Comics design experiments: Weeks 1-4 Reflections

Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing exercises set by Pat to better understand the role of design principles in how to build and analyse comics. So far, we’ve covered the following topics – some with an accompanying comic, others just by look at other’s works.

Week 1: Core principles of design and how I make a comic

The first week was an exploration of how the basic design process is integrated into how I make comics (it changes for everyone) I had to identify where and how I engage with the following design steps.

RESEARCH: This can be sketching, looking at art, shapes or designs, reading, anything that informs how you make stuff or what stories you tell. I thought of research as the establishment of new knowledge, coming from the sciences. I had to kind of narrow it to new representations or new engagements with ideas.

ITERATION: This an idea that keeps expanding as to what is an iteration of my designs. At first I thought of it as the writing, sketching, inking, scanning and editing (which all are iterations). Now I’m expanding my ideas of iteration based on my reading of Lynda Barry and Eszter Szep. Particularly when I’m making my zines, I am starting to see every engagement with my chosen setting (from foraging, to processing what I’ve found, sketching, map making) is an iteration of the place and story I’m building up.

PLAY: This is probably the hardest part of making for me to identify because it’s how I learned to make comics in the first place – just for fun! I think of play now as when I feel like I’m doing some sort of jugsaw puzzle or sudoku, or tetris. For me, the play is where you tinker with what you’ve got to see how it all fits together.

MAKING: Is the assemblage of the final product/ prototype.


This week was all about making things simple and intuitive. Where the viewer can follow the design with the minimal embellishment from the designer. My personal favourite designer from this week was the Abstract: The Art of Design episode about Paula Scher. I love that she managed to create works that were uniquely hers, while still being extremely simple and bold. In particular – I want her maps book, where she’s painted data onto a shape of a country or continent.

Paula Scher’s Antarctica

Week 3: Grid

This week was about the foundational aspect of the grid. The grid is in and of itself an image, where you can carry structures and shapes across the page, and in doing so, carry the story without needing additional words.

Week 4: Visual Echo

Building on the idea of the grid, the visual echo is the recurrence of abstract shapes that flow through the grid and the comic – linking the story like a riff in a song. This technique made me acutely aware of how each panel carries something from the last panel in the grid, and that you can construct A-plots and B-plots using visual echo’s to signify where everything fits together. Where I used to thig of graphic novels as somewhere between a movie and a book, now it feels like the film score is part of it too, where visual echo’s act like motifs that carry characters and themes in the undercurrent of the story.

This is all to say that I am feeling a lot more competent in how I construct a comic, and how I analyse them too.

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