Book summary: See What I Mean (II)

This is the second half of my summary of “See What I Mean”, by Kevin Cheng. It covers from chapter 6 until the end. See the first half on this blog.

Laying out the comic

Once the script is ready, you sketch the comic storyboard to answers these questions:

  • Composition of each panel (where characters go). See example on p.108. Tips: rule of thirds, writing speech bubbles first to use space better, avoid intersecting lines in foreground and background.

  • Perspective (how the audience will look at the characters). Use and be aware of perspective and distance (where the camera is). For inspiration, have a look at Wally Wood’s “22 panels that always work”.

  • Flow & progression (change of locations, how time passes, …). What happens between panels should be obvious. Take care of small details like which hand is used, or the side of something.

Drawing and refining

Resources to make higher-quality art, faster:

  • Reference materials: tracing over stuff is easy, quick and gives good results (eg. photographs, incl. made by yourself for the purpose, or avatar generators like IMVU or XBox).

  • Templates: a couple available on the net, but tend to be limiting. Create your own templates?

  • Comic creation software: several, seem too complex and/or expensive.

  • Online creation tools: websites like bitstrips.com and pixton.com seem interesting.

Applying comics

Possible uses of comics:

  • Requirements/vision: documents don’t get read, and if they do, they’re ambiguous. Comics are easy to read and explaining requirements through real use-cases often works better.

  • Good start for projects/companies: comics help you validate your ideas before you build anything, or decide exactly what to build. In these cases, make the person read the comic on her own, then explain with her own words as she reads again. That way, misunderstandings are easier to spot. Also, make people say how it relates to them: if they or someone they know would use it.

  • Marketing materials. Explaining your product, or why it’s special, through comics.

  • Certain kinds of documentation.

It’s generally easier to get people to read comics than to read text descriptions of the same content.

Breaking Down the Barriers

When convincing bosses to approve the use of comics, there’s usually less resistance than what people think. That said, understand who you’re convincing and what arguments to use (eg. some designers think that comics take relatively little time compared to alternatives, or the evidence suggesting that words + pictures help in understanding and memory). Fidelity and polish in comics (and any other medium) needs to be higher for certain audiences, eg. bosses or corporate clients.

Useful templates and references

The appendix has ideas about how to show someone in front of a computer, interesting panels, gesture dictionary and a facial expression dictionary:

Facial expression dictionary