15 Replies
Steve Flowers

We've done a few that use a comic book style for some of the presentation elements. For resource and learner fatigue reasons we didn't go overboard with these elements. We used them to punctuate emotional moments (Security Awareness, Sexual Harassment, etc..)

I've attached a few of the job aids we built for "cartoon-izing" (cartoon as a verb, heh) images. The process essentially boils down to:

1) Separate elements into plates (for characters we shoot against a greenscreen or solid background)

2) Apply treatments to emphasize each layer (some character shapes and resolutions will require different treatments - we use Akvis Sketch)

3) Assemble the images and composite with callouts (we use ComicLife)

We've also used Poser rendered characters composited with clothing from photographs. Sometimes this works out pretty well.

There are a few really great resources for "ins and outs" of comic book layouts. I've been a comic book fan for almost 30 years I love this in moderation. It's easy to go overboard. Check out these links for some great tips:

http://www.blambot.com/articles.shtml

http://eddiecampbell.blogspot.com/2007/02/last-word-in-speech-balloons_25.html

There's another really great set of rules / tutorials for lettering and speech balloons out there. Just can't find it at the moment:)

Gabriele Dovis (italgo)

Hello Grant,

in the past I used to modify some existing "normal" image with some sketch effect applied on it with this software:

http://www.fotosketcher.com/

Here you can find a quick demo I've done using it a few month ago.
It is in italian, but you can well understand everything by looking at the screen images.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/204930011

Fotosketcher is free.

Gabriele Dovis (italgo)

Jeanette Brooks said:

Neat resources - thanks for sharing! I've also seen folks use the free assets at http://designcomics.org/characters.html in courses, and the effect can be very nice.


Yes, I know them and also this is good stuff!

If I remember correctly, there's a lot of variety for each character.

Kevin Thorn

Hey Grant,

Comic style is a sensitive phrase as much as the word "game" in corporate eLearning. Steve has a wealth of experience and information as he pointed out in his post.


In my view, you can use the Comic Style in just about every eLearning as long as you keep a nice balance. In Steve's example, the top half of the screen engages the learner with the action pose of the character, whereas the bottom half is the serious part. Where I think a lot of eLearning fails with comic style is the "overkill" of the graphics or trying to animate the characters when they don't need to be.

Comics in general are stories. Or sequential art that depicts a story. In eLearning its the same...sequential art that depicts instructional flow. That said, just choosing to make a course in the comic style and working backward you'll find yourself backed into a corner. Start with the instruction and build a story around it. Then map out a storyboard (there's a reason the word storyboard has the word "story" in it!)

A few great books I highly recommend for anyone wanting to write sequential stories:

Understanding Comics - Scott McCloud

Comics and Sequential Art - Will Eisner

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative - Will Eisner

Gabriele Dovis (italgo)

Kevin Thorn said:

Hey Grant,

Comic style is a sensitive phrase as much as the word "game" in corporate eLearning. Steve has a wealth of experience and information as he pointed out in his post.


In my view, you can use the Comic Style in just about every eLearning as long as you keep a nice balance. In Steve's example, the top half of the screen engages the learner with the action pose of the character, whereas the bottom half is the serious part. Where I think a lot of eLearning fails with comic style is the "overkill" of the graphics or trying to animate the characters when they don't need to be.

Comics in general are stories. Or sequential art that depicts a story. In eLearning its the same...sequential art that depicts instructional flow. That said, just choosing to make a course in the comic style and working backward you'll find yourself backed into a corner. Start with the instruction and build a story around it. Then map out a storyboard (there's a reason the word storyboard has the word "story" in it!)

A few great books I highly recommend for anyone wanting to write sequential stories:

Understanding Comics - Scott McCloud

Comics and Sequential Art - Will Eisner

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative - Will Eisner


Thanks for the resources Kevin. I totally agree with what you say about the story and the storyboard.
In my case, 99% of times I can't use the style Steve has proposed, because is considered not serious. So, when we use characters, usually are real people pics.

Cathy Moore

Thanks to everyone for the resources, and I'll add another enthusiastic vote for "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud.

One way to get comic style into the realm of possibility is to call it "graphic novel style." Obviously, you also have to be confident that your audience will respond well to it. For a US Army project, one of my clients used this style:

It could be called "comic" but it's still edgy, and it makes clear that the topic is serious. The developer used a filter to comic-ify photos.

The client had tested other styles on the learners, and most of them were rejected, including a less edgy comic style and 3D characters like from Second Life. Video was their preference, but that wasn't in the budget.

The project was a branching scenario; you can see it here.

Kevin Thorn

Cathy, I've seen this before and this is a perfect example of ensuring you use the right design for the right audience.The right balance of filtering the photos, sepia color scheme, and font choice all play a critical role in the overall presentation.

The graphic novel style attracts adult readers IMHO more so than say, a super-hero style comic.

Nicely done!

Zara Ogden

Cathy Moore said:

This example has inspired me to try a detailed branching senario myself. It is beautiful and highly effective.I am so excited to try it out! I am going to sample it with animated characters and see how management likes it.

Although they have changed i still like Xtranormal. http://www.xtranormal.com They are a text to movie output. I have utilized thie characters in the view pane before...

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/13675571/Articulate%20How%20To/player.html

Steve Flowers

@Cathy -

I used your example as inspiration for some of the processes I mentioned above. The document attached (development_tasks) describes the process we came up with when aiming for a similar style. I'm guessing we ended up using the same tools

This screenr shows one of the outputs of the process. I'm not terribly happy with how these came out, but they followed the process described in the job aid - which takes almost no time to produce or modify. The quality of the input images determines the output. The quality of the inputs here was a mixed bag. Lighting matters with this effect / process.

One of the things I think sells this effect is the ability to focus on a particular element of the scene while minimizing less important scene elements. It's one way to create contrast while also creating a novel effect. Sometimes this works pretty well. Most of our user testing has shown that people appreciate the small amount of effort that went into differentiating these from workplace photos. YMMV.

Cathy Moore

Hi Steve, thanks for the resources. I'm also a fan of Comic Life for the stuff on my blog. I'm not sure what the Haji Kamal developer used to create the graphic novel effect, but I think the image editing process was similar to the one you describe. The same client also used a similar process for another project designed for police officers. This time, they did a custom photo shoot, then processed the images.