Scott McCloud is author of Understanding Comics, a comic book about comics. He’s an evangelist for comics as a valid literary form (as more than pulp and kids’ stuff) and his admiring fans include a laundry list of superstar cartoonists.
Scott McCloud has an entire theory of “visual iconography”which, in it’s most basic form, implies that the more visually realistic and concrete something is, the more instantaneously we “receive” the message. Humans receive communication with pictures. According to some cognitive scientist Our minds have some kind of sick parallel processing power to instantly understanding images. As visuals become more abstract (i.e. letters, words) the more time we spend “perceiving” the communication. We have to compose letters into words and transform words into thoughts.Being aware of this continuum, and the inherent trade-offs, allows us to think about communicating ideas more effectively. Take another look at the Chrome Comic and observe where McCloud uses words and where he uses images. Watch one of Steve Job’s keynotes and notice the use of concrete images on his slides.
Toward the end of the book McCloud discusses the progression from a novice comic artist to a master of the art and the stages which lie between. This progression holds true in software engineering and design as well. There was one set of panels, in particular, which hit home a home run: “The MASTERY of one’s medium is the degree to which that percentage [of how much a finished project represents the creator’s original vision] can be INCREASED, the degree to which the artist’s ideas SURVIVE the journey.”Software is the same way! How often have you envisioned a program, algorithm, user interface, arthictecture, web site, etc. and built it only to realize it represents a fraction of what you originally envisioned? This is true of mastering many crafts: writing, designing, public speaking, teaching, … it goes on. Mastery is exhibited by how much of the creator’s vision survives the journey through production.