When I took on the Google Chrome comic, one of the lures of the job was a chance to use a bully pulpit to show how simple pictures could make complex ideas understandable and memorable. My medium was comics of course—and comics have some unique advantages in this regard—but others have been doing impressive work in animation along the same lines (this, for example).
The trick in either comics or animation is to embody your ideas rather than sugarcoat them; to make plain, through images, the patterns and concepts you see clearly in your head, secure in the knowledge that even the most byzantine, advanced, jargon-laced topic probably rests on a few fat visual metaphors almost anyone can grok with a little explanation.
Treading a middle ground between static and moving images is this 10-minute video featuring Jeremy Rifkin and drawn/animated by the smart folks at Cognitive Media* for The RSA. It’s a joy to watch and it made me wonder how much better the learning experience in school settings could be if they incorporated even a fraction of the enthusiasm and visual lucidity on display here (albeit, sped up to a superhuman degree).
More videos in the RSAanimate series can be found here.
I don’t use the word “revolutionary” lightly—well, okay, maybe I do—but the trend toward visualizing information in education (in combination with a growth in visual literacy) is a genuine opportunity for a revolution we desperately need.
*Thanks to Austin in the comments thread for identifying Cognitive and dropping them a line. It turns out that I’ve actually met Cognitive’s Andrew Park, when he sat in on my workshop at MCAD a few years back. Small world!
[And thanks to Jared Finkelstein for first pointing out the video]