Archive for ‘Visual Communication’

Can’t… Stop… Watching…

One of the things I love about this cheerfully insane page is that but for the load times, this is something that could have been approximated with software dating back to the early nineties.

We sometimes neglect the fact that when we graduate from one generation of technologies to the next, that doesn’t mean we’ve exhausted the creative possibilities of the previous ones. The advent of CSS or PHP didn’t negate the inventiveness of something like this brain-scrambling oldie, for example, it just opened the door to new shenanigans.

Creativity is backwards compatible!

[link via… um, I don’t know! Who told me about this??]

[Oh WAIT! Chuck in the comments points out that the same artist has a Webcomic! THAT’S probably what led me there. Definitely check out this equally long-loading but nevertheless great comic!]

What Learning Looks Like

Pictures Work.

When I took on the Google Chrome comic, one of the lures of the job was a chance to use a bully pulpit to show how simple pictures could make complex ideas understandable and memorable. My medium was comics of course—and comics have some unique advantages in this regard—but others have been doing impressive work in animation along the same lines (this, for example).

The trick in either comics or animation is to embody your ideas rather than sugarcoat them; to make plain, through images, the patterns and concepts you see clearly in your head, secure in the knowledge that even the most byzantine, advanced, jargon-laced topic probably rests on a few fat visual metaphors almost anyone can grok with a little explanation.

Treading a middle ground between static and moving images is this 10-minute video featuring Jeremy Rifkin and drawn/animated by the smart folks at Cognitive Media* for The RSA. It’s a joy to watch and it made me wonder how much better the learning experience in school settings could be if they incorporated even a fraction of the enthusiasm and visual lucidity on display here (albeit, sped up to a superhuman degree).

More videos in the RSAanimate series can be found here.

I don’t use the word “revolutionary” lightly—well, okay, maybe I do—but the trend toward visualizing information in education (in combination with a growth in visual literacy) is a genuine opportunity for a revolution we desperately need.

*Thanks to Austin in the comments thread for identifying Cognitive and dropping them a line. It turns out that I’ve actually met Cognitive’s Andrew Park, when he sat in on my workshop at MCAD a few years back. Small world!

[And thanks to Jared Finkelstein for first pointing out the video]

No, Seriously: Why??

Okay, first of all, gotta love Dean Haspiel. Great guy, great comics. He has a new one up at Zuda. Go take a look.

Unfortunately, I haven’t finished Dean’s story, because I have a book to draw and thanks to Zuda’s interface, it would take me half the morning to finish reading the thing.

I asked this once before and one of our posters (Matthew Marcus) had a theory, but I’m still unsatisfied.

Why, oh why, oh WHY does every single page turn in Zuda require blurring the page I was just on and subjecting me to an unreasonably slow loading bar?

Why can’t it remain in focus and simply put the progress bar out of the way so I can keep reading and get a head start on loading? Or perhaps dim the next button until the page is ready?

Why don’t I have the option of loading the whole comic in advance as I would a song or TV show? (or am I just missing that feature?)

Failing that, why doesn’t Zuda at least pre-load one or two pages in advance? (Note that if I walk away for 10 minutes, I’ll still have to wait just as long once I return).

Why is the load time for Zuda pages any slower than, say, this?

The reason I’m frustrated with Zuda has nothing to do with its business model (a separate issue for another day—also a moving target it turns out) or its corporate parent.

The reason I’m frustrated is because I actually LIKE the basic design of Zuda. The screen-fitting, full screen option is so natural. Such a great way to lose yourself in a story.

But with every page, the interface intrudes and rips you back out.


Kids and Powerpoint…

Here’s a blast from the past. Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design (who worked with Al Gore to produce the famous Inconvenient Truth slideshows) has posted a video of Sky’s 2006 Comic-Con presentation on the then-upcoming Making Comics 50 State Tour. She was 13 years-old at the time.

Duarte’s book Slide:ology features Sky in a two page spread, examining the fast-moving approach she uses when presenting. Although she was obviously influenced by her Dad’s style, it’s important to point out that Sky created what you see here without any help from us. I told her how to make a new slide in the first five minutes she had the program and she just took it from there.

I also need to point out that this was her first time doing the presentation. Sky would add to and refine her slides as she went on to present at MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, Google, Adobe, etc. By the time we got to Albuquerque, her timing was almost inhuman.


I first heard about Picmoticon.com from a tweet by Sara Ryan but clearly we were made for each other. Check out some of the great “accidental faces” out there and maybe submit one of your own.

Have a good weekend. We’re off to Italy next week!

Is it Comics?: An Interesting Fence-Sitter

Got this in the mail last night:

My name is Ira Marcks. I am a cartoonist from NY who recently collaborated with Jake Lodwick (founder of Vimeo) on an experimental illustration/animation project.

It’s sort of like a 45 minute music video with one sliding frame. But it’s also like a graphic novel told in a single, 50 foot long panel.

I settled on the term ‘Illustrative Score’ to describe the project and it’s method.

Check out Ira and Jake’s stimulating results here (and Ira’s personal site here).

And when you’re done, I’d be curious to hear your reactions to the old “Is it Comics?” question. Not a technical debate comparing it to this or that definition (though I’m sure those will come up), just gut reactions. Does this feel like comics to you?

I’m curious, because I’m totally on the fence!

Anyway, cool stuff regardless of what we call it.

When Metaphors Touch Down

Long-time friend of the site, Greg Stephens suggested I check out this article by Tokyo-based Craig Mod which offers his take on different contents’ ability (or lack thereof) to migrate easily from device to device.

His whole presentation has an amusing vintage-Tufte meets RC-era me feeling, and some of the reasoning may be a bit fuzzy, but his ideas are fun, provocative, and worth a look—as are the many comments that follow.

Craig’s main point—that there are types of content that can’t be endlessly re-flowed and re-purposed because their formal presentation is integral to the work—is a huge issue for comics and the source of a lot of our growing pains to date.

For years, I’ve watched as we’ve tried out a dozen different metaphors for comics on the Web. Pages versus windows, flipping versus panning, “strip” versus “magazine” versus “book”… all the while assuming that the best metaphor(s) would simply win out in the end on an open network.

What worried me is that sooner or later, one or two of those metaphors were bound to migrate to dedicated reading devices, and when they did, the designers of those devices could simply choose which metaphor suited them and lock them in. For a really long time.

If such devices follow an app store model, such experimentation doesn’t have to stop dead in its tracks. Maybe. But there’s no question that “later” is becoming “sooner” is becoming “now” and if we don’t make some smart decisions during this stage of growth, comics could veer dangerously off course for years.

Name that Movie

Here’s a great time-waster spotted by our friend Lori:

Paul Rogers asks if you can name some of his favorite movies based on just 6 drawings in sequence (with no movie stars).

I did pretty well, how about you?

“…the emergence of a mind”

You can accuse him of hyperbole if you like, but I think James Gurney is exactly right. The fact that this sort of thing is happening all around us with increasing frequency is both fascinating and a little spooky.

There’s a sublime scene in the first Terminator movie where a hapless psychiatrist turns off a pager on the way out of a building just as Arnie’s cyborg from the future walks in. Most viewers see the link: how the tiny, primitive devices of today lead to something far more sophisticated (and in that context, sinister) in the future.

There are little fragments of AI in consumer devices that aren’t just incremental steps, they’re markedly different from what came before. They have the flavor of reasoning. Think of mobile apps for pulling songs out of the air, recognizing products from sight, or listening to and understanding our words, translating them.

These are the things in your pocket or just lying around the house right now. On the nightstand. On the kitchen table. They’re convenient and cool, but not much more for most people.

After all, it’s not like they’re walking or anything.


The Episode with the Dog

Oh my God, the episode with the dog…