Cinematic Design is the application of visual design choices to tell a story.
The narrative effectiveness of any visual storytelling medium, from live-action and animated feature films and television, to theater, computer games, comics, even writing, is greatly shaped by the storytellers' ability to create clear, meaningful and emotionally-charged imagery in service of their story, whether on the screen, on the page or in the reader's mind.

This blog introduces principles from my lecture series on Cinematic Design that break the down the art & craft of visual storytelling primarily through the lens of feature film & animation. While I am not the originator of many of these principles, I have accumulated through my career as a visual designer working with some of the animation industry's greatest directors and storytellers at Pixar Animation Studios, as a computer games art director, and as a writer and life-long fan of film, and reader of books and comics, my own unique perspective on the relationship of image to story.
Each post introduces a different design topic, exploring both theory and application through the examination of multiple filmic examples, prompting dialogue and design exercises to encourage original avenues of visual storytelling problem-solving. My goal to is inform and inspire artists and storytellers alike on the relationship of image to story, and foster a deeper appreciation for good visual storytelling regardless of medium.
These posts are a work in progress. Please inquire for more information on my actual design workshop/lecture series. 

January 4, 2016

Introductory overview and outline of curriculum:

  • Elements of design

  • Visual Narrative Systems

  • Visual Clarity

  • Visual Story Structure

  • Elements of Story 

  • Visual Meaning

  • Visual Character

The goal of this lecture series i...

January 3, 2016



Overview of visual design principles and elements of design:*


Line & Shape

Value & Contrast

Color & Saturation

Light & Form

Staging & Composition

Scale, Space & Depth

Symmetry & Balance

Pattern, Texture

Rhythm & Movement

Harmony & Discordance




January 2, 2016


Introduction to Visual Narrative Systems and Contextual Design:


Closed image System

Sequential Image System

Progressive Image System

Contextual Design


For the purpose of identifying how cinematic design choices apply to different visual storytelling me...

January 1, 2016



How visual design choices lead the viewer's eye, prioritize information and create meaning.


The effectiveness of a filmmaker or visual storyteller's ability to convey meaningful design choices in support of their story is first reliant on their und...

December 31, 2015



Production Design as the art of mapping image to story

Production Design tools: Story Arcs and Color Scripts


Where live-action film is a product of the photographic process capturing actors, locations, props on film, traditional hand-drawn animation...

December 30, 2015



Overview of dramatic elements  and principles:


Elements of Character

Elements of Setting

Forces of Antagonism



Text & Subtext

Dramatic Form

Dramatic Structure


Story Principles:

Self-Expression & Self-Discovery

Author/Audience Expectation

Analogue f...

December 29, 2015


Creating meaning thorugh visual design choices:


Visual Relationship

Social/Power Dynamics

Association/Visual Metaphor




December 28, 2015


Non-Verbal Character, or:

Character as Action

Character as Setting

Visual Association

Visual Relationship



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