Gift of the gag: why cartoons make great communication tools

Communication

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More than a hundred years after it first made a splash on the hallowed pages of Punch, the humble “gag cartoon” is making waves once more – this time in the business world. The elegant simplicity of this much-loved art form is being harnessed by companies looking to capture their ideas, decisions and goals in memorable and inspiring ways.

Ludic’s leading team of visual communicators are specialists in helping organisations tell spellbinding stories with the use of original, witty and dynamic images. Here, our experts share their insights into why illustrations make such effective tools for communication in an increasingly visual world. 

1. We are hard-wired to understand them

Illustrations are among the most simple and effective means of communication we have. It seems that we are hard-wired to “get” symbolic imagery – for example, we see a circle containing two dots and a curved line as a face. We are able to process such pictures quickly and that puts them far ahead of other forms of communication. 

Consider an aeroplane safety card. As the pilot cries “Brace!”, would you prefer a wall of text that carefully informs you how to place your head between your knees and blow a small whistle­ – or would you prefer a clear picture that you can assimilate in a fraction of a second? 

2. Complex ideas are distilled into simple messages

The superpower of the gag cartoon is the ability to distil elaborate ideas into a light-hearted, clear piece of communication. At Ludic, we have artists who can take a dense strategic transformation journey, waggle their pens and weave a magical “rich picture” out of it. A skilful illustration does not leave an audience scratching their heads as they attempt to grasp a difficult concept – it’s all there for instant comprehension.

In a world where organisations operate on an increasingly global scale, it’s an added bonus that cartoons can work just as well without words. Purely visual messages are rarely lost in translation, making them highly effective in connecting up audiences, regardless of language barriers. 

3. Witty visuals engage and inspire us

Funny pictures draw us in. It’s no secret that people like to be entertained and this approach is perhaps all the more effective when they least expect it. There’s a reason why lots of people choose to open otherwise dry PowerPoint presentations with a cartoon sucker punch: it breaks the ice, raises a laugh and grabs people’s attention.

If you’ve ever attended an event and found yourself riveted by the work of a live scribe – a more dynamic and sophisticated form of the same principle – you will have seen how this effect can be magnified. In our experience at Ludic, the very act of creating illustrations that document events in real time can break down barriers and establish a real emotional connection between the audience, presenter and material. This offers organisations a powerful tool for communicating their visions and goals in a way that is compelling, inspiring and engaging.

4. Illustrations promote positivity

The wit, immediacy and simplicity of illustrations can also be useful in generating feelings of positivity towards a concept. In an organisational context, this might be particularly helpful in times of transition. Change can be daunting but the innate charm, energy and playfulness of scribes can help overcome resistance and mediate negative thoughts and feelings. 

5. Witty images make messages memorable

Visual metaphors have been proven to reinforce ideas and make them more memorable. Strong, original and stylish visuals can help maintain engagement and encourage interaction long after the moment for which they were created has passed. They make great “take-home” messages and are ripe for sharing on social media. 

The last word goes to cartoonist Paul Karasik who, writing in The New Yorker (a great champion of the gag cartoon), eloquently summed up the power of funny pictures thus: “In good cartoons the caption improves the drawing and vice versa. In the best cartoons, the alchemy is so strong that the impact on the brain is as indelible as the ink they were printed with.”

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