Boords and the noble quest of making storyboarding better

Anyone who has ever assembled storyboards can attest to the fact that this seemingly simple task is overwhelmingly cumbersome. Thankfully, Animade is here to help with Boords!

In this Motionographer exclusive we get a sneak peek at the five new Boords promos and chat with Tom Judd of Animade on the beginnings of Boords, their new commenting feature, and the balance they strive for at Animade between animation and interactive work.

Q&A with Tom Judd


On behalf of everyone working in animation who’s ever had to shuffle thousands of cells in an InDesign file while making storyboards, I thank you!

Thanks, Joe! This is exactly the same itch that we set out to scratch so it’s always great to hear we weren’t the only ones with this particular storyboarding ailment :)

Before we get too into it, I’ve always been interested in the work you do at Animade.

On one hand, you do great commercial animation and on the other, there is an interactive side with projects like Ready Steady and now Boords. Can you tell us a bit about these two worlds and how they coexist?

I guess the easiest way to explain it is to hark back to the very start of Animade.

James and I started Animade six years ago having finished our Masters at the Royal College of Art (London, UK). James studied Interactive Design whilst I completed the Animation course. Being housemates at the time meant that our graduate projects combined a mixture of animation and interaction, having introduced one another to aspects from our fields of study.

We were keen for this to be maintained and brought that thinking into the business. It has served up an interesting journey with lots of explorations into the crossover between the two disciplines. Broadly speaking, we have refined the two areas of Animade’s interactive output into Entertainment—games, webtoys and things that have character and/or a story to tell—and Tools, like Boords, that help Animade and the industry.

How did Boords come about?

As mentioned above, we had constructed this way of thinking in regards to the digital output of Animade. With this in place, James and I took a trip to a burger bar for a very important business chat. The conversation swept around different thinking but settled on the potential to make something that really should have already existed. My side of the conversation went something like this….

“Storyboarding feels archaic, cumbersome and totally out of sync with every other process and workflow that Animade runs on a day-to-day basis. And this is all down to people fixing those other issues. Trello, Slack and have pulled our processes kicking and screaming into a world of online collaboration; but why the hell isn’t there an online tool that makes storyboarding simple?”

“Leave it with me,” James said as he bolted for the door. It was the last I saw of him that week. He later emerged with a working prototype of Boords V1.0. I dropped my frames in, added some directional notes and a script and out popped a PDF. And it was good.

Was there a breaking point when you simply had to make Boords?

We had a very storyboard-heavy project in the studio and it was driving our team mad due to the amount of versions and small tweaks that incurred horrendous amounts of refactoring time due to our current workflow in InDesign. And this was after I had invested many days creating a pretty incredible (go me!) storyboard template in ID that was as autonomous as it could get. We were also seeing different team members breaking the template here and there, causing our branding to slip on client facing material. Something had to change.

And how long did it take to see the first release of Boords?

James had a working prototype ready for us to use at Animade within the week. It took a further six months to get a version ready for general use; and up to this day to see the type of functionality that we wanted in there from day one.

I love all the updates and new features, first with the drawing tool and now comments.

Can you tell us a bit about the new commenting feature?

Comments let you and your team make notes on a version of a storyboard. You can also send a shareable URL to clients or collaborators who can leave frame by frame feedback on your storyboard without even having to sign up for Boords.

Commenting was functionality that we wanted from the very beginning as it really underpins the idea of simple, collaborative storyboarding. However, we soon realized that it would only be beneficial if it was built on a super simple foundation. This is why it has taken us a year to get here. Simplifying and streamlining the creation side of the app came first. Now it’s time to work into how users engage and collaborate using Boords.

Are there any new features currently in the works that we should keep an eye out for?

We have a huge list of great ideas that have been suggested by our Animade teammates and the incredible community of Boords users. We have them on an open ‘Roadmap’ that shows all these ideas and gives users a chance to vote on the next big development. It’s accessible via the footer on the Boords homepage. The list includes an Animatic tool (which I am very excited about), live collaboration and a Photoshop plugin to mention a few.

Although these are really exciting, our main focus is to refine and hone what is already in place. Making storyboarding even simpler :)

Finally, what does the future hold for both Animade and Boords?

More of what we have been doing over the last six years really. Trying stuff out, learning from our mistakes and doubling down on the things that stick. It’s very hard to say exactly how that will manifest itself. What I can be sure of is that the team will certainly be dishing out regular helpings of super-sexy animation, along with even simpler storyboarding.


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About the author

Joe Donaldson

Joe Donaldson is a director, designer, and animator who worked on Motionograpgher from 2014-2020. Previously, he was an art director at Buck. Over the past decade, he's lived and worked in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles and has directed work for clients such as Apple, Google, Instagram, The New York Times, Unicef, Etsy, and The New Yorker. In addition to his creative work, in 2018 he started Holdframe. He's now working as a professor at Ringling College of Art and Design and when not teaching he can be found spending time with his family or out running.

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Legends. Simple.

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