Archive for May, 2010

What Learning Looks Like

Pictures Work.

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]

No, Seriously: Why??

Okay, first of all, gotta love Dean Haspiel. Great guy, great comics. He has a new one up at Zuda. Go take a look.

Unfortunately, I haven’t finished Dean’s story, because I have a book to draw and thanks to Zuda’s interface, it would take me half the morning to finish reading the thing.

I asked this once before and one of our posters (Matthew Marcus) had a theory, but I’m still unsatisfied.

Why, oh why, oh WHY does every single page turn in Zuda require blurring the page I was just on and subjecting me to an unreasonably slow loading bar?

Why can’t it remain in focus and simply put the progress bar out of the way so I can keep reading and get a head start on loading? Or perhaps dim the next button until the page is ready?

Why don’t I have the option of loading the whole comic in advance as I would a song or TV show? (or am I just missing that feature?)

Failing that, why doesn’t Zuda at least pre-load one or two pages in advance? (Note that if I walk away for 10 minutes, I’ll still have to wait just as long once I return).

Why is the load time for Zuda pages any slower than, say, this?

The reason I’m frustrated with Zuda has nothing to do with its business model (a separate issue for another day—also a moving target it turns out) or its corporate parent.

The reason I’m frustrated is because I actually LIKE the basic design of Zuda. The screen-fitting, full screen option is so natural. Such a great way to lose yourself in a story.

But with every page, the interface intrudes and rips you back out.


I Love my Wife

By the time this blog post goes up, Ivy and I will be sitting down to the midnight showing. By the time most of you read this, we will have already seen it, gone to bed and woken up again.

It’s not because I’m the comic book guy dragging his long-suffering spouse along. No, no. It was Ivy’s idea. She just really, really wanted to do it. She was literally hopping up and down, I kid you not.

Neither of us expects it to be a *great* movie exactly. We figure it’ll be slightly better or slightly worse than the first one (which, for what it was, was pretty good) but we know we’ll love every minute of him because he really is a joy to watch, and we’ll enjoy doing something fun and slightly stupid in each others’ company.

And yeah, yeah, whatever, whatever… I passed caring years ago. I am Mr. Fusion. I can take the popcorn with the caviar and sort it all out on the back end.

When it comes to comics, I’ll never be satisfied. I’ll always search out the true gems and shovel aside the crap. I’ll see every flaw in everything I read and everything I draw. It’s why I sometimes lose touch with what it is to be a reader only. It’s why I haven’t read an Iron Man comic in years—which is kind of sad when you think about it.

But for a big dumb superhero movie, I can sit back, enjoy the show, hold hands with the squeeing fangirl I married, and give thanks that I pretty much got exactly the life I dreamed of when I was 15 years-old.

Another from the Vaults: A “Schedule Creature”

Here’s another piece of reeeeeeeally old art.

When I was in high school, we had a standard schedule grid which students filled in by hand with their classes for each semester. One year, I decided to Illustrate mine with an elaborate creature which I wound up printing out and selling to students for a dime each (copies were five cents IIRC, so hey, profits galore!). The tradition persisted even into my first year in college as I created new Schedule Creatures for my friends still in high school.

The Schedule Creatures were probably the reason I was nominated in our Senior Superlatives contest for “Most Artistic” while my pal Kurt Busiek’s shenanigans got him nominated for “Most Creative.”

Both of us, it must be gravely noted, were soundly defeated by fellow senior Brian Collins.

Curse you, Brian Collins!

I’m Much Closer to Los Angeles than to San Diego…

…but I have no desire whatsoever to see Comic-Con move there.

[link via Heidi]

Kids and Powerpoint…

Here’s a blast from the past. Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design (who worked with Al Gore to produce the famous Inconvenient Truth slideshows) has posted a video of Sky’s 2006 Comic-Con presentation on the then-upcoming Making Comics 50 State Tour. She was 13 years-old at the time.

Duarte’s book Slide:ology features Sky in a two page spread, examining the fast-moving approach she uses when presenting. Although she was obviously influenced by her Dad’s style, it’s important to point out that Sky created what you see here without any help from us. I told her how to make a new slide in the first five minutes she had the program and she just took it from there.

I also need to point out that this was her first time doing the presentation. Sky would add to and refine her slides as she went on to present at MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, Google, Adobe, etc. By the time we got to Albuquerque, her timing was almost inhuman.

David Lasky is an Evil Genius

Follow the link. Follow the instructions. Maybe make some spares to put on other peoples’ fridges.

Voila! Project Mayhem.