So I know I’ve talked about storyboarding before. In fact it’s one of only a few design topics I have covered (because I don’t write here that much, not because there aren’t a lot of important design topics). That alone should tell you that I think storyboarding (actually just sketching in general) is a pretty damn important part of the design process. But you know what I’ve noticed? A lot of people are absolutely terrified when it comes to sketching. And don’t even talk about having them stand up and draw in front of other people. That’s just asking too much.

And I know why— it’s because you think you can’t draw. Which is never actually the case, you actually can draw. You just think you don’t draw well. But here’s the thing: even if you don’t draw well it is okay, because YOU DON’T NEED TO. Storyboarding is not about drawing, it’s about conveying ideas.

If you can draw a circle, square, and a line, then you are good to go. And hell, it doesn’t even need to be a straight line. You don’t need know about sketching cubes or forced perspective, because storyboarding (and especially anything collaborative) isn’t really about being a good drawer, it’s about being fast one.

It helps if you think of it like Pictionary rather than as an art contest. The goal in playing Pictionary is to convey a concept or word, purely through images, faster than your opponents. No words or numbers allowed. In this game it isn’t about who has the prettiest drawing. Whoever can convey their meaning the fastest wins. In fact, playing Pictionary is an amazing way of practicing and getting over your fear of sketching in front of others. Whenever I run sketching workshops the one thing I always make sure we do is play Pictionary.

However, you aren’t going to be playing traditional Pictionary (there is no game board, unless you want to go buy one) so there are different ways of playing depending on how comfortable people are in their sketching ability. Some aspects should always be the same: the player draws a word from the pile, sketches it on the board, and their team guesses the word based on the picture. Sometimes it is okay to have people from two teams challenge one another by drawing simultaneously, other times it may be better to have teams take turns by having people play against a timer. With a timer, the general confidence level of the group may dictate how much time you give them to draw. Thirty seconds may be enough for some groups, while others might need 1 minute (don’t go over a minute though, remember you are trying to promote rapid sketching habits). Either way works because it pushes people to be quick, but there is less self-judgement if you aren’t competing directly against another person.

Confidence levels may also influence the types of words you play with (notice it is the confidence players have in their skills that dictate how you play, not their drawing ability). Nouns are always easier than verbs or abstract concepts. If you manage to snag an actual game of Pictionary, you won’t have to think of any words and the difficulty levels are color coded. Otherwise, have everyone write down 5-10 words on slips of paper, put them in a pile, and get ready to play. Remember, you don’t have to follow the exact rules of Pictionary, make up your own version.

For anyone who wants to practice rapid sketching, I promise this is a really fun way of doing it.