The Chicken Scratch Method; How to Stress Test an Idea


It’s likely you juggle a massive number of projects every week. Personally, I do too, and I feed on the chaos. But being in control is the only way to enjoy this. When you eliminate some of the burden off your shoulders, you stay in control of your projects. 

If you have scripts that need storyboarding; then they are perfect candidates for the chicken scratch method.
There’s a popular quote by Reid Hoffman, the founder of Linked In. He says “If you’re not embarrassed with your first product launch, then you’ve waited too long.” 

I love this quote because it gives me permission to get a rough pass of storyboards done and in front of a creative director within a couple of hours. As long as we both understand not to be too precious about the look of the drawings during this first stage, then we’re good. 

Diagnose, Treat, Prescribe 

The nice drawings will come during the other passes. It’s like doing a stress test with the script. If something’s not right, it will present itself early where we can treat and prescribe.


During the following passes it takes shape and ultimately becomes a great tool to show the client, then eventually a blueprint for the director or shooter.

But it all starts with the chicken scratch pass. The approach that allows you to see very quickly if the idea is working. Or more importantly, what's not!

Below is an example of chicken scratch.

An example where I used the chicken scratch method. The story, narrated by adman Rory Sutherland during a TED Talk, makes the daring assertion that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value.