In the 21st Century, we have more ways than ever of communicating. We’ve come a long way from cave-paintings and morse code. We now have instant messaging connecting every minute of the day. Despite all this modern technology, one of the most effective methods we have isn’t new at all, in fact it’s been around for centuries and works just as well today as it ever did….Cartoons!
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Cartoons continue to be an incredibly efficient way of human beings speaking to one another. Within the space of just one drawing, a whole raft of messages and emotions can be portrayed quickly and effectively, often without any words at all, perfect for crossing language barriers in a single illustrative leap. Don’t think cartoons are merely for children’s books or humorous newspaper editorials, cartoons appear in our daily life in a number of ever-more useful ways.
The ability to cross language barriers is one the huge benefits to cartoons. Their power to convey helps millions of people navigate transport links, stations, health, safety, information and awareness campaigns the world over. Because they don’t require the reader to know or even understand the native language, the illustration offers them all the information in exactly the same way as those who do. Even for those who can understand the associated text, the cartoon serves to reinforce the message in a way few words could.
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Cartoons will have played some part in all of our childhoods. From enjoying the antics of our favourite ink-based friends to the Saturday morning animations we tuned into so enthusiastically. We will all have our fondest memories of them. They conjure up feelings of warmth, humour and fun. We don’t consider them ‘work’, which works fantastically well when they are used in that environment.
Do you ever remember looking at a cartoon and thinking “I’d don’t understand what it’s saying?”. No, of course not. We are almost pre-programmed to understand their message which is what makes them such an effective tool to communicate our messages today. By using a drawing, or succession of them, businesses around the globe still employ this medium in their advertising when they want to convey their message to the widest possible audience. When you see an image, you know what it means, what it’s saying and what you’re expected to do. No text, no problem. The images are the key to unlocking a myriad of thoughts in your customer’s minds instantly, without resorting to paragraphs of text that will turn the audience off just as quickly. Even in the boardroom, you can use a cartoon in your slideshow to break the ice, to relieve the tension by lightening the mood, highlight difficult issues or to transmit information quickly and easily. With all this delivered in a simple drawing, it makes the skill of the cartoonist paramount to the success of the message.
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The skill of a cartoonist doesn’t just lay in their ability to draw well. The true mark of craftsmanship is the combination of artistic flair and the ability to communicate your message or idea effectively. Remember, the artist has very little in their arsenal in which to convey the message, so being able to do so with such consummate ease is truly a gift. Being able to broadcast without verbalisation to everyone watching shows the power that a a cartoon possesses. Everyone will enjoy the art form whilst receiving the message. It’s a win-win for everyone. If the drawings progress, the audience will enjoy and anticipate the linear narrative that is unfolding, absorbing the next panel with gleeful abandon.
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Next time you see a cartoon, think about everything that it is giving you. What will you see? A story? humour? information? narration? help? knowledge?. Chances are it is all of those things, all at the same time. The cartoon is a striking lesson in communication that transcends almost all other mediums and it always will. Nowhere else can so much be given from so little. It’s time to draw a line under other outlets and let a cartoon really speak to your audience.