Design Elements and Principles: Kristine Zorn

Image of pages 114 and 115 from the book “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” by Scott McCloud

I would say one of the most obvious design elements in Scott McCloud’s work is shape. Most, if not all of his panels, are rectangular or square shapes. When they are are other shapes they still tend to be geometric such as the trapezoid panels in the black area of page 114. He uses more organic shapes in the silhouettes of the figure running on the bottom of page 114. He also uses the element of lines to show that the figure is in motion. He also takes advantage of lines in how the panels are organized. Implied horizontal lines are created as we read left to right and vertical lines are implied as read from top to bottom. Even though he could have organized the page in a bit of a more “random” way, perhaps designing the comic to be read in a diagonal direction, he chose to line up his panels in a way that corresponds with the way we are taught to read, left to right, top to bottom.

In both pages 114 and 115, Scott McCloud uses the principles of unity and variety. The bottom part of page 114 shows four boxes all exactly the same size and all of them depict a running figure. However, variety is introduced by the different ways line is used in each of the panels to show motion. The variety helps to draw interest in comparing and contrasting the four boxes and shows how motion can be portrayed differently in the same image. Unity is once again seen on page 115. With the exception of one panel, all of the other panels are the exact same size rectangles. The unity provides structure and ease in reading the page. Variety, of course, comes from the fact that a different scene is depicted in each rectangle. Finally, a bit of extra variety comes of the middle panel on the bottom of the page which is twice as big as the other panels. Without out that differently sized panel, the page would feel too repetitive and boring.  While the unity does add structure, making the page easier to read, the variety of the bigger panel stops the reader from getting bored and thereby also makes the page easier to read.

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