Monday, July 29, 2013

CHALLENGE (for Kids, Writers, Artists): Creating Effective Visual Messages

THE CHALLENGE: Aliens are invading Earth to mine ALL its resources (that includes YOU!!). Pick a side and create a message that either helps SAVE Earth from invading aliens or helps aliens CONQUER Earth... one image at a time.
To do this let me give you some background information, basic building blocks for creating messages, and some suggestions and details to help you meet the challenge.

This challenge was presented at the 2013 San Diego International Comic-Con was called “How to Conquer the World One Image at a Time.”  The following four  award-winning graphic novel writers/illustrators joined me: Jimmy Gownley (Amelia books), Royden Lepp (Rust); JohnGreen (Teen Boat), and Larry Marder (Bean World).
In this post I’d like to invite you all to virtually join our panel. Below are:
  • Details of the challenge;
  • The basics of visually storytelling;
  • Examples of how the panelists responded to the challenge

I begin with the challenge. Please think about this challenge as I relay the visual-story telling basics.  Then take a look at what my colleagues created and share your own.  Share this with your kids too!!!! I’d love to see what they come up with!
Courtesy: Men in Black

Aliens are invading Earth to mine ALL its resources (that includes YOU!!). Pick a side and help SAVE or CONQUER Earth one image at a time. You must create a visual message for your side (its content and target audience is up to you). Your message might:
·      WARN Earth of its impending danger where resistance is futile;
·      RALLY public awareness and resistance because resistance is never futile;
·      CONVINCE humans of a better life on alien planets;
·      CREATE an  Alien Party Election poster;
·      Anything else you think will help your side.

VISUAL STORYTELLING 101...or the basics of visual literacy:
With this challenge in mind, let me relay some four key elements to visually story-telling:
1. As you create your message you must KNOW/CONSIDER:
·      WHO your target audience is (kids, teachers, parents, friends, aliens, Americans, etc.);
·      WHAT you want to say (Try to save Earth from invasion? Try to help aliens make peaceful transition? Humorous? Fact-filled? Safety tips? Instructions? );
·      HOW to clearly and relate that message, grab their attention and convince them balancing logic, credibility, and passion (with humor, facts, universal icons and symbols, simple vocabulary, etc.)

For Example:

Depending on the message and our target audience you will need to balance and use varying amount of credibility, logic andpassion.  For example, a message to your teacher, asking her to consider using graphic novels for a book report will probably include a good deal of logic along with a dose of credibility citing references to the benefits of graphic novels for educational purposes.  Trying to convince a friend to read a graphic novel, however, will probably relay more on emotion and  passion (“Oh its so AWESOME”) than credibility and references to its educational benefits. For more on this please see this post on balancing logos (logic), ethos (credibility), and pathos (passion/emotion) in visual messages.

2. You must decide how to balance and use words, symbols, images and icons.  And, regardless of the balance you chose to use,  carefully considering how your audience will interpret your choices.  For example, this image can be seen as: 
·      The number “two” or two fingers;
·      Bunny ears;
·      A sign for victory; and/or
·      A sign for peace

While this particular example shows the multiple messages images and symbols can relay, know that words also frequently carry multiple meanings. So, when using words or images make sure you usie them effectively for your particular target audience.

3. Your use of COLOR also must be carefully considered. Color can grab our attention, raise or lower blood pressure, clam or excite us, and relay concepts and motions.  Colorful images make communication interesting and motivate the receiver.
 As I have already posted and written a lot about use of color I will only briefly relay a points to illustrate color choice influences your message.
Briefly: red excites us and raises blood pressure, appetite and body temperature while blue clams us and lowers our blood pressure and respiration.  Red can relay danger and prime attention.  Blue, aside from calming, can relay elite status and adventure.  Green is also calming and is often used to denote ‘nature’ or ‘natural’ but it can also be used to relay ‘envy.’  Yellow (like red) primes our attention and is actually the first color our brains register.  Yellow relays sunshine and youth but too much yellow can often be unpleasant.

4. Your use of the SPACE and DESIGN of the page is also really important.  While our brains tend to prefer “balanced” pages and designs, our attention is held longer by asymmetrical images. Also while an image may be placed asymmetrically on a page, it can still be  “balanced” with proper use of color, icons, words and corollary images.
Let me give you an example: 
In the image below by Pablo Alfieri we can clearly see how he uses color, font, space, icons/image, and asymmetry and balance to make us FEEL PLAYFUL.
Image by Pablo Alfieri
First, PLAYFUL is presented in a bold yellow font and feels energetic and...playful.  The word is then set against a regal purple background (relaying a feeling of acceptance and authority).
Next, is the use of confetti – a symbol of celebration and playfulness and one sees a random, impulsive purple string and diagonal narrow blue line – again suggesting playfulness and creativity.
Then, there is the a play of light and dark.  PLAYFULNESS and the confetti are placed to the side and inside a lighter purple area, surrounded by a much darker purple background.  Placing the message inside the lighter area AND the use of bright yellow, immediately bring our attention to the message.
Finally, we see that the words are off to the side.  This use of asymmetry is another effective means of grabbing our attention and keeping our interest on the message. And, even though the message is asymmetrical, it feels balanced as the lighter, playful message on one side, is balanced, surrounded and to some extent grounded by the darker, established, authoritative purple all around it. The blue diagonal line and extending confetti also help add a feeling of balance and harmony.

Below are some of the messages designed by my esteemed panelists (please do not copy or reproduce these images without express written permission).
Please consider contributing your own images and the images of your kids and students.  As always, I thank you for your visit and hope you’ll contribute your own insights, experiences and images in the comments below.

This first image was done by John Green.  Unfortunately, my scanner did not include the colors used.  In this image, while mostly black and white, all the lettering is in a dark green shade.
In this image, John Green shows a "friendly" alien trying to lure kids into space (because it's "cool") in an effort to  take over Earth and harvest its resources:
Courtesy of John Green

The next two images are by Larry Marder.  Here too, I am was unable to transfer the color. Larry's first image "Join or Die!" is  black and white...the message is clear.  Notice the use of jagged edges in this explosion and the tiny figure on a sphere. Notice how tense the image makes us:
Courtesy of Larry Marder
Courtesy of Larry Marder
In Larry's second image, "There is room for us all!" the figure is in black and white but he's standing on Earth whose oceans are a light blue color and continents are shades of green.  The other "mass" is also colored in shades of green with the large circles shaded in yellow. Notice how different the "feel"of the image is:

Finally, below is an image by Royden Lepp.  Luckily the color did come out:
Courtesy of Royden Lepp
When designing this image, Royden wanted the viewer to recollect the propaganda images the Nazis relayed (particularly to the French) in World War II where viewers were informed that Nazi invasion would bring happier, better times. Notice the use of color, light and design. The aliens are clearly invading, but families are happy, lights are on and they seem quite welcome. What is Royeden's real message?

Please think about this and include your own images in the comments below.
And, if you're not up to creating/sending your own image, please let us know what you might say and how.
As always, thank you for your visit and please leave some message for us in the comments below.

NOTE: The images above by John Green, Larry Marder and Royden Lepp  ARE FOR THIS POST ONLY. YOU MAY NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE THEM without expressed written permission.


  1. Sounds like great challenges to intellectually and creatively engage. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

  2. Somehow, the Twilight Zone cookbook, "To Serve Man", came to mind! (Hope you know the reference...)

  3. Boy, I'll have to come back to this and really digest it.
    Your work is fascinating and it is a true Challenge.

  4. How interesting this challenge!!! Good for you.

    If you have not done so yet, you are welcome to share/link via our WWHop:
    Happy Day!

  5. Very interesting challenge. The "Join or Die" is quite frightening to me lol. I'd have to come up with something a little more peaceful than that!

  6. I particularly like the "There is room for us all" image. Too bad some people now don't have that attitude with respect to their fellow humans.

    abcw team

  7. Hi Meryl! It's a pity I can't put my own image in the comment, but my slogan will be: there is room for all, but please give me a bit of space, where I can be my own self from time to time.
    My home is the only place where I can do what I want.
    Have a great time!
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  8. If you enjoy visiting linkies, photo challenges, and blog hops - or if you host one of your own - please consider visiting here:
    Be sure to link your recurring hop under the day when it's normally posted.

  9. The gang at My Personal Accent thinks your post about the Challenge is WONDERFUL. We would like to invite you to party with us at our new Blog Strut Peacock Style Link Party to share your creative ideas. Come on over!!