On June 8, I moderated a panel at HeroesCon 2013 – the biggest and best comics convention in the southern U.S. – called “Design & Comics”. It featured five panelists that work in and around the comics industry and who each have a strong background in graphic design. The panelists were:
- Chris Pitzer, publisher of Adhouse Books
- Jim Rugg, cartoonist and illustrator
- Matt Kindt, cartoonist, writer and book designer
- Robert Wilson IV, designer and cartoonist
- Matt Stevens, designer and illustrator
This is the second such panel that I’ve organized and moderated, but this time, rather than conducting a Q&A with the panelists about their own experiences in designing comic books and graphic novels, I presented a slideshow of images of great or significant examples of graphic design in comics and asked general questions about design concepts related to the images. We started with page composition and the combination of words and pictures on the page, then moved into publication design, logos and ended with cover design.
Some of the topics we got into were:
- Balancing the design of the page with the need to move the story forward
- The significance of Chris Ware and Chip Kidd both in and outside of comics
- The way cover design has changed over the past two decades, partly due to changes in the way comics are now bought
- Different approaches to using a cover to show you what is inside the book, looking at Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur covers compared to something like Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects covers.
As the moderator, doing this for only the second time but the first time with an accompanying slidehow, I found it a bit tricky to balance walking through the images while also keeping each member of this large panel engaged via my questions. A number of the examples in the slideshow were contributed by the panelists but most were my own choices. Next time around, I think I would try to tie my questions more closely to the visuals and maybe have them be a bit more pointed to entice some strong opinions from each speaker. It’s one thing to get a panelist talking about themselves but it’s another to get them talking about someone else’s work, especially if they are not necessarily prepared to do so.
Still, I think it went very well. My favorite aspect of the panel was having someone like Matt Stevens who is an accomplished designer but does not work in the comics field giving his outside perspective. Originally, there was going to be six panelists, but Tim Leong of Wired and Comics Foundry magazines had to cancel at the last minute. He would have been another, slightly outside the comic-making perspective to add to this mix and hopefully we’ll get him on a future panel.
This year, unfortuantely, the discussion was not recorded, however, the one I did in 2011 was and you can listen to it here. That one was very well received and might have been a more personal and interesting discussion. But, if you’d like to see the visuals we discussed this year, I’ve put them on Slideshare and you can click through them below.