Comic strips to convey difficult messages​

Hall, McMaster and Associates (HMA)

Using online comic strips to convey difficult messages

HMA works “with passion and integrity to bring out the best in people” for the benefit of society and the world. The organisation leads remedial workshops for people who have been convicted of drink-driving and drug-driving offences, primarily in Australia.

Effective resources for this type of workshop are ones that can tell stories that the wide range of attendees can relate to. We worked with HMA to create brief videos, using illustrations in a style that were appropriate for the serious subject matter, but were also interesting and engaging to command attention.

Compulsory doesn’t mean boring

Attendance at remedial workshops is compulsory for many people who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They have to sit in the workshop, listen, watch, and interact. But to be worthwhile, the workshop material must sink in, and the attendees should take lessons away. 

So HMA workshops employ best practice and research-based learning methods to make sure it’s not just a compulsory exercise, but rather a rich and rewarding experience. For our part, that meant designing illustrations that tell interesting stories in a way that engages the brain and sticks in the memory. 

Applying a design eye to serious subjects

It’s not easy to draw cartoon-like characters that engage the adult viewer, and that task becomes more complicated when you throw in another curveball: the illustrations must be appropriate, and not patronising. HMA doesn’t want to present flat, cartoony, colourful rainbows and unicorns to a workshop for people who have committed a crime and may be at a low point in their lives. 

We opted for a high-detail level of illustration with shading, realistic clothing, and a bit more grit than you’d generally get in a simpler illustration. These images are serious enough that they don’t diminish the serious messages being taught, while still being much more fun to engage with than a screed of text. 

Who’s watching?

Storytelling is at its best when it appeals to lots of different people. The attendees at HMA’s workshops come from all walks of life. They might be a teenager who drank and drove on a provisional licence, a mid-20s drug user who was seriously impaired behind the wheel, or a retiree who had one too many chardonnays with the ladies. They might be a high-school dropout, an immigrant with English as a second language, or a highly educated barrister. 

The stories HMA tells in its workshops are designed to be relatable, so people can see how they apply to their own lives and situations, and make meaningful changes. They cover different people and different scenarios, and the comic strip videos we developed help tell those stories 

A new way of presenting

Learning is only limited by the imagination!

This was a great opportunity for us to create high-detail graphics and make use of the excellent graphics skills we have in house. It was also a new style of animation for us, creating comic strips then panning across them to reveal the story at an appropriate pace. This is a great way of telling stories, and we’re looking forward to exploring new ways of engaging learners through illustration and animation.

“Through the partnership with Like-Minded, the client and ourselves, we were able to develop rich and engaging material to support young people to disrupt patterns of behaviour.”

Ken McMaster, Director,
Hall McMaster & Associates

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