Do you storyboard your visuals?

May 27, 2023

Figure 1 from our 2021 paper on the Snowmass Haplocanthosaurus as I sketched it in my notebook (left) and as it got submitted (right). We shifted part F into a separate figure during the proof stage for complicated production reasons.

This is one of those things I’ve always done, that I’ve never thought to ask if others did. When you’re putting together a talk, or making a complicated figure, do you storyboard it first with a pen or pencil? I usually do, and have done since I started way back when. I remember storyboarding my first conference talk on a legal pad when I was working on my MS back at OU. Sometimes I’ll start building the complicated thing — slide deck, multi-part figure, whatever it is — with quick sketches as placeholders until I can replace them with final art.

I illustrated this post with probably the most straightforward translation of idea to image that I’ve ever achieved. Most often the product mutates along the way, sometimes radically. The goal is to get the mutations to happen at the paper stage, when they’re cheap, rather than at the pixel stage, when they’re less so (at least for me — YMMV).

What do you do?

2 Responses to “Do you storyboard your visuals?”

  1. My images always go through multiple drafts. I typically have to re-draw or re-arrange my illustrations and figures three or four times (and sometimes more) before I’m satisfied with the way that they look.

  2. Jens Kosch Says:

    I always “storyboard” posters. With slides I only occasionally make sketches (but I always work with simple placeholders (e.g. a box saying what is supposed to shown there) while putting together the slides before I add the actual figures.
    For illustrations/figures in papers that are not derived from posters, or slides I storyboard with rough sketches, but during refinement things often change.

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