Everyone likes stories! But putting pictures and words together was drilled out of most of us by high school. Too much art history and Mona Lisa and most people end up apologizing when they try to draw something by saying- “Sorry, I can’t draw”. Thank goodness for my son, storyboards and the movie Taxi!

My 4 year old son is able to use drawings as a tool to express his ideas. Here we have one of the greatest auto races of all time between Lamborgini, Ferarri, his grandfathers jeep, the neighbors Toyota and several other cars that he knows. By the way, he is driving all of them at the same time.

dubs storyboard compressed for blog

As you can see, the words plus the pictures brought to life the still image. Maybe you got that, “oh, I see” moment. If not, here is my son driving an electric car at Google headquarters.

dubs driving

Meanwhile, professional story boards in instructional design are more sophisticated. A form of technical writing that has to precisely describe an learning experience so that a developer can understand it. I stole this from David Becker’s E-learning Storyboarding 101 on the Articulate Blog.


These words describe how to create this learning:


So here we see that we do not even need pictures to create images, just precise descriptive language.

In researching this topic I discovered a very funky tool for creating storyboards- Storyboard that. It is the free online storyboard creator. I took it for a spin and was excited about its creative tools. It got me thinking out of the box as I created this storyboard frame:

drac and pharrow in the wc

I would have never dreamed of creating an image of Dracula and a Pharoh in a WC. The text shows my excitement. But is this an effective IDL storyboard tool? For picture creation yes. There is both variety and the ability to manipulate specific size, shape, color and placement to create images that communicate a still frame idea clearly. However, there is no room to add dialogue and written information. Thus a framework such as the one used in our course must be used in accompany with Storyboard That. See image below:

IDL 210 storyboard

Of course learning about storyboards can ruin something- especially if you go to movies or watch TV to not think. For example the storyboards from the movie Taxi, I will always see the storyboard behind it. And the storyboard becomes painfully transparent in the old 60 shows like Star Trek. Commercials can also clearly show their storyboard framework.

But once you start learning media production it becomes fun- like an architect having X-ray glasses to see through the material structure of a house, we can start to see the storyboard behind the media. Once you learn to see the unseen that went into making a finished product you are a designer. And you don’t have to be a Da Vinci or a Hemmingway. Because in this field once you are able to communicate clearly and confidently in simple pictures and words then you are a genius- like my son!

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