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Comics Jam: Creating healthcare and science communication comics ‐ A sprint co-design methodology

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Educational and public information messages can be enlivened through the medium of comics, engaging readers not simply through the content, but through careful application of the attributes of the form. The creative and oftentimes collaborative processes used to create such comics benefit from the blending of different perspectives and expertise in order to ensure that the educational message is precisely calibrated. This article elucidates this argument in light of a suite of educational and public information comics produced by the authors as part of a multidisciplinary team from the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies (SCCS) at the University of Dundee, working with various external partners, and reflects on the methodological and pedagogical approaches embedded in this project. We argue that by using a participatory and iterative process that draws on some of the key elements of Jake Knapp’s concept of the design sprint, a prototype comic can be quickly developed that is informed by relevant scholarship and engages a diverse range of partners as co-designers, which can then be moved quickly to the final version. This process creates a feedback loop between research, practice and the various stakeholders, each of whom is empowered within the co-design methodology to contribute to the comic based on their expertise. This is driven by the operational logic of such projects, which bring together participants from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, to collaborate and co-design outputs at the interface between critical and creative investigation. In many cases, the comics that we have produced have been to a tight deadline, where the need for the comic is pressing, so the process partly emerged due to necessity, but became refined over the course of several years, evolving into a practice research approach combined with a sprint co-design methodology that embeds learning outcomes in the process as well as the output. Given the nature of this process, we took to describing this activity as a ‘Comics Jam’, and due to the city’s association with the three J’s of ‘jute’, ‘jam’ and ‘journalism’, the name sort of... stuck.

Keywords: co-creation; education; healthcare comics; public information comics; science communication; sprint methodology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000403972876University of Dundee

Publication date: July 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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