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Human Interface in Comic Books

Art and information systems are so far detached from one another in terms of education that it almost seems out of place to consider them in the same spheres of knowledge let alone the use of one’s fundamentals in the instrumentation of the other. Luckily the entirety of my education has been interdisciplinary, so the combination of ideas was not only good but encouraged at a point.

In IS, (information systems) one of the modules at Rhodes in my second year was Human Interface. With lectures surrounding around the idea that, no matter how revolutionary, how beneficial and how state of the art your program/app is; if the end user struggles to use it then it is as good as garbage.

All the graphic user interface that we interact with is fine tuned for ease of use, understanding/learning and mastering the program as a whole. Often the little things are what make or break an application: the size of the icons, the distance from the work space to the toolbar, the tabulation of related tools, the fields of input in forms. Each aspect requiring a considerable amount of analysis, this ultimately minimizes the cost of testing. While trial and error is a method of discovering problem areas and semantic errors, the entire team could avoid putting out an ill-formed product if every team member works with the end user in mind.

Now, where does all of this fit into making a comic book? If you see the end user and the reader as the same person, then the same principles are applicable. Where the aspects of the program are equivalent to all the elements found on a comic book page: the line art, paneling, layouts, colouring, lettering. In both cases the running task of having all this information up at once is to not strain the end user/reader’s eye.

On a comic book page you can’t tabulate information as you can in a program, but you can compartmentalize information into digestible chunks in the manner of each individual panel having its own subset of speech bubbles, character and backgrounds. The use of colour and lines creates a tacit reading experience as if your eye was going through a form in an application. Whether the reader is an expert or not, bad form/panel layout sticks out and removes the reader from the intended reading experience.

In the end, optimizing your space, packaging your ideas well and making customer satisfaction a key goal are ideals that can serve to better all design and product life cycles.

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