Have you ever been in a class where the teacher chooses the world’s most boring documentary or video to show? Usually their intentions are good; they want to communicate an idea in a medium that they think you will find more interesting. The reality is, unless the form of media that they choose is well done, little learning occurs. Steve across the room is playing Mortal Kombat on his laptop, Sally is texting her friend about weekend plans, and everyone else is doing that weird head twitch thing…you know the one that happens as you’re falling asleep and some part of your brain is like “Yo, keep it together bro!”
So what’s the secret to making sure that the media you create isn’t snooze worthy? Do your research! See what other people are doing and decide what works and what doesn’t. And if you have no idea what to look for, read about what to look for and then look for it. It isn’t rocket science, and eventually you’ll become so accustomed to doing things right that you’ll just feel when what you’re doing works and when it doesn’t.
Allow me to lead by example. Below is a cartoon that I pinned awhile ago on Pinterest. It is a visual representation of a speech that Shonda Rhimes gave at a Dartmouth graduation ceremony. Shonda is the writer of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal. I am going to talk briefly about what this cartoon is and why I think it works. (If my professor is reading this, the 250-300 word entry begins starting…Now!)
This cartoon is what one might refer to as “word-specific.” Essentially, the images in this cartoon help the viewers understand the greater meaning of the piece, however, if the drawings were gone, the text could stand on its own. For instance, you can read the speech in its entirety in Shonda Rhimes’s book and it is still impactful, or you can listen to the speech online. At points the text and the images do become slightly interdependent because the text is integrated into the picture (see the panel with the motivational banners). Yet, for the most part the images couldn’t stand on their own because there are multiple meanings that could be derived from the sequence of images.
The differences between the cartoon, book, and aural speech are not with the invention itself (or the idea/ reason for communicating) but with the delivery. The cartoon is a great method of delivery for people who like to read and then connect that idea to a visual. For example, I really related to the part of the cartoon where the girls are standing in front of a mood board because I am crazy about making mood boards and then doing nothing about them. But when I read this part in the book without the pictures? I skimmed over it. Sure, at the end of the speech I still realized that I need to stop dreaming and start doing, but the images in the cartoon really highlighted the message and had maximum impact. In other words, the cartoon both shows and tells. Shonda tells you what she wants you to hear, and the artist shows you an interpretation that may aide in your understanding of her speech. This method of delivery is also much faster than other methods because the artist really edited down the content of the speech. This makes it more appealing to those of us who have short attention spans, because we get the message quickly and efficiently.
Gav. September 24, 2014. SHONDA RHIMES: A screenwriter’s advice Cartoon. Retrieved from http://zenpencils.com/comic/161-shonda-rhimes-a-screenwriters-advice/
Header image courtesy of Viktor Hanacek