I am getting an anime education from my cousin. She has a stack of DVDs for me to watch. As a westerner, the different cues in manga drawing jumped out at me right away. I have found few online guides to these visual codes. Video: “How to draw…” and Robin E. Brenner’s book Understanding Manga and Anime.
Here are some of the anime visual triggers I have learned:
- During excitement, rage, anger the facial features are reduced to the most simple cartoon lines, like an abstraction of the face.
- The bigger, more doe-like the eyes, the stronger the indication of innocence.
- Vertical lines on the cheek or a horizontal pink bar indicate blushing.
- If you don’t know what nosebleeds mean, you do need to watch more anime.
- Some drawing standards unique to manga/ anime:
Eyebrows are visible through transparent hair
Small, often pointed chins
This is as far as I have gotten in my anime training concerning these visual standards, this symbolic language. I am not sure my sensei (Hi, cousin) is impressed with my progress.
The examples of symbolic languages are endless! In my previous post I referenced Kanji and middle ages still life painting. Since exploring examples is so much fun, here is a list from my brainstorming. Think about all of these in terms of a group language:
- Heraldic, the language of coat of arms.
- Rich symbolic references in paintings of Madonna and Child.
- Andy Warhol’s treatment of icons has become iconic itself. This shows us the level of sophistication available within symbolic expression.
If we widen the list to body language:
- Everything from insulting hand gestures to head wobbling to indicate “yes” or “no” are specific to a culture or group
- Traditional indian dance poses
- Sign language, of course!
- Semaphore, the communication using towers and visual signals or flags to send messages quickly over long distances.
We are surrounded by visual systems of communication, many of which are very sophisticated. In marketing and advertising we create visual language systems we call brands, including but not limited to logos, color treatments, fonts and so on…
So what does this have to do with building strong digital tribes?
We know that verbal language and naming, addressed in previous posts, is foundational and integral to shared group experience and perspective. Systemic visual expressions are additional, effective and really fun mechanisms to build a communal language. This can work as an external indicator, like coats of arms, or be a completely insider language, like Graffiti.
Do your communities have a visual language or symbols? Considering how ideal the digital medium is for this kind of expression, I am surprised at how infrequently I see this in action. Really, at a minimum, every group should have a visual symbol, a shield, a logo.
Some things to think about for your community:
- A heraldic approach can be taken to create a visual “shield” or logo of a group, subgroup and individual. What should make up your coat of arms?
- Even simple symbols can become powerful shared expressions of a cause, values or humor. Think of the pink ribbons, fish and darwin symbols on cars. (Looking for a good example of a humorous symbol)
- Since it is unlikely that an entire verbal language will form for your community, leveraging visual, symbolic communication can go a long way to strengthen the bonds of “us-ness.”
Do you have examples of symbols being used effectively by a digital tribe? Have you seen visual languages go terribly, terribly wrong? (Don’t say math! I almost failed that class, too. But that isn’t what we are discussing here.)