Story Canvas

Use story as a design tool to solve problems, shape ideas and share purpose.

The Story Canvas taps into our natural ability to make sense of, shape and share ideas as stories. It provides a familiar framework that helps first-time and veteran designers create content, experiences and strategies to lead positive change.

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What’s it about

At its core, every story simply describes how a hero (or user) solves a problem. That means that the process of creating a story is really just a design process, in which the story designer figures out a solution to the hero’s problem. The Story Canvas builds on this idea, providing a design framework that uses the familiar language and process of storytelling. You can use the Story Canvas as a tool to capture and make sense of existing, real life stories (like user journeys). And, you can use it as a way to develop new ideas into products, services, experiences, strategies - even stories. When you're finished your design process, the canvas also provides a ready-made story outline of your work, to help you engage your stakeholders.

Who should use it?

This canvas works for anyone who need to move people - on purpose. Project leaders use it to engage and align teams working on new initiatives. Storytellers use it to sketch outlines and identify key pivot points. Strategists use it to plan campaigns. Event planners use it for experience design. Design researchers use it to capture past and future user stories. Design consultants use it to introduce clients to basic design processes and principles. Evaluation specialists use it to track project impact. Change agents use it to …. You get the idea. You can use it too.

Who made it?

Denise Withers

‍The Story Canvas was created by Denise Withers - an award-winning storyteller, innovator and educator with 35 years experience helping leaders use story to move people, on purpose. Denise is the founder of the nlab, an innovation lab for leaders that’s powered by story. Prior to launching nlab, she worked for 20 years as a documentary filmmaker, primarily for Discovery Channel. Over the last three decades her body of work has cut across sectors, industries and issues - from the first GMOs, to Inuit suicide prevention, to PTSD in the armed forces, to life in space. As one of Canada’s innovation leaders, Denise is co-founder of the d.studio for strategic design at the University of British Columbia, and an on-going contributor to the Stanford Social Innovation Review (online edition). As a scholar, she holds an MSc. in Interactive Arts & Technology, and published the world’s first guidelines on engagement design for her thesis. In addition to her client design work, Denise teaches narrative, engagement and innovation for organizations across North America, including the THNK School of Creative Leadership.

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