Making Abstract Concrete

Project 2 / Communication Design Studio 2017

The process of how a bill gets passed.

9/26 How a bill gets passed

We kick off the second project today. The topic is about making abstract concrete. There are 4 major categories including hidden/invisible, many steps/complex, too big/small to perceive and too fast/slow to perceive. Mine is how a bill gets passed. I read through the material and draw out the linear steps above. One thing I have found is that there are many different elements in the process including a group of people, place, action and rule. Maybe I should have identify a way to classify these elements first?

Besides the hand out, I have done some investigation as well. I think the way how the congress is constructed should be mentioned as well. Also, the president has two ways to veto a bill. … One thing I found it complicated is that this system were built with certain reasons and it is connected to historical event. I need to figure out how much need to be included?

9/28 Visualizing ideas


Today’s reading is “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” by Scott McCloud. It talks about CLOSURE which means observing the part while perceving the whole. Seeing a Comics, your visual must jump from one block to the other and the closure is what happen in between.

There six kinds of closure:

1. Moment-to-moment
2. Action-to-action
3. Subject-to-subject
4. Scene-to-scene
5. Aspect-to-aspect
6. Non-sequitur

At first, I though this video project has nothing to do with closure. Then I realize that the transition in the video requires the concept of closure to keep things consisten. Type 2 to 4 might be most useful. But as a side note, McCloud mentioned that Japanese comics use type 6 more than the western comics. I wonder how could I leverage type 6 in the video.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Chapter 3 Blood in the Gutter


We get into small group and help each other to identify the actors in the story. One person will read through his story and the other one will write down all the actor he hear.

Then, each of us draw the image of cat, quiet and transferable and put on the white board. Cat share the similar form such as triangle ears, whisker and maybe tail. For the quite, it become abstract. Someone use physical object or gesture as icon and some use context as metaphor. We try to build consensus around form. In the end, for transferable, it is quite varied. Stacie mention that abstract form can do the communication but we need some built-in cognitive model while real object have a chance to be concise.

Cat / Quite / Transferable

Go back to our project, we try to draw actors that we have identified previously and we can ask other classmates three actors that you have trouble with. It is actually quite productive to see your friend can help you visualize your actors.

For me, my topic is “How a bill get passed”. It is easy to visualized the Congress or White House. But it is hard to draw differences between senate/house of representatives or public hearing/committees. I think I need to dig more into this part.

My actors / Help from friends

Find out Actor, Key steps, Relationship and Preferable Visual Style

During the weekend, we worked on finding out more about our topics. The topic of “How a bill get passed” actually have many details and small steps included. As a result, I started to trimmed out some details in order to make process smooth and clear. For example, there is a Rule Committee that decide how and when to vote the bill. It is not that important to the whole process and also if I insist to put into the video then I need to figure out how to distinguish between general committee, rule committee and any other committee.

Furthermore, since there are so many steps and loop to pass a bill and I usually found out myself stuck in the loop. I found it useful to draw the relationship to figure out the rational sense of how the bill proceed. This is quite useful.

10/3 Introduce the structure of storyboard

The structure of the storyboard is introduced today. It has four elements.

  1. Visual: The visualization of each scene.
  2. Time: How much will each scene cost?
  3. Temporal: What happen in the scene and what is the transition between scenes?
  4. Aural: The sound for each scene.
  5. Narration: The script of each scene.

The last time I had huge video project is the for the final project of Visual Communication Fundamental. Maybe I was a text person at that moment, I started with the script and tried to fit the animation to the script. It was a tough task. This time, I tried to use my rough outline to do the visual and the temporal part first. But it turns out to be pretty quick. The script is still hard task for me this time since it is all about political stuff..

10/5 Working session

Today is working session, each of us work to complete our whole stroy.

I have talked to Stacie about some questions and get feedback.

  1. The introduction start from United States Constitution seems to be reasonable.
  2. She suggested to to think about the region allocation on the canvas. Since the House is going to be the main character, it should stay in the same position (center is even better) to make visual memory of viewer. Other region could be further defined as well.
  3. The difference between Senate and House of Representatives is easy to convey verbally but not visually. Also, how to distinguish Senator and Congressman. Stacie suggested to use number of token to fill each half the Congress icon.
  4. The action of voting keep bothering me. I will to make visual simple but don’t know how to visual voting as action withou bunch of human figures rising their hands. Stacie suggested to use token with symbol or color coded the token to deal with it.

10/10 Peer review

Today we run a peer review for our master plan of the video. Stacie provided the prompt for the review. The most important thing (and we often forget) is not to make suggestions but simply point out what you see and don’t see in the story board.

As for the elements in the master plan, we should take below points into consideration:

1.Narration: How clear and logical is the story conveyed through narration?
2. Visual: How well do the visuals provide additional information?
3. Timing: How appropriate does the timing of information appear to be?
4. Temporal: How well do the described movements support the story?
5. Transitions: How well do the transitions function?
6. Aural: How well does additional audio support the story?
7. Style: How well does the style communicate pertinent information?

Comments I got are more about the layout structure. As Stacie suggested last week, I need to fix the position of some elements that I used a lot. Movement catch a lot of attention, so item should move only if there is some meanings behind it.

10/12 Developing transition through canvas layout

According to the concept of canvas that Stacie mentioned before, I started to arrange my elements on the canvas and considered the transition between places. I kept reminding myself that motion attracts people’s attention easily and I needed to make sure each motion will be meaningful in my perspective.

Basically, I imagined that the main actor, the House, will be always in the center. It will sometimes scale down and move downward to reveal things inside the House but it will always be the major focus. As for the bill, another major actors, it will need to move around (or things should move around it?). This part is more difficult to deal with. I need to think through it before started to animate the scene.

10/19 Working Session / Discussion with Stacie

I finished the voice recording last week and jumped into the aniamting part. While I worked on the intro, I asked Stacie about whether she though my visual style is too simple or not. She said that that was something I should not consider right now. The delivered messsages will become more complicated when the video progress. After the viewer overwhelmed by the information they got, the perception would shut down. Taking one step further, she encouraging me to tackle the most complicated scene first. Then go back for details later.

10/24 Working Session

10/26 Mid-Review

We had a review for everyone’s progress and provide feedbacks. I felt bad that I had only finished 30% of the video so I was only able to get some feedback for the beginning part.

  1. Patriotic Color: I am struggle with color a lot. Because this video is about American government, I decided to use blue, red and white as major color scheme. Since the red is usually used for negative meaning or catching attention. Only blue and white are left for using. As a result, I tried to use gradient of blue in different assets which is not a good approach at all.
  2. Abstract icon: In order to create the video with minimalism style, I decided not to use human figure as actors in the video. Instead, I used token. However, the problem become how could I make difference between actors. In this version, I use same token with different caption but people still get confused and the complexity in the scene increase as well.
  3. Scene complexity: The scene when I try to explain the constitution of the Congress, it become very complex. While I tried to achieve my preference abstract level, I added to many text for explanation. I need to rethink about how to use other technique such as hierarchy, size, transition to explain role and relationship. Furthermore, I need to decide which elements is unnecessary to the topic and can be removed.

General Feedback from Professor

Static icons are inherently abstract in nature as they are representing something else. Asking your audience to interpret icons and imagine what they are representing while watching a video and taking in the audio creates a strong cognitive load. Thus, I encourage you to remove them whenever possible and instead use visuals, sound, and motion to make the meaning more concrete. This is a major crux of the assignment — making the abstract concrete.


Motion is a good a way to communicate concepts clearly as well as they could. Reading through your scripts, paying close attention to VERBS (actions) rather than focusing on NOUNS (things) may help you identify opportunities for improvements.


In several of the pieces I saw a focus on granular versus high-level concepts (ex. detailed representation of objects rather than highlighting a comparison of the objects when mentioned in script) and quantitative versus qualitative information (focus on incomprehensible amount through numbers rather than helping us sense the overwhelming amount). Taken these actions will cause your video to run the risk of not communicating the key concepts well and keeping messages in abstract form, making them difficult to grasp. Thus, I encourage you to revisit your strong storyboards where you visualized the key points and relationships from Moyer. I also urge you to get us to sense amounts rather than just rely on abstract numbers to convey the information.


Many of the movies include the building of information over time in a single scene, which is great. However, the importance of these can be visually missed when things appear/disappear quickly over time. Thus, you may find it beneficial to highlight key components on the screen when you mention them. Similar to a blinking button, highlighting will draw attention to key features on the screen when warranted.


We naturally attend to things that move on a screen. Thus, I encourage you to keep reappearing components as stationary as possible from scene to scene so that we can attend to only the things that change. This will help us pay attention to changes in state, which are often the critical components of the story.


Just as whitespace provides points to take a breath in print, pauses in videos enable viewers to watch the piece at a comfortable pace. Don’t be afraid to add natural pauses in sentences to create a comfortable viewing of your piece. Remember, you know the content inside and out but your viewers do not.

10/31 Working session

Today is the final working session for project 2. Due to the Interaction studio project, everyone is kind of late on schedule. Before talking to us individually, Stacie draw a 2 dimension graph to help us priority the task.

While I was still suffering with how to create distinction between congressmen and senator, Stacie suggest me to move forward dealing with larger task first.

Here are the actions I take before the final presentation.

  1. I found out that the seal of House of Representaitve and Senate are different so I drew these two icons and use blue and red (patriotic color) to differential them.
  2. I created 435 blue dots and 100 red dots to represent the house of representative s and senators on the US map. It is really time-consuming but I don’t find any work around.
  3. Besides patriotic color, I changed background color to light brown and text to 50% grey according to Stacie’s advice.
  4. I decide to use talking bubbles with icon inside to represent voting(O/X) and discussion(+/ — ).

Above decisions basically include all key actions and actors I need to deal with in the video.

10/7 Final Presentation

(Video: To be fixed with minor things from the last feedback.)

For the last scene.

The slow-moving legislative process is less harmful to citizen’s right and liberty.

It is abstract and kind of hard to tackle. It turns out to be talking bubble with love icon above human figure to represent less harmful which is not satisfying but acceptable.

I get good feedback about the color choice, icon and the representation of talking bubble. On the other hand, the speeding part of senate process and the icon of president (look like French) need to be fixed. For me, I think the voice over and the background music need to be fixed.


Throughout the whole project, I feel that the beginning part is crucial and helpful. When Stacice kept talking about using context, transition rather than static visual elemenst to represent meaning, it forced me to think more broadly about the whole animation and made important decision before hands. Otherwise, I would be stuck in the middle of creating the scene.

I also felt that my storytelling skill improve because I finished the script early this time. The narrative is easy to understand and only require minor grammar correction. I do modified the one part of script in the later stage in order to make sure the animation could incorporate the narrative easier.