When I began working in this industry, my passion was design. That is what I loved to do, and I firmly believed that design would always be at the forefront of my workday. If you had told me then that 15 years later design work would make up the smallest part of my job and that most of my time would be spent leading projects, writing, speaking and teaching, I would have said you’re crazy. Still, that’s where my career has brought me — and I am thrilled that it has!
The web industry is not a single road. You can take many different routes, and those routes are often opportunities to grow. But they also likely entail change for you. Don’t allow fear of change or uncertainty about new responsibilities to keep you from growing. Had I been determined to always focus on design, I never would have discovered how much I enjoy the aspects of my job today, nor would I have achieved the success I have now.
Learn to recognize that some paths you encounter are detours and not right for you, while others are opportunities to be seized upon. Be mindful of these opportunities, be open to change, and be willing to challenge yourself. Which brings us to the next piece of advice.
Fortunately, my client was open to the idea of a comic book, and I was given the time to create one. But what if you are not in this situation? What if you’d like to illustrate a business problem in a comic-book format but your client or boss is skeptical or you feel that your drawing skill is limited or you simply lack the time? Consider this:

  • Can you distill an aspect of the problem into one small storyboard of five to six thumbnails? If yes, then take five to ten minutes to create a mini-storyboard on one piece of paper, and use that to discuss the problem with your client. As most UX’ers already know, getting a client to respond to sketches is easier than getting them to visualize an idea using words. To sell the idea of a comic, use a comic. However, if the problem can’t really be “seen” or “felt” by people, then the problem is likely not a good candidate for a comic book.
  • Are the people involved in the business problem moving through space, exchanging information or moving their bodies in some way? Stick figures or clothespin people will convey basic action and facial expressions just fine to trigger empathy in the reader. You can also use photographs with word bubbles to communicate activity, intent and dialog. But if you want to present more facial, emotional or physical detail in order to immerse the client in the problem, then you’ll need to make more detailed drawings.
  • In the time it takes to create one wireframe of a website landing page, you can sketch five to six thumbnails of a story. The trick is to limit your initial sketching to just a few minutes. Show a quick sketch and get a response from your client before proceeding down the road of more detail. You may find that a quick sketch is fine and just needs a bit of cleaning up in order to be presentable. Indeed, a single page is pretty easy to create, but if you fancy developing an entire book, even of modest length, then you’ll need to budget at minimum a week or two.

The data-loss comic book turned out to be a very effective way to illustrate the events that unfolded during the scenario-based planning game. It captured the game play better than a written report, video or slide deck could have. And it provided the participants with a way to relive particular moments of the game and to revisit their decisions and ideas.
The next time you’re looking for an effective way to communicate a complex topic, consider making a comic book!