5.7 Educational strip


The brief was to create an illustrated strip explaining to young teenagers how to cope with the onset of puberty.

The purpose of the exercise was to find a way of successfully communicating potentially embarrassing and sensitive information to a teenage audience.

Keywords from the brief:

  • Produce an illustrated strip of up to five frames
  • Use in schools
  • Use metaphor and humour when conveying the message
  • Take care not to trivialise a serious message
  • A single illustration of your character for use on the front cover
  • The leaflet is called What’s happening to my body? It’s all going mad!
  • Submit all stages of the development process
  • Thumbnails, visuals and client visuals for the cartoon strip and the stand-alone illustration

Research and analysis

I used the internet to do my initial research and created a visual mindmap to capture and develop ideas.

Sketchbook 01
Visual mindmap (2 x A3 pages)

Working with only 5 x panels for such a wide subject was quite a challenge so I decided to limit the primary audience to boys. A similar treatment could equally be used for girls.

I felt that getting the tone of voice right was more important than the actual content. It would be so easy to patronise or trivialise the readers so I did some research into how other illustrators have dealt with a young audience in a sympathetic and respectful way.

Sabien Clement illustrated a book called Jij lievert. The illustrations and visual style are both beautiful and visually explicit, but the style is very gentle and the subject (physical love) is portrayed as very matter of fact.

I also referred to the excellent 99 Ways to Tell a Story (Matt Madden, Jonathan Cape) for ideas about how to structure the page layout, and just for inspiration and ideas.


I wrote my brief incorporating my ideas and research.

  • Format: 1-page A4 leaflet
  • Composition: A front page with a cover illustration and title and a back page of information
  • Back page layout: 5-panels in comic strip format
  • Tone of voice: Authoritative, simple, clear, open and honest. Sympathetically dealing with potentially embarrassing subjects.
  • Audience: Young teenage boys (11 and 12-year olds) at the point or just before they enter puberty
  • Visual style: Use and develop the same technique used in Exercise 3.6 Viewpoint and An unknown Intimacy.


I thought the information should be presented by a sympathetic narrator – a character that teenage boys would listen to. So the script was written with that in mind.

Sketchbook 02
Script and visual ideas (2 x A3 pages)

I broke down the script and started storyboarding ideas.

Ideas generation

I initially did some sketching to try and develop the narrator character. I’ve been working through Figure It Out! The beginner’s guide to drawing people (Chris Hart, sixth&spring Books) to improve my figure drawing, and I used my learning from this to create the male narrator and the teenage boy.

I wanted to push my own creative boundaries by using posture and expression to add more weight and meaning to the images – although this might sound obvious, I haven’t felt confident enough to do this until this point.

Sketchbook 03
Character development (2 x A3 pages)
Sketchbook 04
Experimenting with different page layouts
Sketchbook 05
Rollercoaster sketches
Sketchbook 06
Front cover sketch

Client visuals

The following images document various stages of the design development.

Cartoon strip

Cartoon strip final artwork

The final artwork was composited and coloured in Photoshop.


Cover illustration

I wanted the cover illustration to be both humorous and relevant.

Cover illustration artwork

Front cover
Front cover artwork composited together in Photoshop

What I learned from the exercise

What went well

  • I think the process of developing ideas and script in parallel flowed well and as a result the script went through a couple of quick iterations
  • Limiting the primary audience to boys helped provide focus
  • I was pleased with narrator character and am starting to feel more confident about experimenting with different poses and expressions
  • I like the roller coaster metaphor and how it works within the page layout

What I could have done differently/better

  • It would be interesting to test the imagery on some young teenage boys. Whilst I think the tone is appropriate and respectful of the young audience, it’s only a hunch at the moment
%d bloggers like this: