In Control Conference: Scott McCloud’s Keynote Address

Scott McCloud, creator of Eisner Award winner Understanding Comics and Jack Kirby Award winner Zot!, delivered a keynote address on the second day of the AIGA In Control Orlando 2014 Conference.


  • “If I don’t need to think it, I don’t need to see it.”

Scott McCloud makes the case for great user experience design. When creating moments for your users–no matter if it’s digital design, story telling, or how to make a cup of cofee–don’t give extraneous information to your audience.

When they need the information, deliver the information to them.

Not a moment before.

  • “Content should not be a bitter pill.”
  • “Form and content must never apologize for one another.”

Don’t dress up badly-written content with gorgeous graphics or animated GIFs.

On the flip side, don’t add visuals to wonderful prose.

Both misguided approaches end up ruining the form and undermine the message.

Make good content that people want.

  • “You don’t want to piss off Family Circus fans.”

This line just made me laugh out loud.

  • “The open book is the shape of print.”

Print media isn’t a closed book or, if I may, a neatly folded newspaper.

When a book is opened, it makes a horizontal rectangle. This format is better for our eyes since the eyes are placed on a horizontal axis, placed side-by-side only to be separated by a nose.

When the print matter is opened, it’s a working medium.

Viewing digital comics on an iPad, when it’s vertical, isn’t how it was intended. A crafted two-page spread fails miserably to convey information–causing more work for the reader to understand what’s going on.

Comixology’s guided view for reading comic books reinforces the flawed construct of mistaking the medium for the message. That the shape of a physical comic book is the comic book itself.

With Comixology, there’s a “guided view”. The guided view shows a panel at a time until it comes to the end of the page, where it breaks the reader out from the world of comics reading to show that they are now zooming out of the panel, flip to the next page, and then zoom to the first panel on that page. But, why zoom out at all? Why not use this new medium to display panel after panel rather than reinforce print restrictions in the digital age.

  • “The art of coming in second place is when the client says, ‘I want to do what they did.’”

In my own opinion, an absolutely brutal take down of every instance when a client wants to copy the competition.

Try to get your client to be themselves. If you are working on your own brand, be true to yourself.

  • “Once upon a time, a ‘good talk’ was one that where the presenter didn’t read the content off the slides to their audience. Now a good talk is called a ‘TED Talk’.”

All talks should aspire to be a TED Talk. Otherwise you’re just reading.

  1. Learn from everyone
  2. Follow no one
  3. Watch for patterns
  4. Work like hell

Follow the four rules above to pursue your own vision, not what you think is important. If you do, you will be satisfied with your work and, with luck, others will, too.


For more about Scott McCloud’s work and insight, see these resources:

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