Lens 3

Tool 6.

Storyboard: The product idea

The envisioning stage in the design thinking process is intended to generate as many solution options as possible. In this phase the ability to “think outside the box” will be tested. The proposed tool, as well as any other tool that is part of this phase, favors expansive thinking, which is why really bizarre ideas will emerge. It is suggested to make a special effort to put on the glasses of childhood to face this phase with curiosity and without value judgments.

At the moment of product or service envisioning, when the needs and the problem to be solved and for whom are already defined, it is easy to lose sight of the user and their motivations. This tool raises graphically and narratively the path that the user will go through to reach their goal. The main focus will be the person.


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Tool 6.

Storyboard: The product idea

This tool allows the company to plan the path from the motivations and goals of the user, going through the incident or problem, diagramming the internal and external struggles through which it passes, seeing it reach the moment of crisis, followed by a solution to your problem and finally a change and victory in the process thanks to the product or service offered.

As it is an ideation tool, possible solutions or products with a gender focus will emerge from here. These products and services may have the following objectives in order to address this perspective:

    • The product must not reproduce gender stereotypes
    • The product satisfies a need of women and girls that was previously not being met with any product or service on the market.
    • The product contributes to the advancement of gender equality.

The storyboard, as an ideation tool, also allows to raise findings and insights in addition to provoking discussions about weaknesses and opportunities of the product or service with a view to its improvement.

In this tool it will be of vital importance to iterate on the solution.

What is necessary to put this tool into practice?

The storyboard not only works as a way of presenting an idea but also as a way of ideation, in which empathy and concentration on the user will be more present.

Any ideation tool, and especially one with a gender focus, will find the best way to work in teamwork. It is recommended to convene the innovation and development committee or to assemble a team with equal participation of men and women, with the greatest variety of skills, it is preferable that it be multidisciplinary and that people are trained to identify stereotypes and advocate for gender equality throughout the process.


To learn more about the innovation and development committee, in this same lens you can visit tool 1. Creation and development of products with a gender perspective

The storyboard will serve to discuss as a team each phase that the user goes through, then questions will arise about whether it was placed in the correct setting or if there are other scenarios that can be contemplated to build different paths towards the solution, if the emotion embodied in each phase is the correct one, the way in which you encounter the product for the first time, what emotions should you experience at the end of the process and what problems could arise in each phase that perhaps are being lost from sight.

The interesting thing about this tool is that it can result in multiple solutions or ways of dealing with the problem. Teamwork is really enriching and it could be said that it is necessary for this phase of ideation.

It is really a matter of attitude. Making a storyboard may seem tedious, but a low-fidelity drawing will be enough, it must be remembered that in the creation and design of products it is allowed to make mistakes.

Steps for implementation

1) Gather as much information as possible. You can use the information collected from the interviews, the empathy map or other tools in this toolkit. It is advisable to use information that has the results of men and women separately, so as not to lose sight of the wishes, interests and expectations of both groups or the interest group.

2) Choose the level of loyalty. Take into account the objective and the audience of the storyboard. Using quick pictures to communicate a sequence in the ideation stage can be very helpful. Remembering that each scene can be created on a different sticky note for a divergent team ideation session; the inclusion of more points of view will enrich this tool. The goal is to form a shared understanding, rather than a polished and refined artifact. Only for a product presentation should a higher fidelity.

3) Define the basic elements. Define the person and the setting or history of the users represented.

To begin with, the profiles of the users will be chosen, these can be only men or only women if it is a product aimed at a particular sex, otherwise, it is recommended to have parity in the chosen profiles, a man and a woman.

Then the scenario (s) corresponding to each profile will be chosen. The setting must be specific and must correspond to the path of a single person, so that the storyboard does not split in several directions. For complex multi-path scenarios, it is good to keep a 1 to 1 rule: one storyboard for each path the user takes (it is not a flow chart, it is a story).

In this step of defining basic elements, it is suggested to pay close attention to the gender stereotypes that may be being included in the ideation process. Designing a product with a gender focus implies avoiding stereotypes that exist in society about the characteristics, behaviors and needs of women and men. It is valid and even necessary to question how a product can contribute to reducing gender inequality.

The products and services that surround us on a day-to-day basis can contribute to widening the gaps and power relations that already exist or they can have a favorable impact by creating equal opportunities and including women in spaces where they would not traditionally be found. . Tools like this can help companies to think in scenarios free of gender stereotypes, and not fall into common places like illustrating women unnecessarily in the kitchen or by default in charge of housework. Let us remember that gender stereotypes are learned and in the same way they can be unlearned.

4) Plan the steps. If going directly to the drawing seems daunting, it will help to start by writing the steps and connecting them with arrows before going directly to the storyboard template. Then add the emotional state as an icon at each step. This technique will help you begin to visualize what each visual frame or scene will include.

5) In each scene of the storyboard, the steps the user goes through must be reflected from the moment they experience the problem to the moment they discover their needs covered. It is highly recommended to work each scene of the storyboard on a different sticky note, this will allow the participants to discuss how each phase of the story is taking place and replace them or add more scenes to make sense of the proposed solution.

It is suggested to start working with a scheme of 6 scenes and it will be very important to always place the name of the person in the work area, as well as the name of the project.

6) Create images and add captions. It is fine to use stick figures or very basic sketches, but if these do not help to fully convey the idea, it is possible to rely on captions written under each scene.

7) Share and iterater. Share the storyboard with more people, either part of the company or interested people to request comments. In an ideation process, this step can be repeated as many times as necessary.

What does a storyboard look like?

Below is a graph, similar to the anatomy of an in-depth interview that features highlights and less emotionally charged moments. In this graphic you can see the moments that form part of a storyboard that goes from the beginning to the end of the story of the person interacting with the solutions proposed. 

Is it really necessary to draw?

By transferring an emotion of the user, on paper and as an image, on the way to the solution, it allows those involved in the process to internalize the information about that emotion in a more profound and empathetic way.

Reading “sad woman” is not the same as visualizing it in an image. The connection that is created with the person allows for greater empathy and importance to the creation process.

Being a tool in the ideation phase, it must be as agile as possible, so a low-fidelity drawing, with very simple lines, that does not take a long time to create, will be the best way because it will allow iteration of the different solutions.

However, if the computer is preferred or if the definition level needs to be higher to sell the story to another team or stakeholder, the following link will be very useful. It is a site that allows you to quickly put together a storyboard with much more detail and with greater fidelity.

The importance of the senses in this creative phase

John Cleese understands and defines the creative process as learning to switch between two states or modes: open and closed. When we are under pressure and stress to meet a delivery or result, as is the case in our daily work life, we are in closed mode. When we are in relaxation, away from problems and in a more playful mode, we are in open mode. The open state allows you to develop creative ideas and the closed state then works to plan and implement the idea.

Therefore, research would indicate that the best environments in which creativity can be incubated are:

  • When we are in touch with our emotional responses
  • When dopamine is released
  • When we are relaxed and relaxed
  • When we get distracted from the routine

Dopamine is also released during exercise, when we are in relaxation, when we feel pleasure, and at times such as listening to music

To finish this stage of envisioning, after having multiple ideas, it will be time to define the way forward to move to the next prototyping phase. It is worth asking yourself:

    • What elements in common were found in the multiple stories? The ones that included different people and different settings.
    • How can the stories converge in a shared vision about the future user experience?
    • What assumptions are there in the storyboards that the team still needs to validate?

When choosing the ideal solution, it will be important to pay attention not to define a specific gender for the person using the product when this is unnecessary, especially if it is based on stereotypes. 

“Critically, even seemingly positive stereotypes, such as women being kinder than men and Asians being good at math, can generate negative emotions and provoke negative reactions from the people you want to reach.”

Similarly, if within the proposed solutions, for example, the use of a bot (interactive assistance software through repetitive actions) is suggested, special care must be taken in assigning it a woman’s name and making it permissive to attacks or Sexual harassment will be reinforcing gender stereotypes in a negative and dangerous way.

The benefits of using tools such as the storyboard, in an ideation stage, which graphically reflects the person, their emotions, their difficulties, problems and conflicts, are to keep the person as the focus of all decisions in relation with the way in which the needs of the same are satisfied.

This will lead to solutions with a gender focus and focused on addressing the objectives described at the beginning of the tool.

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This toolbox is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the terms of Contract No. AID OAA-C-17-00090. The contents of this toolkit are the sole responsibility of Deetken Impact and Pro Mujer and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.