Design Elements and Principles: Madison Roby

Choose a single page or 2-spread from Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” that you’d like to discuss in terms of your new design vocabulary. Explain why you think McCloud’s layout is effective in terms of at least three of the elements and/or principles described by John Lovett. Make sure you demonstrate an understanding of both Lovett and McCloud.

Scott McCloud, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993, pg 113

Line, arguably one of the more important elements of design, is defined by John Lovett as, “the linear marks made with a pen or brush or the edge created when two shapes meet.” While this definition covers the general idea of what a line is, in art and design line is so much more. Line is the staple, the backbone, of design, as everything could be considered line, whether or not it is intended. The separation between two things is a line, the direction our eyes take when reading through a comic is a line, the perspective of a drawing is covered in invisible lines. These lines can be used to denote a number of

Scott McCloud, HarperCollins Publishers, 1993, pg 113

things in comics, for instance, page 113 of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.” In this particular section, McCloud is describing the ways in which other artists use lines to represent action, for instance, the act of a car driving quickly past the reader/camera (see close up). The way McCloud uses line in this particular page is useful in that he is discussing how important they are, demonstrating their ability to show us, the reader, action.

Another present element within this particular page is direction. Lovett describes direction as having, “a powerful influence over the atmosphere generated by the work.” In this particular page, McCloud takes the horizontal direction and uses it (coupled with line) to show us where both the car is driving and where he is running. The way McCloud drew the action lines on the horizontal plane suggests that the action is taking place in the horizontal, moving rightward. The idea that the action is moving rightward is also interesting given we generally read from left to right, making movement in the right direction a natural flow from one thing to another. In the last two panels of page 113, McCloud starts of running to the right; the text bubble above (read left to right) is then easily transitioned to the next panel, as it is also going rightward.

Finally, alongside line and direction, McCloud has a good use of gradation throughout this page. Gradation, “size and direction produce linear perspective,” is seen in the way McCloud draws his lines in the last panel. He has drawn himself running rightward, and the action lines he’s drawn go from darker and more packed together on the right to completely gone on the left. This is effective in creating the idea of motion, as the things McCloud is passing by will fade away, given his speed, while the things to the right will be coming toward him into view.

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