A5: Create Conceptual Storyboards for Feedback

The first four weeks of class have focused on investigating topic areas and writing a report for a specific problem. Now it’s time to start generating some possible solutions to address the problems identified. In the process of exploring ideas, designers must often reflect on the problem frame and the assumptions behind their problem framing. Often during this messy part of the process, the framing of the problem and solution co-evolve. To effectively explore problem-solution alternatives, designers use methods from storytelling, including writing scenarios and storyboards, to communicate with other designers, potential stakeholders, and implementers.

In this assignment, students will participate in ideation exercises, find teams, and create a series of storyboards to illustrate problem-solution scenarios. These will be used in the next assignment to get feedback from a wide range of potential stakeholders.

Learning goals

  • Brainstorming with groups to ideate constraints, assumptions, and possible solutions for problems
  • Forming a team with overlapping interests and complementary skills and knowledge
  • Writing user scenarios and creating storyboards to illustrate problems and potential solutions
  • Creating “speed-dating” survey which lists questions to prompt for effective feedback from stakeholders and peers

Optional readings/resources

What to do

For this assignment, you will form a team of 4-5 people who you plan to work with the rest of this quarter. Your team will focus on a particular problem area and create a series of written scenarios and storyboards. For A6 (next assignment), your team will use the storyboards to get feedback and to propose a preliminary solution.

Participate in ideation sessions (starting on Feb 4): The last part of the previous assignment (A4) asks you to bring print outs of your “How might we” statements, stakeholder diagrams, key constraints & assumptions. These will be available as material during facilitated brainstorming sessions starting on Feb 4th. The teaching staff will preview the Problem Frames and create “ideation groups” of ~10 students who will be assigned to one of our classroom spaces (HSS 1330, 1346, etc.). We will also nominate one student pair to verbal present their problem within the ideation groups as a focal point for the brainstorming session led by professional facilitators. All students are expected to participate and contribute ideas, even if it’s not directly related to your chosen problem. All ideation materials from Feb 4th should be stored in the HSS storage space and captured in photos.

Form a team: Students will be responsible for creating their own teams of 4-5 people per team. Ideally, each person on the team shares a passion for addressing a particular problem and brings unique skills to the table. Effective teams have diverse and complementary skills / knowledge, but also respect each other as equals. It’s your responsibility to form a team or to become part of a team. Here are some options:

  • Message classmates on Slack as you read other students’ A4 Problem Frames.
  • Form a team with others within your ideation workgroup on Feb 4th.
  • If you do not have a team by Feb 6th, you should still bring a scenario and storyboard (see below) and we will try to match you on an existing team.

Once you have a team, please do the following:

  • Create a shared Google folder for your team to store all design materials. Make sure to set permissions so that Prof. Dow and the TAs (Lu and Srishti) can access your work.
  • Pick a name for your team. TAs will use this to create a Slack channel for your team.
  • Write a team contract based on the template and store a copy in your shared Google folder.
  • By 5pm on Feb 7th, your team should fill in one row of this Final Teams sign up sheet to record key information, including a link to your team’s Google folder including the team’s storyboard, questions and team contract.

Write scenarios and sketch storyboards:

The best way to have a good idea is to first generate lots and lots of ideas. Ideas themselves— novel as they may be — are not that valuable. Ideas need to be developed, prototyped, and tested. To help explore what ideas are worth pursuing further, students will learn how to write user scenarios and illustrate them with storyboards. These storyboards will serve as tools for exploring alternatives and for getting feedback from key stakeholders related to your problem area.

  • User scenarios describe a situation where stakeholders interact in some problematic way. User scenarios are fictitious stories — based on your own knowledge and assumptions — that focus on stakeholders’ motivations and challenges and offer potential solutions. Start by writing user scenarios in a text document. In about a paragraph, describe the setting, stakeholders’ concerns/problems, and any relevant constraints. Write about a possible solution to this problem, and how the solution could affect stakeholders.
  • Concept storyboards capture the user scenarios as simple illustrations that can be easily shared with others for feedback. Each storyboard should include a title at the top that highlights the specific problem or opportunity. The title can be phrased as a very focused “How might we…” question that keeps the focus on the problem. Each storyboard should have 3-4 panels that clearly communicate 1) the context (setting, stakeholders, etc.), 2) a perceived problem, 3) a proposed solution, and 4) a resolution (how the solution could affect the stakeholders). Your storyboards may be sketch-based or photo-based, but they must be legible and easy to understand. To support legibility, the text under each panel should be carefully handwritten or preferably use typed text.

On Feb 4th, we will brainstorm around selected problem areas with the goals of clarifying different problem foci, ideating possible solutions, and forming teams. Each student must select at least one concept from the brainstorming session to write as a user scenario and storyboard. If you can form a team on Feb 4th, then coordinate with your team to select particular concepts (problem-solution pairs) so that you spread out and avoid drawing the same concept twice. As a collection, the team’s storyboards should represent a diverse range of perceived problems and potential solutions. For example, your team might have 2 key problems you might focus on and each has 2 possible solution concepts; this would give your team 4 distinct storyboards.

Whether or not you find a team on Feb 4th or not, every student should bring a printed or hand sketched version of at least one written scenario and one storyboard to class on Feb 6th.

Resources for creating storyboards:

Example materials for Speed Dating: Student project on travel experiences from Spring 2016

First round of “speed dating” in class on Thursday Feb 6th

As stated above, on Feb 6th, every student should bring to class at least one written user scenario and one illustrated storyboard. If you form a team before Feb 6th you should coordinate with your team so that your scenarios cover different aspects of the problem or different proposed solutions. Even if you do not have a team, you should do this part of the assignment to help you get connected with other students on Feb 6th.

In class on Feb 6th, teams will have a chance to interact with peers, instructors, and a few experts to get early feedback on your scenarios and storyboards. Teams should continually strive to evolve your storyboards as you get feedback. That is, if you learn that one of your perceived problems is not a problem, you might redraw/rewrite these storyboards so that you are targeting something more relevant. Get in the habit of creating these artifacts rapidly so that the team can quickly explore a space of problems and solutions. Even if you have a solid concept, you will likely need to rapidly iterate (by re-writing or re-drawing your storyboards) to make sure your ideas are being clearly communicated.

Finally, as a team, discuss what questions will help you get good feedback. Write two questions per storyboard. Questions should be open-ended, not yes-no questions, and focused on promoting reflection about both the problem and proposed solutions.

Your goals in class on Feb 6th:

  • Find a team if you have not already.
  • Get feedback on the perceived problems and proposed solutions.
  • Get feedback on the structure and clarity of your storyboards.
  • Rapidly iterate on your storyboards and prepare for online feedback.
  • Write two questions per storyboard that you want people to consider as they provide feedback on your concepts.

Submit storyboards and questions. After iterating on scenarios, storyboards, and feedback questions in-class on Feb 6th, each team should create a single Google document that includes your storyboards (at least 1 per teammate) and feedback questions (at most 2 per storyboard). The TA staff will copy these details into a personalized Feedback survey for each team so that we can help facilitate feedback with the San Diego community.

As a team, make a copy of the template below and include your team’s own storyboards and questions (up to 2 per storyboard). Each team should make a copy of this Speed Dating Submission Template in your team’s Google folder and replace the placeholders with your team’s own storyboards and questions. Once this is ready to share, include a link in Column G of the Final Team Sign-up sheet and make sure instructors and TAs have access. This is due by 5pm on Feb 7th.

These materials will be loaded into a survey by TAs that includes background questions about the feedback providers, similar to this speed dating survey example. These survey links will serve as tools for getting feedback, including peers, teaching staff, and external community members. Assuming teams submit their materials by 5pm on Feb 7th, you can expect your team’s personal feedback survey link to be sent to you by noon on Saturday.


Here are the important benchmarks for A5:

  • Team formation. Form a team as described above, create a team folder, a team slack channel, and a team contract. Make sure to provide info and links for your team in the final team signup sheet. Start team-forming as early as possible, but make sure to get on a team and fill out the team signup by 5pm on Feb 7th.
  • Printed drafts of user scenarios and concept storyboards. Each student should bring a first draft of a written user scenarios and an illustrated storyboard to class on Feb 6th.
  • Final storyboards and feedback questions. Put final drafts of your team’s storyboards and questions into a single Google document. Make sure the teaching staff have access. Post a link for this Google document in the Team-signup form by 5pm on Feb 7th.

Grading rubric

This assignment will be graded as part of the midterm team proposal along with A6 to comprise 15% of the overall grade. See A6 for more details about grading for the midterm.