Design Elements and Principles: Joseph Gardner

Page 114 cropped

Scott McClouds “Understanding Comics” Uses comic strips to teach readers about how to create them themselves. (Scott McCloud, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993, pg 114)

This is a page taken from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It is on page 114. This page talks about Subjective Motion, the idea that observing a moving object can be more immersive for the reader. 

I believe that this particular page is effective because it utilizes direction as a design element. John Loveitt says that in every image, there are one of three types of direction. It’s either horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Each direction means something different.

In the frames that McCloud uses to emulate Japanese art, he uses action lines and direction to signify motion. In all of the frames with the motorcycle, it has dominant diagonal motion. The dominant diagonal motion shows that the subject is moving somewhere, and the scene is animated.

McCloud does this to show that Japanese artists put the readers in the action of the comics through movement. It also shows horizontal motion lines. 

McCloud also used repetition in the comic in the bottom left corner of the page. John Lovett says that repetition is only effective if used with variation. The person in the image is stationary, but the lines around him change, to show different ways that the artist can convey motion.

He purposefully breaks the rhythm to draw attention away from the actual subject of the image, and to emphasize how the subject is moving. If each person running was different, then the eye would be drawn to the person instead of the act of movement.

He also changes each repetition slightly to make it so the image still has its interest to it. 

Mccloud also uses difference in value in this comic. John Loveitt describes value as the lightness and darkness in an image.

Where there is more contrast in tone, there is more visual interest.  In the more detailed Japanese section, he shaded the persons face heavily, and added shadows to the motorcycles and ground. This is to signify change from his own style to that of a different time frame and culture.

There is also higher contrast in this section than in the images of himself. It serves to bring the readers eye to the examples rather than the text. This way, there is more emphasis on the way that depth works through visual examples.

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