Creativity. Ideation. Brainstorming. Design Thinking.
You can hardly go anywhere around the Internet and not be hit with these buzzwords and ideas. And to make each of them effective, it comes down to process.
Any creative endeavor needs a process, a method by which the creator can capture abstract ideas and push them toward a tangible product and ultimately to someone (or hopefully more than a someone) to experience.
When I do, I get an inevitable question: “What are those cards about?”
That along with a follow up question much like, “I’m intrigued; how do you use them?”
The great thing is that the answer to these questions is more simple than the organization of cards makes it look.
Want to know why? There are NO RULES to storyboarding!
OK, maybe that’s not entirely true. Perhaps storyboarding requires a few guiding principles, but overall, when it comes to the creative process there are no rules. Each project you encounter will define how you’ll need to storyboard that given project.
At the most basic level, creative boards and note cards along with the storyboarding process create an easy, organizing framework to visualize your creativity. Storyboarding helps you see the story you’re going to build with your creative endeavor (book, talk, sermon, event, essay) before you actually sit down and do the hard work of hammering out the details.
In short, storyboarding helps you visualize what’s possible with your creativity.
Let’s break this down:
Here’s what you need:
Two creative boards. (Or a wall. Or a flat surface.)
Index cards of various colors. (Or Post-It Notes. Or Tear sheets. Or paper.)
Push-Pins. (Or tape. Or sticky-tack.)
Sharpies. (Or generic markers. Or pens. Or any writing utensil.)
Your team. (Or just yourself.)
Ideas. (Or…nope, pretty much ideas is what you need here.)
Here’s what you do:
Make a plan.
Assign different color note cards for each of the elements you need in your project. This can be done ahead of time. It can be done on the fly as you realize you need a new category.
The exact colors don’t matter necessarily. What’s important is that your colors are consistent throughout the project you’re creating. However, something I’ve discovered along the way is reserving the black and white colored cards for organizing information such as generic headers. I use colors to organize the type of ideas.
When you have a reoccurring creative meeting, consider standardizing your colors to make the process more of a creative habit. When we plan large group creative meetings, the elements we need each month don’t change. Having assigned colors for these seemed wise. These colors are even reflected in our shared google docs with writers. The habit of standardizing the meeting has influenced how we focus our attention as we move through the different elements. We know that when we’re working through the orange cards, we’re talking about the host introductions and games; red means Bible story conventions. When we refer back to the board, we don’t have to figure out what the colors mean each month.
TIP: For larger endeavors, consider making a color key somewhere on the board. Make it easy for your team to decipher what each of the cards represents.
The first creative board is your brain dump board. Start the process by throwing out all of the ideas that pertain (or don’t) to your ideas. You can either do this with cards and a creative board or just start jotting down ideas on a whiteboard or tear-sheet. The first rule of brainstorming is there are no bad ideas. Now, we KNOW there are bad ideas that people will submit. But this is not the time to evaluate the ideas that people throw out in the conversation. Evaluation at this point might kill creativity.
TIP: No typing. Typing using the left side of the brain which isn’t ideal for creativity. Engage the right side of the brain with writing. Use note pads, notebooks and pens to jot down ideas. The process of writing will get your brain thinking in a way that will help your creativity.
Organize Your Content.
Once you have your ideas, it’s time to see if they’ll work. Here’s where you start to evaluate the ideas and start placing them on a storyboard.
Think about how you’ll organize your storyboard in terms of how you expect your project to flow from start to finish. I usually work left to right, keeping the general category cards to the left of the board (or table, cubical wall, floor or random flat surface that I have available). This sets up the initial order for how you imagine the flow of the event. Many events are predictable: host – worship – story – prayer – host. This order won’t necessarily change from service to service or event to event. But visualizing them off to the side allows you to see if you really want to keep that order or switch it up. Once that order is in place, plan sideways across the creative board. Fill in the details as the ideas come to you.
When I’m writing a talk or a conference breakout, my organization looks more random at first. I don’t start with a preconceived plan of attack for the order of what I’ll say. Rather I start figuring out the main points I want to cover. Once those are solid, I order them in a way that leads the audience on the journey I want them to take. I always have the bottom line in mind when I’m building a talk. I start filling in the supporting information, examples, visuals, etc. that I want to include.
Ideas for Card Categories.
People (speakers/worship leaders/etc.)
All of the service programming cards above that pertain to your event
Key Phrases you want to make sure you say
There are many other ways to use storyboarding to visualize your creativity. And if you are a visual learner at any level, this should be part of your process. It’s a simple and effective way to create your next event or talk. Taking the time to storyboard on the front end will give you a clear plan going into getting the project to the finish line, allowing the rest of the process to flow with purpose.
Your Turn: How do you plan your events and communications? I’d love to hear your design thinking ideas!