by Hoogie Espinosa . August 11th, 2014
Hi. My name is Hoogie Espinosa. I’m the Senior Editor of YTD’s sister blog, You the Entrepreneur. If You haven’t met me on any other platform, you probably don’t know that I’m deep into arts: most specifically, comics.
But what do comics have to do with you, the usual visitor of YTD who probably has nothing to do with comics? I’m here to tell you a few points on comic theory and how you can apply it to further your practice, whatever it may be: illustration, typography, graphic design, web, whatever.
Comics, like any other form of art, needs a message. Sometimes, we want it to be hidden or mysterious. Don’t do that unless there’s reason behind it. You want to hit your audience with clarity.
These choices can make the difference between amazing storytelling and horrid babble. They’re also what I want to focus on for this post.
This may apply to other forms of art. Removing a certain stroke can be the difference of an “F” and a “T.” Removing an element off of a poster change an informational to a teaser. Or perhaps there’s a part of your design that has no substantial value and is just needless distraction. Consider what you want to do with your piece, the various things needed to illustrate your message, and apply them justly.
When a comic frame is zoomed out, it is usually to show where the story takes place and lets you relate to the surroundings. Where as frames that are zoomed in are for focusing on something.. By adjusting things like balance and tilt, you can affect your audience’s impressions of a piece and their relation to it.
By framing things in specific ways, your website could look friendly, or maybe prestigious and elite. Do you think that next word should be widely kerned or narrowly? Should your illustration show fluidity, or solid structure? Framing can change the total effect of your work, between past and present, power and humility, etc.
Elements within your piece can be viewed from so many different angles and compositions. You may even have multiple ones in a single set. However when one’s purpose is clarity, keeping things uniform may be best. You could have things in odd angles and placements, but just make sure it works and does not distract people from your message.
That said, sometimes these crazy angles are not distractions, but actually needed. There’s no reason to stay within what’s hip or what everyone’s used to.
This applies to other art forms as well. There are many ways to do a signage, or an ecommerce website, or an infographic, but choosing the right style to convey your message is important.
Remember this image?
However, a choice of image is not always about style. Sometimes, it’s about tiny details that make your image work. Whether it’s that certain roundness to your bowls, or a texture to your design at 5% opacity. Tiny details can foreshadow events to come. Different levels of abstraction can push your audience towards a specific mood or emotion. The clarity of an artwork can be defined by the piece as a whole, but also by the tiny details that make it. You may have all the talent in the world with art, but if you can’t communicate well, you’re going to die out against the newbie that does.
Words are beautiful things. You can get an image so vague and surreal like a Salvador Dali painting, and make it whole by giving it words. They help us communicate faster. Even deaf people have their own words through hand gestures.
A change in words could make an open and friendly wedding invite to a mysterious and intriguing concert ticket. You could get a long and tiresome website and making it simpler by wording things clearly and concisely. Sometimes though, the image does a better job on its own, and you just need to let go of the text.
Flow is how you guide the audience from beginning to end. Have you ever read a comic but didn’t know what frame to look at next, or be confused with a certain scene only to realize pages later that the way you read it was wrong? Those comics have bad flow. In most countries, people read left-to-right, then up-to-down. This applies also to comics and images. Even when scanning a room, people tend to look left-to-right.
In design, the flow of your elements makes things more harmonious and readable. In a lot of advertisement banners, the most important information is either a center-aligned vertical stream from top to bottom, or a diagonal one from top-left to bottom-right with the prime focus on the center. An off-center focus with no “counter weight” can lead to the information in other areas being ignored, which could be good or bad depending on your intentions. Doing anything out of the norm can confuse the subconscious, This is also why magicians are great at what they do.
There’s no way to force viewers to a certain path or element, but you can somewhat guide or predict what they’ll pay attention to. By understanding human psychology, you can make this work for you, whether you’re going for a clear image or a sneaky illusion.
If you want to read more on art and design, follow You the Designer through Facebook and Twitter. If you want to follow more of Hoogie’s writing or are interested in enhancing your freelancing or entrepreneurial skills, follow our sister blog, You the Entrepreneur.
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