Visual-storytelling Power of Comic Communication: application of Chinese Sociocultural Beliefs for Teaching Morality

Gu, Kan
Yap, Leong
Item type
Research Project
Degree name
Master of Design
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

Comics are a delightful communication medium. Most of us, mainly the older generation, have grown up with comics, such as Superman, Batman, Saint Seiya, and Dragon Ball. A comic is, in many ways, more superior in communication potency than technology-driven visual stories, or a website, because it could excite the five senses of the reader. For example, one could feel the texture of paper, smell the ink, see the typography and printing technology, and appreciate the creativity and artistic skill of the story and drawings. Each picture is created by an imaginative artist and storyteller to convey a meaningful experience and emotional information to narrate a visual story. Most people, both young and old, would enjoy holding a well-designed comic book with beautiful images, typefaces, and emotional storylines that they will read, reread, even introduce to others. For these reasons, I have chosen this medium to tell a story to bridge the communication generation-gap in modern society. The main aim of my design project is to use illustration and storytelling to teach morality in a Chinese sociocultural context. The story focuses on the four Saint Beasts in Chinese Mythology. Besides symbolising the Four Saint beast with essential elements in Chinese culture, I have humanised them – for the first in Chinese legend - to give them the personified characters with the potency of imparting traditional Chinese virtues in the comic. I believe that the power of comics and illustrations are the best medium to tell a story. While growing up in China, I read various comics, cartoons, and picture-story books from different countries. Imaginative plots impressed me emotionally with meaningful experiences. They touched me and educated me in a way that is more profound than any other media. Comics - storytelling and illustration - that I have experienced since I was a child have shaped my professional career and research direction. Visual-Storytelling Power of Comic Communication: Application of Chinese Sociocultural Beliefs for Teaching Morality employs a comic format involving The Four Saint Beast to tell a story to change the behaviour of a young boy. To do this well, I researched and applied relevant theories and principles from the humanities literature to support my design intention. Humanities that have informed my design included: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, behavioural changes theories, and the five virtues. The purpose of this project is to apply traditional Chinese culture to help people to solve a family issue in a Western context. One of the challenges is not how to design a comic book, but how to meaningfully transfer the concepts of a specific culture into an acceptable and relevant way for western audiences. The creative process has necessitated hundreds of trials and errors, and iterations, in both storytelling and visualisation. Therefore, the Heuristic Methodology has been used in the ideation process. However, this particular practice-based research in comic design has also followed a very systematic design process. It is not only based on my heuristic thinking and drawing. Besides the application of culture and behavioural-change theories, the research and design are informed by the opinions of three experts who I have interviewed in the field. Their judgement and points of views in the form of wise counsel have helped me to improve my concepts. Their critiques have prompted me to modify characters, change the layout, and recast many plots. The feedback of the comic book design has so far been relatively well received by the experts and my design peers. The Research Project consists of two parts; a written report and a 65-page comic book. The two parts should be examined in conjunction with each other.

Visual storytelling , Comic , Communication , Chinese culture , Edutainment , Morality
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