Comics And How Did I Get There

How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas – now wait. How did I get here…?

Too often will I find myself somewhere, reading something that is completely unrelated to what I do or like doing. I will try to retract the steps that led me to that spot, usually with no successes. I’m at the same situation now, but am determined to go back and log the breadcrumbs of exploration that led me to, of all things, comics. I never read comics, and weren’t interested in it. And now I’m about to buy a book teaching how to use it to communicate ideas. So here’s how I got here.

About a month ago, I started to work on this Messenger App. Initially, I did the development work. I used python and flsk to build a server that acted as the back-end of the service. Later, a friend joined me. He is a much more experienced developer, and over time became the lead developer in the project. I did more of the product work – spec’ing and prioritizing as well as building the front-end of the bot, using Chatfuel as the CMS.

We needed a designer, and thought to hire a freelancer. We also wanted to experiment with the concept, because we think of it as a way to scale ourselves cheaply. I used Guru to find designers.

To hire a designer, a freelancer, I needed examples of the design work and styles that I’m looking for. And so I started to create them.

I started with Inkscape. In addition, I downloaded Sketch and illustrator for a trial period. The latter two didn’t stick at the beginning, and since I learned to use Inkscape quickly, I didn’t need them.

I learned Inkscape mainly through YouTube. I wasn’t familiar not only with the app, but also illustration and vector graphic. I never really understood bezier, or how to use it. But now I started to, and realized the potential of vector graphics.

As I learned more, I was drowning more and more into the design world. I started to think colors and see shapes. I made more and more illustrations of cloth items. (here are few examples.)

The designers I hired on Guru didn’t work out. One resigned after I hired her, because she didn’t feel comfortable with material design. The other submitted a horrible first draft, and I stopped the project short. And since I started to have a lot of fun creating the illustrations myself, I decided to keep doing it and complete the design work for v1 of the product.

I produced tens of items, and while doing so started to develop a design language for the app. (I was inspired by this video.)

Once I had the items, I moved to compose the outfits for the different genders and weather conditions. While Inkscape is great, it’s not as good when it comes to layout design. And so I tried Sketch and Illustrator again.

At that point I already made a lot of progress learning vector design, and started to get comfortable with the design workflow. And while I still didn’t get how to use Illustrator, working with Sketch was fun and flawless. In less than two days I completed the full sets of outfits.

I got totally excited about design, and felt that I can actually do it in a more serious way. And it that’s the case, then I must learn Adobe Illustrator, the gold standard for graphic design.

I started to read a ton of blog posts and tutorial. I watched many YouTube videos. And I started to see the power of Illustrator, and the endless capabilities it allows. Just two examples for features I wished for when working with Inkscape:

  • Illustrating fur. Here’s a video of how to do it in Illustrator.
  • Color refactoring – I needed to design for both boys and girls. Since the focus at the initial version was on newborns, all I needed to do, in most cases, was to simply change the color scheme of an item, to make is “girlish” or “boyish”. It took about 30 minutes in Inkscape, manually changing the colors. In illustrator, there’s a color refactoring function, that lets me create as many colors from the same item in seconds.

So Illustrator rocks. I need to learn it, and maybe I should do it in a structured course, rather than reading sporadic tutorial. A designer friend recommended Lynda, but I eventually signed up to 5 classes in Udemy (they had the January promotion, when all classes were only 10$ each, so I added to my cart whatever had illustrator in the title…).

I started with Adobe Illustrator CC Tutorial – Training Taught By Experts. A 12 hours course, that spans across 132 episodes. I completed it in less than a week. I continued to Learn to draw fashion with Adobe Illustrator CC – Beginners1.

While taking the courses, and getting deeper into Illustrator, I started to feel strongly about creating, painting and making illustrations. I bought an Intous Pro tablet, because I thought it will open me to digital art, and make the design process more efficient and much more enjoyable. I was right, and not only that, but using the Intous, I got even more eager to create. I wanted to replicate as much as possible the the physical sensation of sketching on paper.

And that’s were I started to contemplate on buying an iPad pro with a pencil… It took one day since I started playing with that idea till when I got one… a classic impulsive buy (though I bought a used one.)

The experience with the iPad, though I have it for less than a week, is amazing. I carry it with me everywhere, and find myself sketching when ever I have few minutes, such as when sitting in a cafe for lunch. I use it to also take notes, and can see how it replaces my pen and notebook that I love so much.

And so, as I start to express myself visually, I want to, well, learn how to do it better. I’m writing a spec for one of the projects I’m working on at Outbrain, and thought that a storyboard that illustrates user stories might be a good way to convey my thoughts and the user flows I had in mind. And so I started to read about using storyboards for product design. One of the articles I read led me to this book. And that’s were I paused, and started to write this post.

I was never interested in comics, let alone creating them. But for some reason, I have a strong feeling that that’s going to change very soon…

Can’t wait for the next learning adventure.