SHOT 2 SCENE 1 SHOT 3 SCENE 2 SHOT 1 SCENE 2 SHOT 2 SCENE 2 SHOT 3 Action: Clark walks up towards the house as the door opens revealing Adele in her fancy dress. Sounds: Crickets in the background, the sound of passing cars Camera: Follows behind Clark, but then focuses on Adele. Action: Clark is taken a back. Audio: (Internal dialogue) She looks amazing... Camera: Zoom in to focus on his amazed expression. Action: Scene cuts to Clark helping Adele into his car. Audio: (barely audible "You look nice", "Thank you"). Rumbling of the engine Camera: No movement Action: Car speeds down the road illuminated by moonlight Audio: Soft music begins to fade in Camera Action: Pan right to follow car down the road for a few moments Action: The car with Clark & Adele pulls into a lot in front of a large mansion. The couple makes their way to the door Audio: Distant party noises Camera: Zoom into to follow the couple up to the door Action: Party is alive, Adele is surrounded by excited talking men. Clark is in the back alone and ostricized. Audio: Party music and loud chatter and laughter Camera: Crowd blurred, focus on Adele and then on Clark.