Evangeline Haughney from Adobe Systems gave a great talk on using comics to communicate qualitative research findings. She noticed that readers of research reports are usually skimmers and get bogged down with traditional research reports. She wanted to find compelling way to communicate findings and was inspired by Kevin Cheng’s work on creating comics as a design tool. She figured if comics could communicate design, they might also be able to communicate research findings.
Evangeline admitted that like many of us, she is not a skilled drawer. But a $20 software tool, Comic Book Creator and the help of a graphic designer allowed her to overcome what she lacked of drawing skills.
Some of the structural attributes of comics proved helpful:
Evangeline took cues from Manga comics and included reading directions in the comic.
Comics generally start with some context setting—“It was a dark and stormy night…” this narrative device proved helpful in setting the context for the research findings.
The design language of comics expresses emotions of joy, anger, frustration—communicating the emotions of users from research is part of what gives research reports their power.
Comics also provide a format for layering complex data—which is something that is often the output of research studies.
Evangeline hand delivered all the comics to stakeholders within Adobe and a typical response was, “Wow! This is really cool.” Not something most researchers are accustomed to hearing after presenting research findings.
Initially Evangeline thought the research comic books would be viral and people would pass them around. Instead, like the comics we know and love, people tended to hoard them. As a result, she wished she had printed more.
Comics as a research report format probably aren’t the best choice for every culture, but it’s definitely a creative format idea for communicating research.