SHiFT: Kevin Cheng – Communicating concepts through comics

Communicating new technologies. We’ve got lots of great tech, but when it comes to talking about the ideas, we need to step back. Communicating using comics. Works at Yahoo Local. Used comic strip to communicate the idea for how the local restaurant search might work.

Started off writing a short script about the story and ideas they wanted to convey. Then put together the flow of the story, then drew it, and put it into Flash. Easy to share. Easy communication. But printing things out better than using Flash, even thought Flash is portable.

Why did they decide to use comics? Why are they interesting and powerful.

Comics are universal, so you can tell that a comic of a dog farting is a dog farting even without any language skills.

Comics need imagination. Comics are abstracted version of person, and are more ‘everyman’ than a photograph (see Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics). Comics give people room to be engaged with the character.

Abstraction can also be used for the user interface. Don’t want to distract people so abstract the UI.

Comics are more expressive. Adding context of images to words changes the meaning of them. Allows you to communicate even body language.

Comics better at telling time and motion. Movie storyboards.

Great for iteration. Quick to draw and redraw.

[Of course, this presentation somewhat depends on images I don’t have here to show you… so ironically you really are only getting half of the story here. How’s that for the point being made for you?]

Who uses comics?
US Postal Service. Comic strip post card about where to buy stamps, but although you throw it out you can absorb it as you glance at it.

Matrix storyboard.

Squid Labs, ‘HowToons’, instructions for kids on how to make projects like air hockey out of a balloon and AOL CD.

Dodgeball. Use comics to explain their service.

Doing comics is not that hard. If you don’t know how to do it, then there are a lot of resources online to help you get started. Look at expressions, changing eyebrows. Wally Wood’s 22 Panels. Trace pictures. Different tools for making comics.

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