Comic Co-Creations – stage 1

Nephews drawing of a dinosaur eating a car

So here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about lately, how to use the comic book format to share, teach, learn and co-create with students. With yesterday’s announcement of Lynda Barry as a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, I am inspired (by her always) to share my tale. I’ve been pondering this in the context of my day job (facilitating professors and their students create media), but this past weekend I had an idea to flip into a more personal context.

A few things came together for this project, but the inspiration was wanting to start a pen-pal correspondence with my nephews. At ages 13 and 10, these boys love comics, and I’ve had the pleasure of receiving many gifts from them over the years adorned with their wacky sense of humor and visual storytelling.

Case in point, my Honeymoon gift card. Nephews drawing of a dinosaur eating a car

My idea was to initiate a “comic book conversation”, and create a space we could draw and tell stories together. Not unlike the Tic Tac Toe jam I read about earlier this year, but with more of an age gap between the participants. From an instructors perspective, my workshops have always involved a variety of activities, but central are the ideas of storytelling, synthesizing concepts into image and text, and considering format, whether its a sequence of slides, or map that can be explored, analogue or digital. As an uncle, I was aiming for more conversation and creative discovery, so I ended up mashing some ideas/formats from a couple of creators.

Visual Summary from “Living Documents”: Drawing a 3-Panel Comic from Primary Sources” by Marek Bennet.

First was a recent share from a good buddy of mine, who pointed out an article from Marek Bennet. Published on the Children’s Literary Foundations website, “Living Documents”: Drawing a 3-Panel Comic from Primary Sources” is a great guide on how he synthesizes a complex narrative into a simple visual layout. Breaking down a text ideas into basic elements, faces, setting, action. This is very approachable for novices, but I feel more intuitive for youthful minds. Personally, I like having the roadmap Marek provides!

A couple of copies of the Nelson Gnome Home. by Monica Sylvie

Coincidentally and almost entirely unrelated, I happen to live in the west end of Vancouver. SO LUCKY to be a neighbor to the Nelson Gnome Home. Monica Sylvie has been sharing her “gnome home” series for FREE, distributing the publications from the gnome home itself. (we have the entire collection! ) Not only are these charming and endearing comics, but the format she used can conveniently be printed out on a tabloid sheet of paper, and with a little cutting and folding be made into a perfect ”zine-like” publication. I copied it, by hand!

Comic Co-Creation process

This page design, when folded and strategically cut, gives you 4 inside pages, each is double backed so you can use markers or what have you, and not worry about bleed through to the other side. I drew part of a title, outlined some panels on page 1 and set up the story. To give a bit more direction I added some post-it prompts for the boys to consider. We’ll see what I get back.

For some reason I don’t think I am done with this format. I Am brimming with ideas how to bring this into my workshops, and am eager to share the templates, and other shareable resources, but first I need to make a few things. Future topics will include

  • Super hero landing stick people
  • Lesson plan comics
  • Drawing in Class
  • Visual Note-taking Zines
  • Abstract comics and kids
  • ???

I will keep posting!

Mapping the visual – redux

I was asked to host a “visual mapping” session to support SFU students interested in in the, “Map the System challenge“, a global competition on social and environmental change. Last year was my first dive into this, and was a treat although I felt a bit rushed. This was another great opportunity to reflect on the Going Visual program , and expand it from the what and how of visual communication, to consider the space and layout of the communication itself, the map.

I’m yet to be convinced that a visual “map” is the best way to frame these visual approaches, with most of the 2018 winners seeming to create infographics. IT was fun nonetheless to research some inspirational visuals that may inform, inspire and guide this years contestants. It’s also one of the first times I have put together a formal slide deck for these. Embedded here, including links, Summary and additional resources below.

In encouraged students that a visual map could take many different forms, depending on the data and message they want to convey. It could include forms such as infographics, diagrams/charts, posters, comics, photography, iconography and more. Last years 3rd place winners, has a fantastic infographic that used icons very effectively.

Visual Practice
I have been meaning to move my visual practice portfolio, from flickr to my own site, but for now…

One of the best resources I found to not only describe the many directions that could be taken with this project is How To Think Visually Using Visual Analogies – Infographic

In this article, Anna Vital outlines and illustrates practically all of the visual thinking approaches, in order of complexity and building towards storytelling. The most powerful visual format of all. Her tips on how to find the best visual analogy?

Follow 5 principles:

  1. It looks familiar to most of people
  2. It has a structure
  3. It matches your narrative’s structure
  4. It is visible (something that can be seen)
  5. It is visual (something that is easy to see)

For info visualization I included the following links for exploration.

I also explored some of the language we often take for granted in this work, there are so many disciplines and practices to consider. Especially when googling for eg. The article describing the difference between visual thinking and design thinking I found useful. In it, Matt Morasky offers this high level insight. Many of the students being from Beedie School of business have heard of design thinking as a methodology, but it’s a handy reminder.

Simply put, design thinking is a method for problem solving.
Visual thinking, on the other hand, is a set of tools for making intangible or complex ideas visible.

Matt Morasky from XPLANE

For visual thinking I included the following links for exploration.

For Going Visual resources I included the following links for exploration

Drawn to Comics: An instructional outline

I had the chance last week to work with one of the SFU Educational Consultants on presenting an introduction to pedagogy for a group of Communications grad students. We took the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone.  I was lucky to work with the talented Sarah Turner, from our Teaching centre and designed an educational development mashup of sorts, combining the best of pedagogical practice with drawing and comic book design.

I guess word has been getting our around on campus as I have been pushing my going visual workshops, and offering them “on demand” for grad students and various class drop in sessions. These are typically focussed on the particulars of drawing in an educational context, and there are many directions the conversations go. For this session I was approached to do the same, but our audience in this case a young group of emergent PHD students, all of which needed ideas on how to incorporate these activities into their teaching and learning, and use them in a pedagogically sound manner.

For this workshop we wanted to go a step further than the regular Going Visual syllabus and incorporate some actual technology into the mix, that being an ipad and Comic Book app.  We borrowed this idea from another great mentor of mine, Dr. Jessica Motherwell and colleague from the JIBC Krista Lambert in a presentation they did at the Sketching in Practice Symposium this year called “Using Comics to rehearse best practices“.  Jessicas resources are openly shared and she encourages this kind of appropriation. And I really wanted to make the outline of our session in a comic book form!

I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out, and will be looking to do similar projects using this technique. It gave a chance to build a story around our session as well as convey the basic topics we were planning to cover.