a contemplative series by
For those who don't know me, I'm one to travel the more unconventional roads in comics and play with narrative and form along the way. A Formalist/Iconoclast if you must. For my thesis I've been working on a bit of an experiment...
... a sculpture comic, which, for the sake of getting to the point, I'll leave at that.
Prior to working on my thesis (one year ago), I was tinkering with the conversion of the 2D space we are familiar with in comics to a 3D one. In this process i realized an error on my part. My conversion was too literal, and i paid the price with countless redesigns and artist's blocks during this semester. Looking to one of my muses, documentary film, I re-watched Objectified (a documentary film about industrial design, which I highly recommend, along with Helvetica). One of the interviewees briefly chronicled the design of the camera.
Since its invention, the camera has been designed designed around holding film. Why is it that even today, digital cameras still retain the same shape? "Familiarity," one would say, but I'll go out on a limb and say "conditioning." We are so tuned to the shape and function of the camera, from where the flash button is to where to put the film, that even today we are slaves to an old design
Human nature is learning, which leads to tradition and inevitably to "the norm." That said, why is it that we cartoonists acknowledge only two forms of layout: 1) the grid and 2) free-form (everything else)? The grid has a consistent rhythm, consistent passing of time, and a natural design. We can see examples of this in the work of Chris Ware and Dash Shaw. On the other hand, manga makes a a fine example of the ebb and flow of time and space that is the free-form layout.
The question I pose: Why 2 forms?
In graphic design, the grid is more than a series of identical boxes (I cite Making and Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara and Basics Design: Grids by Ambrose and Harris, also highly recommended). It has variants worthy of distinction. "Free form, in my opinion, is a cop out term, one that amounts to gambling. Free-form by nature is hit or miss, which next to the Grid, is the more amateurish approach. I recently have been using the graphic design grid as a means of building free-form layouts on my side projects... Please forgive me, I'm a VERY secretive artist.
By no means am I saying we need to sit down and figure out and define every possible layout (exactly) but I am saying we need to be more observant about the design of the page and make note of recurring designs. What makes them work? We can solve problems for future cartoonists - and ourselves - by defining an expanded set of layouts.