As some people may not know, the layout stage in traditional animation consists of layout artists who take the rough storyboard panels and re-draw them in a more polished state, by using the character and prop model sheets and location designs as reference; they stage the shots to prepare them for animation.
Often the layout department consists of two teams; Character Layout and BG Layout. The character layout artists create the key drawings or main poses of the animation, by using the camera angle, posture, expression and position of the character depicted in the storyboard as a guide. The other team creates more polished background line art for each specific shot in correlation with the placement and scale of the characters. This is all artwork made to prepare the character animators and background artists to do their jobs more accurately.
Even elements like FX, shadows, and texture can be determined in this phase. It's a very important stage in ANY animation production process, one that I find is slowly fading away with the advent of digital storyboarding, reduced budgets and more flat-stylized/simplified 2D computer generated animation.
Studio Ghibli has always taken lots of time and pride in this stage of production, seeing the importance of this part of the process has them taking the rough storyboards and shaping them into more finalized artwork for the animation & background paint departments. It locks down the relationship between the character and their environment, the framing of the image, the composition of the scene, and the angle & perspective of the shot.
Here are some samples of layout designs from various Studio Ghibli films, click on any one to enlarge.