The Lost Art of the Storyboard.


About once a year I get around to clearing out my desk. During this year’s purge I came across an old storyboard we’d been working on last year. The strange thing is; I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out.

That got me to thinking. I delete and disregard dozens of ideas and scripts every day on my computer. I edit, re-edit and then edit some more. David Ogilvy is credited as saying “I know other writers who are much more fluent, and facile, and surer-footed, and can write their stuff down, and that’s the way it runs. I’m not that good. I’m awfully slow. I’ve done as many as 19 drafts on a single piece of copy before I’ve presented it to anyone to edit. I wrote 37 headlines for Sears Roebuck last week and I think three that I thought were good enough to submit to other people for their comment. So, you see, the writing business is not easy for me.

So what emotional hold did this piece of paper have over me? It didn’t have my inspired brand slogan visible anywhere. It didn’t have the thumping soundtrack I’d spent hours searching for and planning how it would cut between scenes. It was just some ink on a page. Yet I couldn’t throw it away.

Perhaps its an unconscious appreciation of the ‘human’ artistic talent that went into visualising each scene and then rendering it by hand – a skill that I often think is lost on those projects that only ever exist on a computer screen. They lack that spark of humanity – the ‘headspace’ we turn over to the concept when we’re sitting with pen, pencil or marker giving it life. It’s in those moments that we find the magic in the scenes; that we see them come to life in our minds eye.

I always start with pen and paper. It’s my default setting. The Mac is where I go to finish the work, but the sketchpad is where I go to start it.

If a concept can be communicated at the most basic of levels in a sketch or storyboard, it’ll translate into the real world. The danger with starting on the Mac is that software and stock libraries can make a bad idea look good. The creative can get so consumed with perfecting the image that they miss the point that it’s a bad idea in the first place. Process takes over and inspiration and insight gets parked up.

I’ve heard some people say that storyboards are a relic from the ‘Mad Men’ era, but I’d have to disagree. We don’t have to present on boards, we often run through storyboards with clients on iPads. All that’s changed is the technology – and technology does that. But getting the idea for me has always been more important than having the latest flashy piece of technology to present it.


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