Visualisations are a key part of communicating design, in most cases images are the best way to describe a proposal to a client, get the all-important sign off or even win a competition.

Berserk / Writer and Artist: Kentaro Miura. Berserk is a dark fantasy series set in a fictitious medieval- Europe. The setting is convincingly portrayed by detailed environments and interiors that show an understanding of the relevant architectural styles.

The challenge is to sell the idea or convincingly portray a lifestyle the client finds appealing. While taking on this challenge recently, it occurred to me that in the years I have been reading graphic novels, I have seen artists successfully resolve this time and time again. It is understandable to associate the medium with super human henchmen, the types with excessively muscle-bound physiques and an appetite for justice. Illustrated in meticulously detailed panels as they perform impossible feats of strength and agility. Whilst this is often the case especially for the popular super hero genre where the characters are the subject, it is easy to overlook an important element, the setting.

Aya of Yop city / Writer: Marguerite Abouet. Artist: Clément Oubrerie. Set in Côte d'Ivoire following the adventures of a Aya, a young girlg living in a high-density area. The colours and small clustered structures make me nostalgic for happier afternoons spent at Jompani musika, a market in Kadoma. I recall the colourful zambiya’s worn by the women, sweet smells of fruit, grainy texture of sand on my feet and the constant chatter of haggling.

The setting is vital to a book, where and when it is set will influence the story, morality and actions of the characters as well as the reader’s opinion of them. For this reason, I am fond of panels that convincingly and consistently communicate the space a story takes place in, it can be frustrating to follow a scenario, when I cannot tell where the characters are in relation to each other or their environment.

Crying Freeman / Writer: Kazuo Kike.Artist. Ryoichi Ikegami. Following the questionable career of an assassin who cries whenever he kills, Crying Freeman presents a suave brand of 80s-90s machismo. Mixed in with the absurd plot are beautiful illustrations depicting cities, interiors and crime dens the story frequents. (As is the norm in manga, the panels are ordered from right to left)

Sometimes it helps if a visualisation is loose and suggestive especially in the early stages of a project in order to sell a concept and guide the client’s expectations before decisions have been made, but how to illustrate an idea of a space that does not exist yet? Locales ranging from historical to futuristic dystopias are portrayed in graphic novels often including fantastical gadgets and structures which may not stand up to scrutiny. Visualisations can be designed to draw attention to specific elements. This is achieved in graphic novel panels by using composition with varying detail and colour to create a hierarchy.

Tokyo Ghost / Writer: Rick Remender. Artists: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth. The futuristic cyberpunk setting of Tokyo Ghost lends itself to fantastic structures, and machines. The art has a loose and stylised quality while maintaining a consistency that emphasises the perspectives and composition.

The goal in architecture is usually to design habitable spaces so populating a visualisation with people and paraphernalia will make it more believable, particularly for interiors. Furthermore, a scenario can be created by assembling the right cast of characters and props.

Hawkeye volume / Writer: Matt Fraction. Artists: David Aja & Matt Hollingsworth. This series includes an issue titled ‘ Pizza is my business’ in which Lucky, Hawkeye’s pizza loving dog following clues around an apartment building .
Batwoman Writer/ and Artist: J.H Williams III. Sandman Overture / Writer: Neil Geinman. Artist: J.H Williams III. These two splash pages combine art and dialogue to make some impressive panels , following a scenario as it weaves through its environment.

This post has referenced panels from a few of the books I have read, while avoiding spoilers. There are more I would have liked to include, even more I hope to read in the future and I hope my appreciation for the art is apparent. Before drawing your next design proposal or tackling a challenging visualisation it could be worth your time to look through the pages of a graphic novel for inspiration.