Autodesk Storymap: Visualizing the Future of Making Things

storymapping Jan 28, 2016


Autodesk provides a great case study for tapping the full potential of The Grove’s Storymap® offering. Being so at home in a design-oriented milieu, the software company intuitively understood the power of visuals and was quickly able to leverage that power when it came time to roll out a visual communication within the organization.

Michele Wolpe, director of Employee Communications at Autodesk, was the project lead. She joined the company at a time when it was experiencing quite a bit of change with its business model and with changing market factors. Engaging in a Storymap process would provide a framework for employees to understand and navigate these changes.


Touring Autodesk’s Museum

As a project kickoff, The Grove’s David Sibbet and Bobby Pardini did a walkthrough of the Autodesk Gallery, where some of the amazing results created by people using Autodesk software are showcased. The diverse innovations and range of impacts displayed was fascinating and helpful. We don’t usually get to go into a museum and see what a client has done before we embark on a Storymap process! A great deal of what we saw ended up being reflected in the Storymap.



Autodesk was founded in 1982 by John Walker, creator of AutoCad, Computer-Aided Design software that had a huge impact on the field of architectural design. The company’s vision is “to help people imagine, design, and create a better world.”

While many people are aware of Autodesk’s impacts on the visual effects industry, their influence in other industries—particularly microbiology and health care—has been even more striking. The company’s software has a large presence within the construction, engineering, architecture, business, design, and manufacturing realms. Among other things, it is pioneering 3D design and printing, DNA modeling, and prosthetic limb design and replacement.


Getting Input, Seeking Buy-in

The team working on the development of the Storymap continued gathering ideas so it could discern a central metaphor and determine what to include in the Storymap. People were polled to determine the services and software that were viewed as iconic and, therefore, needed to be part of the image—for example, a robotic arm in a cell, representing modeling cells in 3D.

Storymapping is an iterative process, a mode in which Autodesk seemed to be particularly comfortable—perhaps because the design process is embedded in the company’s DNA. Many iterations of the Storymap image preceded the final version, which was designed around the metaphor of a “road to the future.”

Michele shared the near-final image with people who had a vested interest in certain parts of the content. She reported, “People loved it. It seemed to be hitting the mark in terms of helping people see where they are within the company and how all the pieces fit together.”

Michele continued, “When a process like Storymapping takes off and you get that high engagement, those cross-function conversations, people gain a deep understanding of the synergies embedded within the situation. All kinds of good things can come from this.”


The Next Step: An Online Interactive Version

Once the Storymap design was finalized, a team within Autodesk created an online interactive version. Their goal was to use the map as an online portal through which users could access detailed content by clicking on different parts of the map.

Content for the map was solicited from team members and was further crafted by a writer. The team then built an online experience that provides the larger context with detailed information that is specific to designated areas within the map. All of this is easily accessible via a web browser.

Michele said, “The interactive map is a great overview tool to understand, at a high level, who we are as a company. It includes some of the company’s significant milestones, goals, challenges, and opportunities. The combination of the picture itself plus descriptions in the interactive version is helpful for anyone trying to understand at a high level where we are and where the company is going.”

The clickable Storymap is doubly helpful for people who are new English-learners. As a global company, Autodesk has employees all over the world, many of whom do not speak English as a first language. With a picture and a small number of descriptions written in concise, accessible language, employees can pick up on the essential story that doesn’t come through in other corporate communications.


Feedback about the Interactive Map

The digital map image was sent out to all of Autodesk’s employees. The response was highly positive: “Wow, this is fantastic” … “Hey, we’re going to put this into our sales training” … “Can we have it for partners?” People liked the fact that you could pick and choose what you wanted to explore, and then come back to it as you wished. You were not required to digest all of the information in one sitting. People also felt that the metaphor of the company being on a road was effective.

Other comments: “Very easy to use and understand.” “Well put together and highly informative from the new hire to someone celebrating their 10-year anniversary.” “Offers the right degree of information from the humorous very high-level to detailed presentations and facts.” “A great catalyst.”


Stickers of the Autodesk Vision Map to All Employees

Recently Michele and her team created and distributed four-by-six-inch color sticker versions of the map to all Autodesk employees worldwide. This handy visual reminder includes a URL where people can access the online version. The stickers are removable and can be put on laptops, cubes, notebooks or info boards.

Michelle explains, “You don’t want to just launch this and then, boom, it’s over, what happened to it? The sticker helps to keep it top of mind.”





1. The first image is from the Autodesk Gallery. The large dinosaur was built from legos using a design that was created using Autodesk’s software. (photo courtesy of Autodesk)

2. The second image, also taken at the Autodesk Gallery, is of a concept car that was designed using Autodesk’s software. (photo by David Sibbet)

3. The Autodesk storymap is not displayed because, as with many of the projects that we work on, the resulting content was for internal purposes only.



For more information about The Grove’s Storymapping services, please download the Storymapping brochure, browse Storymapping case studies here, or visit our  Services page.

To discuss your organization’s needs and how we may be able to help, email [email protected], or call 1.415.561.2500, ext. 2.

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