Illustrator Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, passed away recently at age 90.
Ditko was known as the “J.D. Salinger” of comics: He rarely gave interviews, and he eschewed the publicity that accompanies high-profile events such the release of the Spider-Man or Doctor Strange films. But his work speaks volumes — and his ability to frame a scene to make it instantly understandable could help us make better product decisions.
What is “framing”?
Framing in comic book storytelling involves the layout of the page, and the size and relationship of panels and characters to one another. Editor Hass Otsmane-Elhaou examined Ditko’s use of various framing techniques in the very first appearance of Spider-Man, and extracted several lessons worth noting.
Let’s look at this Ditko page
Even without the word balloons, you know several critical things about this scene because of Ditko’s framing:
- the cool kids own the foreground of the page, showing that they rule the school;
- one of the characters (Peter Parker, in the glasses) is an outcast; and
- the shadow of Spider-Man looms large over the scene, indicating his importance to the overall story.
Ditko accomplishes all this visually through careful framing of the page using proportions and character placement.
Framing is a tool in the PM toolkit, too
When product-related decisions need to be made, we need to set the table properly and get the stakeholders on the same page.
To frame the decision and make the situation understandable, we need to clearly define:
- The problem we’re seeking to solve;
- The persona we’re seeking to solve the problem for; and
- The prioritized goals we’re seeking to satisfy with the product
Ditko was a master at storytelling. By clearly framing your product decisions, you’ll help set the right foundation to discuss the options and navigate your way to the right decision.
Watch Hass Otsmane-Elhaou break down Ditko’s framing techniques in Steve Ditko & Framing Spider-Man on the Strip Panel Naked show on YouTube.