Let's Communicate

An Illustrated Guide to Human Communication

Douglas M. Fraleigh | Joseph S. Tuman | Katherine L. Adams | Peter Arkle

  • Teaching with Illustrations

    Let's Communicate, along with Speak Up, sets itself apart by offering its audience illustrations that can be used as a pedagogical medium. Research has shown that illustrations enhance student learning and improve content retention. Due to the connection that must be drawn between the text and images, students continuously process the information and thus, recall more information.

    The authors drew on the following psychologists, artists, and philosophers to formulate a unique theoretical framework behind the purpose of the illustrations. You can learn more in the Instructor's Manual for Let's Communicate, which includes further illustration-based activities and talking points that you can use in the classroom.

    • Educational psychologists Russell Carney and Joel Levin (2002) performed an analysis of several possible pedagogical functions that could be served by incorporating illustrations in the classroom. They argued that an interpretational function behind illustrations helps readers clearly understand and interpret text that may be complex. They also noted a transformational function, in which illustrations are an effective retention tool because they usually consist of a memory-enhancing component.
    • When we think of illustrations as "comics," we might solely hone in on the entertainment aspect of the medium. However, Daniel Clowes takes the dissection of comics a bit further in his novel, Ice Haven. Clowes argues that the audience must internally process the information presented to them and derive meaning from that. Readers must continuously move between text and image and negotiate between the "interior" self and the "exterior" reality to derive meaning. This means that students require more content processing and thus, can recall more information.
    • Scott McCloud, notable comics scholar and philosopher, has argued in his book Understanding Comics that comics are placed on a continuum between extremely real (hyperrealistic) and extremely simple (abstract). Because illustrations are often left without many fine details, readers are able to fill the empty spaces with their own experiences. The space they inhabit on paper is essentially the same place they inhabit in real life. The only difference is that readers can practice communication strategies in the hypothetical abstract environment before actual scenarios transpire in their real-life environment.
    • Notable philosopher Kenneth Burke focuses on the theory that a speaker and audience are able to identify as one, yet remain two separate entities. As with the give and take component of the speaker and audience, the same can be seen in comics. The reader constantly negotiates the images with reality to achieve that connection. Much like when public speaking occurs, the use of illustrations offers viewers to experience a sense of connection while maintaining a sense of oneself simultaneously.


    Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950), 21.

    Carney, R.N. & Levin, J.R. Educational Psychology Review (2002) 14: 5. doi:10.1023/A:1013176309260. 

    Daniel Clowes, Ice Haven (New York: Pantheon, 2005), 4.

    Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (New York: Harper, 1992), 36.