Telling a Compelling Story: An Exploration of Cognitive Simplicity in Comic Book Design and Characterisation as Visual Communication for Political, Cultural and Social Influence

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Stephen T. F. Poon


The objective of this article is to discuss the role of comics as a source of political and social influence, to understand the challenges in modern comics upholding of aesthetic simplicity and cultural authenticity. To explore comic’s significance and value as a cultural art-form, several aspects of comic design and characterisation development through modernisation are discussed through literature and case studies, based on the problem statement: Can comics be a source of political and social influence? For primary research, qualitative interviews and a survey were conducted among Malaysia’s art and design communities using sequential mixed method research. The aim was to examine target audiences’ perceptions of comic design and shifts in characterisation, and how global cultural trends such as media convergence and entertainment marketing affect comics’ authenticity. Findings suggest that comics are not time-bound products; hence their immense capacity to engage fans despite shifts in characterisations. Significantly, comic art fans in Malaysia seem to adopt a conservative attitude in desiring characters to maintain aesthetic simplicity and cultural authenticity. Overall analysis suggests that maintaining original essence in characterisation enable audiences to understand artists’ authentic cultural experiences through graphic storylines documenting the issues addressed. Results suggest that mainstreaming of comics propel the industry’s future growth through diversification and inclusiveness of social narratives, but audience’s perceptions of comics as a source of political and social influence maybe affected. Future research could probe the degree in which comics’ aesthetics appeal and cognitive simplicity contribute to extending comics’ role as an authentic global cultural art-form.

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Telling a Compelling Story: An Exploration of Cognitive Simplicity in Comic Book Design and Characterisation as Visual Communication for Political, Cultural and Social Influence. (2022). Wacana Seni Journal of Arts Discourse, 21, 1–16.
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