Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Between 1940 and the early sixties the industry commonly accepted the profile of the comic book reader as that of a ’10-year old from Iowa’. In adults the reading of comic books was regarded as a sign of low intelligence.- Will Eisner in Comics and Sequential Art

Lamenting the lack of scholarly discussions on Sequential Art, an area that he thought deserved the consideration worthy of a valuable art form and medium of communication, Will Eisner condensed his vast knowledge on the theory and practice of comics in Comics and Sequential Art. The book, originally a collection of essays, is ostensibly for “the serious student, the working professional and the involved teacher”. I am neither and not exactly Eisner’s intended audience, but comics in general have in the past few decades been held in so much higher esteem than before and comics in various forms (from comic strips to full size graphic novels) have attracted such an enthusiastic following all over the world, that I feel it’s only natural that some non-artists will seek to satisfy their curiosity about the mechanics and thought processes that underlie the production of graphic literature. More recently, Scott McCloud’s comics about comics have offered much insight to comic aficionados.

Discussing core components and techniques used by comic creators, many of which are ubiquitous and yet invisible since the reader is often so wrapped up in the story that the methods are overlooked, Eisner liberally uses examples (many of which are his own Spirit stories) to illustrate concepts such as pantomimes, drawing on common experiences (such as our knowledge of how long it takes for a drop of water to drip from a faucet) and using appropriately sized and positioned panels to create a sense of time and rhythm, the use of panels to create  the required mood and tempo, and the use of gestures and postures to tell the story.

Comics are a unique art, similar to written works in that the reader’s eyes are free to roam and picture a scene in his mind’s eye, and similar to motion pictures in its use of images. And yet, comics invite the reader in a visual dialogue like no other art medium. The reader has more control over how he reads and interprets a comic (than a movie) and there is a tacit understanding between the artist and the reader on the rules that need to be followed to read the comic in the right order. Comic reading is an act of collaboration and requires a certain sophistication – to fill in the blanks between panels to constitute fluid action and to participate in the emotions described by the images- between the artist/creator and the reader/viewer. From fantasy, to instruction manuals, from full-sized graphic memoirs that deal with the entire spectrum of human emotions, to the ingenious use of animal metaphors in hard to classify works of brilliance, such as Maus, comics can be mature, funny, moving, complex and utterly captivating, whether you are a 10-year old or not. Indeed, Eisner had great hopes for the future of comics, especially the graphic novel:

The future of this form awaits participants who truly believe that the application of sequential art, with its interweaving of words and pictures, could provide a dimension of communication that contributes – hopefully on a level never before attained – to the body of lietrature that concerns itself with the examination of human experience….As for the receptivity of the audience, this must (and will) change and become sympathetic as the product delivers more and becomes more relevant.

What better time then to talk about the deliciously funny and heartrendingly honest graphic memoir Good Eggs  by Phoebe Potts.

But I love to teach. I love having meaningful, contained relationships with other people where they are vulnerable and I am helpful. And if I didn’t teach, the only other contact I would have with humanity is……in traffic…or exchanging money for good.

Good Eggs tells of the struggles Potts and her husband face as they grapple with infertility and experience hope, letdowns and frustration. Their baby making despair is interspersed with stories from Potts’ past- her family, her relationships and her ongoing battle with depression. Somehow, she manages to make this ordeal sound almost hilarious.

We’re naming them ‘Finally’ and ‘Agony'[on naming their imaginary twins].


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On being heard

When you hear your father call something “cool”, coolness loses its punch.

Ah, the pleasure of a well-written book.

Chip and Dan Health prescribe a formula for ‘sticky’ ideas, or just good communication that the audience can understand, remember and act on. This formula is represented in the easy mnemonic: SUCCES (without the second s) which stands for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. They demonstrate the effectiveness of their formula by applying it in their book.

  • Their premise is compact and meaningful: SUCCES is a tool to produce sticky ideas
  • They break the text with well-chosen anecdotes, exercises and case studies. They capture attention with teaser texts, draw the reader in, and do not disappoint. Most sections end with an intriguing description of what is in the next section, such as this:
A teacher from Iowa named Jane Elliott once designed a message so powerful – tapping into so many different aspects of emotion and memory – that, twenty years later, her students still remember it vividly.
  • They do not speak in abstract terms, rather involve the reader, do not over use statistics, and make the text totally relatable
  • Their ‘stories’ are from Journal articles, newspapers, and books. These are clearly real stories, used very well.
  • They appeal to a whole range of emotions, mainly staying likeable, relatable and pointing out ‘see this stuff works – see for yourself’, which also adds to their credibility. They make you care by telling you how easy it can be to be a better communicator, that it does not require inborn creativity, and that folk from all walks of life – teachers, evangelists, and flight attendants have unconsciously used these principles to be heard and remembered.
  • Their whole book is essentially a collection of stories, relevant stories, which stay in your head long after you’ve finished the book.
I actually took notes, and think I can put this stuff to good use – in a job interview, when coming up with a health communication design, teaching my son a concept, or even writing a little something.

I’d love to borrow a term that the Heath Brothers, Chip and Dan, use to describe themselves. Idea Collectors. I think and hope that each one of us, in our own way, is an idea collector. I certainly think I am one.




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