Thursday, March 12, 2015

New paper on comic page layouts

I'm excited to announce that my paper, "Navigating Comics II" on people's preferences for moving from panel-to-panel in comic page layouts is now published in the latest issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology! This project was undertaken by my student (and co-author), Hannah Campbell, for my course on the Cognition of Comics at UC San Diego.

This project is a follow up to my previous study looking at participants' preferences for how to navigate through comic page layouts, also discussed in my book on the visual language of comics. While we tested several different features of page layouts, here's a graphic version of our most interesting finding:

You can find the paper at my Downloadable Papers page, or directly here (pdf).


Although readers typically believe that comic page layouts should be read following the left to right and down ‘Z-path’ inherited from written language, several spatial arrangements can push readers to deviate from this order. These manipulations include separating panels from each other, overlapping one panel onto another, and using a long vertical panel to the right of a vertical column to ‘block’ a horizontal row. We asked participants to order empty panels in comic page layouts that manipulated these factors. All manipulations caused participants to deviate from the conventional Z-path, and this departure was modulated by incremental changes to spatial arrangements: The more layouts deviated from a grid, the less likely participants were to use the Z-path. Overall, these results reinforce that various constraints push comic readers to engage with panels in predictable ways, even when deviating from the traditional Z-path of written language.


Cohn, Neil and Hannah Campbell. 2015. Navigating comics II: Constraints on the reading order of page layouts. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 29: 193-199

1 comment:

Simud said...

Interesting. An artist sent me a page with what I perceived was a confusing use of blockage: it was a rather long vertical panel over a small panel, both next to an even longer vertical one. Something like this:
___ ___
| | | |
| | | |
| | | |
| | | |
|___| | |
| | | |
|___| |___|

I wonder if it was just a semantic issue, since the first panel contained a man standing in full body, and perhaps there was no need to go on reading further down the panel. Or perhaps it's due to the panel layout itself?