Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Event Report: Using comics to communicate design

We “designers” typically have all kinds of ideas floating around in our grey matter from one moment to the next. Sometimes they directly apply to the project we’re working on, other times, not so much. One big challenge we have is figuring out the best way to get them out of our heads and into the heads of others. In other words, how do we communicate them well enough to be discussed, iterated, grown, and maybe even (whoa, Nellie) prototyped?

I could list a few ways we commonly share ideas, but I won’t waste this space with the things you already know and use daily. Lately, there has been a trend in our Interaction Design discipline to borrow successful methods from other domains and use them in ours. For example, we have sketching as taught in Industrial Design, storyboarding that comes from movie making, and now comic strips that come from, well, comic strips.

“Comic strips?” you ask. “But, we want people to take us seriously!”

IxDA Boston decided to investigate this, and invited Amy Cueva, the CXO of the design consultancy Mad*Pow, to share her experiences with using this method. Autodesk Waltham kindly hosted the event in the new building on the evening of March 19th (and attendees got a sneak peek of the almost-finished CBC Boston Gallery!).
Amy shared with us how she came across the method, how she successfully uses this tool in her design business to communicate ideas, and what the benefits and limitations of this tool can be. She was quick to give credit to Kevin Cheng who has pioneered the use of comics in design, himself originally writing comic spoofs on the Interaction Design community at his website

Amy gave us lots of great examples in her presentation and got us all walking the talk in a couple of breakout sessions along the way. While we all wished we could actually draw as well as Kevin (and his co-conspirator Tom Chi), Amy assured us that we needn’t fret about our lack of artistry because we would use the drawing skills we learned in second grade to create our own comic strips.

For the most part, she was right.

Amy has kindly shared with us her presentation, some comic strip templates, and these additional links:


PS. I could have been crafty and written this post in comic strip form, but I’m no Amy Cueva or Kevin Cheng.

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