Half the Blank Page: Storyboarding for product designers

With the advent of AI, voice, and the Internet of Things, it’s more important than ever to put our designs in a human context, and storyboarding is the fastest way to do it. Learn techniques that will help you tell compelling stories while keeping your customers at the center of the narrative.

Course Description

Learn how to unite basic sketching and improvisational storytelling techniques to craft a compelling narrative that keeps your customer at the center of your product’s vision. No prior artistic, improvisational, or storytelling skills required.

The rapid expansion of devices and technologies in our work means we can no longer assume that our customers are sitting in front of a computer. To ensure we’re building the right products, we often need to bring a customer’s real, messy context to life long before our products are fully defined. Storyboards are the missing link that will tie your vision to the road ahead.

Putting your pen to paper is only half the battle – before you start, you need a compelling story. Improvisational theater artists have developed tools for rapidly building narrative structure. As a professional improvisor and teacher with 2 decades of experience, I’ll share the improv tools I’ve found most useful in my product design work.

Once your story is ready, it’s time to bring it to life. We’ll explore the sketching techniques I’ve learned and adapted during the high-stakes, low-fidelity early product design process. All you’ll need is Sharpies, post-its, and printer paper to begin crafting your story at the right fidelity for early reviews and approvals.

You’ll leave with a solid grasp of new techniques to make storyboarding a critical and impactful part of your design process. Inspire stakeholders and developers alike with coherent, empathetic narratives that provide a north star for your vision throughout the project.

Why Cheryl?

Cheryl has years of experience developing and applying these storyboarding techniques to bring life to products like the Echo Look, Alexa, and Windows Automotive. She is also a sought-after improvisational teacher with Seattle’s Unexpected Productions, and has been a professional improvisor and storyteller for over a decade. For more insight into how Cheryl has applied this process to product work, see her talk From Blank Page to World Stage.

Delivery Options

Available as a half-day or full-day class, and can also be extended with a larger selection of improvisational games and exercises as desired. Approximately 1/3 lecture, 2/3 hands-on in the half-day (3 hour) version.

Half-day course outline

  1. WARMUP // 20m — Improv games and icebreakers
  3. Output: a story outline for a problem your customers face

  5. Output: 3-5 sketched frames from your story outline

  7. Output: Full storyboard and rapid iteration based on in-class feedback