Today’s art continues with this spread which I guess is as good an example of a “non traditional” comic page as I can think of…
Page layout and design
For this week’s post I really want to focus on probably the single biggest change from Part 1 and the first couple of pages of Part 2: page layout and design. I have always wanted to toy around with layout and when I was drawing comics growing up I used to do this all the time. The problem is, when you’re always striving for the next cool page layout it gets to be a bit much and little too important for it’s own good. I mean what happens when the story actually calls for some kind of different layout? If you’re constantly changing things up, it slowly loses its impact. Plus the page layout become too important and starts taking over.
My background as a graphic designer really made me think about page layout differently and I brought the idea of a grid system – which I use all the time when doing design work – to my layouts for my comic pages. You may have noticed this, but maybe not. Anyway, I decided pretty early on that I would use a three row grid and I’ve stuck to that pretty consistently. Has it been restrictive? Sure, at times it has. But for the most part it’s worked pretty well. The one thing that I’ve found really interesting about using a grid system versus just designing pages however I felt like is that the storytelling really seems to shine through. I can work with things like the pacing of the story and those become emphasized since the panel arrangement is somewhat restricted.
I also wanted to try some things out…
When I’m designing things like a poster or ad or magazine spread, I never really worry about a reader being confused if I put a headline at the bottom of the page or something like that. I use a combination of contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity to create tension and/or harmony in the layout that guides the reader around the page. So the designer in me was dying to try out some of these skills on comics pages (aka sequential images to make a story). I really wanted to know if things would break down or if they’re work the same way.
To the jumper
When I was developing THE JUMPER and decided that the “jump” scene would be freeform I made a couple of key choices that I think will help distinguish these pages from the rest of the story:
1. I mentioned this before, but I decided that everything needed to work as a spread. Because the layouts would be different for each spread, the fact that they were spreads would be one common element that would hold them together.
2. All of the movement on the spread would be from left-to-right. The thinking here is that I wanted to create a sense of (A) motion and (B) give the reader some sense of how to read the spreads. People naturally read from left-to-right in English so this helps them decipher the layouts.
3. I wanted to bring a definite design element into the page layout and repeat that throughout the pages. This helps to create a sense of pacing and at the same time is another common element that will hold the pages together. (Now that two pages are posted, you might notice that the design element is the little jumping man icon which was on the cover way back in Part 1. Who says I don’t plan ahead!)
Designing freeform layouts
So two of these full spread layouts are posted but today’s post – to me – really highlights what I think you can do if the layouts are designed well. The layout actually gets the reader to do two things that most comics don’t normally ask you to do: 1. read up the page from top to bottom, and 2. read from right-to-left. The other key design element that I included on the spreads was the dotted line that guides you around the page. Now the line serves an actual storytelling purpose because it represents the “path” of the jump. But the fact that it guides the reader’s eye around the page is probably more important.
That’s a quick look at some of the thinking behind the layouts. The spreads that follow keep building on these design choices and hopefully keep you interested.
It’s a good time to work
Hey, I know I always plug my Twitter feed and that’s pretty much what I’m going to do here (again) but I swear it’ll be worth your while if you’re following along. I’m actually going to spending the next week really plugging away at some new pages. If you’re already one of my followers (thank you!) then you may have seen some of the pencil drawings for what I’m going to be working on. Plus I put up a new character suit design that will make its debut in the next batch of pages as well. So what’s a better way to get an inside scoop with On the Verge? If you do decide to make the jump and follow along, then feel free to say hi and let me know what you think!