Visualizing things that are Hidden/Invisible

It’s safe to assume that all of us have encountered information that was difficult to grasp: science and math concepts that use lots of abstract symbols; topics that are invisible or span a great deal of time or space; objects that are too large, small, or fast to see well; ideas that involve lots of jargon, etc. Although the very nature of information can make it challenging to grasp, the form that is used to communicate the content can aid or hinder understanding. Your task is to address the challenge of making something abstract concrete.


  • Proper usage of visual, motion, narrations, text
    Sometimes a polished visual might have negative effect. When describing a difficult topic, the approachable crafts might be more effective
  • Choosing a mood of the video that matches the theme
    It can be humorous/casual or serious/intelligent. Voice of narration and choice of music can also help to create a mood that you intend
  • Using appropriate napkin sketches
    Comparison, flow, personify, sequence…
  • Write a powerful script
    Consider how to write a powerful, engaging and interesting story that can help the audience follow your story more easily. Also, think about how to close the story.
Drawing of cats/happy/connected/disruptive

In the activity, we drew sketches of a cat, happy, connected and disruptive. The drawings of cat were mostly similar to one another. The reason is the word remind people of a concrete image (prototype) that can instinctively be understood what that is. However, the word disrupted had many variations of sketches. It is because of the word being abstract that has a possibility to be interpreted differently from one and another. Nonetheless, the common feature of all the sketches was the change of states. Disruptive is a word that can be better expressed in time, with motions.

Other insights I got from the activities were;
- Verbs need motions to be accurately explained
- Concrete metaphor can sometimes overwhelm its meaning underneath
- What can be expressed in static? and what can be expressed with motions?

Different visualization of how the tornado works

Different napkin sketch methods were used to make the concept understandable to many people; Comparison, Timeline, Personify, Symbolize,
Also, the usage of colors and different scales was helpful to understand the concept.

✔️Week1_Out of class

  • What is a concussion?
    A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that temporarily affects brain functioning.
    - Bruising, damage to the blood vessels and nerves in the brain, brief loss of consciousness, impaired long-term memory, reduced problem-solving ability
    - 3 grades Concussions are graded as mild (grade 1), moderate (grade 2), or severe (grade 3),
  • How does it work?
    I watched related videos to understand how the concussion happens.
    Following are the sketches I made after watching the videos
  • First draft of sketching

✔️Week2_in class

  • Sketch that I shared with others
  • What I’ve learned explaining my topic
    - In the process of explaining the brain structures to microcells, people got confused about where the microcells are located. A motion of zooming in will be needed to explain this part
    - The roles of neurons and Tau should be mentioned to illustrate how they affect the function of the brain.
    - Cohort suggested starting from the symptoms of concussion, for example, a story of a person is feeling her long-term memory is getting impaired.
    - There were questions about; whether the process is temporal or not, what happens when the brain moves with high-speed.
Class doing speed dating on explaining their topics
  • What I’ve learned from listening to others presenting
    - Power of metaphor : If a concept was illustrated with daily objects that I can easily relate to, the story got more engaging. Also, the metaphor became more powerful if it was used continuously throughout the whole story. If there is a different metaphor that came along the way, it got confusing.
    - When explaining a thing that is happening at micro levels, start from the larger part and how the micro parts located in the whole system.
    - Starting from the basic notion of the concepts (such as how electrons flow to create electricity) helped to understand the main topic(batteries).
  • Next steps
    - A clear definition of concussion, whether the whole process is temporal getting back to normal states in a short time or not.
    - Work on the introduction. How to make people engaging
    - Dig a little deeper into the topic. Mine seems to have simpler process than others. More researches are needed on neurons, axons, and tau.

✔️Week2_out of class

🔷Collecting Resources

[left] Structure of meninges -] [Right] Structure of Skull -
Initial storyboarding

✔️Week2_in class

-In class, I thought it would be nice to start from a specific story of a person and then introduce the concept of concussion. Instead of starting the story with athletes and situations regarding sports, I wanted to start with a story that can happen in daily life so that more people can resonate with the story. Also, I incorporated a metaphor to compare a computer to a brain to help people understand how destructed neurons might affect a brain.

Dumb ways to Die [2012]

Since the concussion is happening in a brain, I felt that it would offend some people if it is depicted too realistically. Therefore, the visual should be simple, cute, and bold to prevent any sense of repulsion. ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ video can be a good example of how to show offensive and disturbing visuals in a friendly and cute way.

  • Shape: Rounded edges, Bold lines (there can be two options with heavy line and no line at all)
  • Colors: Bright, vivid colors
Images from Pinterest
  • Reality
    According to the scales suggested in Mccloud’s book, I decided how much reality should the illustration have. To maintain a friendly tone, I chose to go with simplifies, iconic and universal visuals.
Reality Spectrum suggested by Mccloud. Brain images from Pinterest
  • Think of metaphor again. Isn’t brain function as a computer?
    If so, what can be compared to neurons?
  • Think more about how to end the story
  • Think of a more appropriate metaphor

✔️Week3_in class

Revised stroyboard
The first draft of visual form
  • From Jay
    - Think about the transitions. how will the transition be from the brain to a computer?
    - Having a spectrum indicator in the treatment part
    - A comparison between the brain and a computer can be shown together. An option can be dividing the screen into two sections and show the brain and computer simultaneously.
  • From Stacie
    - Think of how to show a comparison without showing a computer. The story on a computer can be just a narrative without a visual. People can easily imagine the link between the two.
    - The definition of concussion can be visualized instead of having just texts
    - The secondary injury part should be organized and refined to strongly deliver the process. Think of how to stay focus on concussion but deliver this complicated process.
    - Think of parts that don’t need zooming in/out. Since transition grabs people’s attention too much, you can adjust hierarchy instead of zooming. Think of maintaining a brain in the center, and showing neurons inside and highlighting a neuron to explain details.
    - In the treatment part, instead of having a scale, one brain can change according to time to show the degree of recovery.
    - Visual form: think of contrast. How can you make people focus on important parts? Will outline help? Also, think deeper into neurons.
  • General comments
    - Think of transitions. Just little movement might grab the audience’s attention
    - Think of motion.
    - Think of how narrative and visual can help each other. Sometimes narratives can be
    - Hierarchy: a contrast of components. using line/colors
    - Focus on the difficult part
  • HW: Clear storyboard, reading the script, movements, tiny bit of animation

✔️Week3_in class

Secon exploration of visual form

  • Learn about different communication methods. (motions, time line..)
    - The depth of information and simplity of the script to make audience understand the concept
    - What to include and what to exclude in the story: simplifying the topic, but not dumbing things down
    - Visual form, motion, narration, sound effects: coming back and forth to edit them.
    - How to bring form to what is hidden or too small and not visible. How to bring clarity to those.

✔️Week4_out of class

I revised my mood board to be more like a drawing. This tone seems more humane and soft than the visual tone I had mind before.

New mood board Images from Pinterest

✔️Week4_in class

  • What have you done?
    - For the past couple of days, I have been exploring visual forms. I tried to draw with different materials(pencil, watercolor, charcoal) and used different color combinations to find out what would be the best suitable and attractive visual form.
  • Why did you do it?
    I focused on this process because I wanted my video to be beautiful to look at also. Since there are already many videos about concussion out there, I wanted to find the uniqueness of my video in terms of visual style.
  • What have you learned and discovered?
    I found out a few useful functions of the app I am using in my Ipad such as recording the screen and grouping layers. Also, I found out that I need to consider the sequence of the storyboard in mind when choosing colors and compositions in one drawing.
  • What do you plan to do next?
    Now, I have settled with colors and forms so I should start making lost of drawings. Not only each scene but also make the different states of each component so that I use lesser AfterEffects. I am still not sure about how to make detailed movements. I should figure out what should be drawn and what should be done in AE.
  • Focus more on the important part
    and use similarity in shape for more analogous transition
  • Make all the still drawings on neuron part
  • Modify last part of script and record the script

✔️Week4_2_in class

  • What have you done?
    - Record the script and modify details
    - Figured out how to build a stop motion
    - Made more drawings on neurons and key points of the scripts
  • Why did you do it?
    Before diving into drawing all the parts, I thought I should have a specific plan on how to animate each parts. Knowing the logic of making stop motion would help me to decide how many layers should I be making.
  • What have you learned and discovered?
    - After effects skills(Looping, building layers)
  • What do you plan to do next?
    I am going to focus more on drawing forms of neurons.

✔️Week5_1030 class

  • Continue with the visual style.
  • Develop a more smooth transition between the scenes.
  • Shorten the script a little
  • For the last weekend, I finished motions for the main part of the story and started to make drawings on the first part.
  • I have to finalize the script re-record it.
  • Keep working and finish all the motions by Thursday

* Finish motions of the first part and second part

Concussion happens when axons of neurons get stretched and release toxins into the brain and cause malfunctioning of the brain over time. For most people, people get recovered quickly, however, repeated jolts in the brain would cause more serious damage. Therefore, be aware of concussion and take a good care of your brain.

MDes Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University