Even if you’re not a comic collector and could never pass for “comic book guy” on the Simpsons, that doesn’t mean you don’t read comics. How about how-tos in home improvement books? Instruction manuals for various electronics, or even the calm as a “hindu-cow” passengers showing you how to evacuate an airplane? Comics are a great way to communicate information. And as someone in the business of communicating information, there is a lot to learn from a master of comics like Scott McCloud.
Our Sabre Labs group has a ongoing series called “Wundermind”, where they’re bringing some of the biggest thinkers around to speak to Sabre employees. The kick-off lecture was from Scott McCloud. Scott is the author of “Understanding Comics” a kind of history and theory of comics written in comic book form (or graphic novel form maybe). As with someone who has studied this visual communications medium in great detail he had a lot of good information to share. He’s lectured at some high-profile places like: MIT, Harvard, Microsoft, Nielsen Norman Group, Pixar, Xerox PARC and a bunch more.
First off, (non-UX related) Scott is a self-proclaimed “Mac Head” and his Keynote presentation was top notch. Following modern presentation best practices, his slides were high on image, short on text, and flowed perfectly with his presentation. I always find myself creating my presentation for two audiences, the people I’m presenting to and the people who will download the presentation later. This usually means I provide too much information on each slide.
Anyways…. I didn’t really take enough notes, I was too busy listening – but here are some of the main points I took away that could help anyone who needs to communicate visually.
Design for your medium
Don’t try to fit past conventions in your websites/applications. While it’s good to have some commonality, you’re not really pushing the limits until you design specifically for the your medium.
Simplify your story
You need to decide what goes onto a page, which elements need to be there and which elements can be removed. It’s your job to come up with the most direct, easy-to-use process that will make it simple to accomplish a task or process.
Remove the noise
He has a couple of great illustrations in his book where he shows a face from a photograph all the way to a smiley face. While the smiley face may be abstracting a little too much, the idea is drawing something too realistic gets people stuck on the details, and not focus on the overall emotions or concepts. And as a designer we’ve all learnt too much clutter is not a good thing (less is more!).
Those are just a couple of points, if you get a chance to see him (he’s on a 50 state tour) – you should!