“See What I Mean: How To Use Comics to Communicate Ideas” by Kevin Cheng; O’Reilly Media

Using graphics to represent ideas and information is nothing very new, and there are some good examples of where it is being done very effectively to communicate complicated information is an easy to understand and follow manner, think Lego and Ikea. As someone who has spent many years involved in software usability, documentation, and training I know that we tend to spend vast amounts of effort producing a lot of words that no-one wants to read. Comics provide a way of communicating information quickly and simply. In creating the cartoon you have to distill the message that you want to communicate into something straightforward and meaningful for your user or team. Comics are quick to read and can help provide context in a single picture that would take many pages in writing. “See What I Mean: How To Use Comics to Communicate Ideas” sets out to demonstrate not only how comics can be a powerful way to communicate information and ideas effectively, but also how they can overcome some of the problems that the medium of words can have. The book is focused on using comics for communication between designers and developers of a product, and also in communication of the product to users, demonstrating the value of comics for design, usability, in-team communication, customer engagement, documentation, and marketing.

The book demonstrates how comics can be used to communicate more effectively than huge chunks of written text. Each chapter has both a comic section and then a more in detail text section, in the same way as the “The Manga Guide to…” series. The book starts by introducing what comics are, their properties and different types of comics across the world. Chapters are provided on drawing techniques, scriptwriting, layout and story design. Examples are provided from organisations and individuals that have used comics for in-team communication, marketing of products, and other uses of comics in product development, including websites, software, and hardware. Finally various software and other resources that can help you produce your own comics are discussed, and an appendix is provided with handy templates and references, a guide to comic panels, a gesture dictionary, and facial expression dictionary. The book also provides some examples of how comics have been used in practice, for example in marketing and user studies.

This book shows you that you really don’t need to be a Picasso or Monet to produce a drawing that can easily be understood and convey not only ideas but emotions and meaning. Rather than produce a 200 page requirements document or user manual, have a go at producing a short comic instead. It’s not only effective, your team or customer are likely the experience a lot more! This technique is already being used by organisations such as Yahoo and Adobe.

See the O’Reilly product page for more information.

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