Bonny Coleville-Hyde: Lerning from comics

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

Bonny Coleville-Hyde was talking about learning from comics at DotYork, these are my notes from her talk.

:-/ Good intentions aren't enough. Understanding requirements + stakeholder buy in.

User research is AWESOME. You get to see the real emotional responses from people actually using the things you've created. Most people don't get to see this, at best they see highlights.

Documenting and communicating human experiences is HARD. It's easy to bore people, our traditional deliverables are just another boring thing to add to the pile of boring deliverables.

People have different methods of commication style. We need to tailor our communications to the people we need to communicate with. Try and identify people and their styles.

Communication is HARD. We tend to go on feelings rather than facts. A lengthy description of a glass of water is no substitute for a drink of water. People love stories, stories have social value - they will be spread. People also love comics. [See Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics]. They are used in plane safety cards. 17897 comics make up Peanuts - the longest story ever told by one person, over 50 years long.

Comics play on the 2/3 of our communication that's non-verbal. Non-verbal communication has magic - we learn it before we learn words. Body language is extremely expressive, even stick figures.

Everybody loves comics. Documentation shared by comics gets shared virally. They help to build empathy. [Stick figures are cyphers that are easy to project into.]


When pitching you don't want to lock into an approach before you've had the chance to do proper research to validate ideas. Three act structure: establishment, conflict, resolution. Crate a character and put them in that storyline. Ideas in the comic are clearly not final designs.

Share research

Bring research findings to life. Can provide a representation from aggregated user experiences.

Test ideas with users

Put comics in front of users and get feedback. No development cost of a prototype. Kevin Chang(?) Comics don't tie you to a digital solution.

Communicate and explore ideas

The Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud. Can quickly create a comic with stock photography.

What makes a comic.

Gutters are the magic parts of comics - this is where it all happens.

Different types of speech bubbles - don't even have to contain speech.

Power of suggestion - juxtaposed images instantly create a story in peoples minds.

Doens't have to be good art - just a bit of practice. Look at XKCD.

[Read Understanding Comics. <- Click that link to go onto Amazon and Buy It Now.]

Don't have to be anatomically exact, good enough is good enough.

Characters are important, especially if there is more than one person. Start to use hair and accessories to differentiate.

Cheat. Keep libraries and re-use things. Comic Life is a good piece of software.

  • Engage dicision makers
  • Don't obsess about process
  • Speak to users as often as possible
  • Plan!
  • Make it easy for yourself
  • Wait for ink to dry before using an eraser
  • Have fun

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