More examples: TMI?

OK my peeps, your feedback on the preceding post has been excellent. Here are 3 more images to compare and contrast:

talking heads no flowers.flaWhat’s happening here? Do we even need to put it into words?

talking heads 2

How about this? Does the addition of the flowers help, or hurt, or just make it different?

MemesInHistorySame idea, different rendering. This one has still more information – which might be confusing the point. It’s cuter, but it might be Too Much Information. Or maybe it’s Just Enough.

What do you think? The more I understand how you “read” these images, the better I’ll be able to “write” them. Big thanks to you.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

35 thoughts on “More examples: TMI?”

  1. The one with the flower is a little too busy, and the flower inside their heads doesn’t immediately read or read from a distance. It seems like their heads are too small for the icon. talking Heads 2 isn’t showing up on my browser, and the top one doesn’t seem to have the same message as the bottom one. It’s like the message is evolving or changing because of the color changes. In the bottom one it’s just the same idea being communicated to people from a variety of cultures, but again, the icon issue. Too tiny.

  2. I like the first set because it gets the basic idea across. I don’t understand what necessary information the flowers are supposed to be adding so I find them, and thus the second set, confusing. And the third set is giving me WAY too much information about all those individuals, which distracts me. So for me the first set communicates best. (The only thing I don’t like about the first set is that the people aren’t gendered and thus are by default, giving our culture, male. I resist this as a knee-jerk die-hard feminist.) I’m glad you’re working on a new project.

  3. top one. love the top one.
    second one adds useless stuff.
    third one obfuscates the idea.

  4. oh and what else might be fun
    try an animation

    start with #1 and put in the flowers in #2 going from left to right.

    or, start with just the people in #1 and have the word bubbles emit from the mouths, from left to right.

    have i managed to transmit my idea?

  5. I love the top one because it shows that while some of what you tell me stays in my head exactly as told, I fill the rest up with my own imagination… it becomes collaborative in the act of sharing. If that makes any sense.

  6. I like the idea in the first tier, i.e., every input resonates in a way that produces unique output. The second tier is more ambiguous (the flower is the same for everyone). The third tier is cute, but says (to me at least), that despite our differences we all process information exactly the same way.

  7. I like the MIDDLE one. Except take out the gradients, leave the flowers. Don’t need to have the people unless you mean ‘global communication’ instead of ‘meme’

  8. Has to be the first one – they just get more complicated as you tweak them – stick to your gut and go with the first!

    Hope this helps!

    Pipoca Pictures

  9. Guess I’m being countercultural, but I like the bottom best. The problem I have with the top one is that each figure has his/her back turned on the previous speaker – If there were some indication of listening, other than the proximity of the ear — maybe even some ear agitrons.

  10. I like the bottom best, for a few reasons. I like the characters, but understand the difficulty in giving each such vibrant personalities.

    I do think you should stick with the rainbow bubbles from the bottom. The multi-tone shift within each bubble in rows 1 & 2 may be more accurate, but they’re not as easy to interpret.

    Probably best to stick with the simple outlines throughout the explanation, and then diversify the characters when that diversification is important.

  11. I’m not finding any of these to be clear. I have ideas about what they MIGHT be depicting, but I’m mostly confused. Are the people saying something which is then being interpreted, morphed, changed, and passed along to the next person? That’s my best guess, but I’m still not sure. The characters with outfits, etc definitely confuse the message even more.

    Side note: have you ever read Edward Tufte’s books on information design? They’re ALL great and might provide you some food for thought as you work on this.

  12. I’m not exactly finding these clear. The idea of what was going on here didn’t jump into my head until I read the words a few moments after I noticed the bizarre drawings. Once I got the idea, they seemed pretty neat, but you’re not there yet.

    By the way, you should also check out a program called mypaint. It’s quite a nice little program. Not sure how it’ll fit into your workflow, but I figured I’d mention it to you. You can find it here: and there’s a nice timelapse from the Durian Project (Now entitled Sintel) here:

    Sorry if it’s a little off topic, but I thought you’d find it interesting/helpful!

  13. One more thought: Have you considered permuting the idea depicted? We all change the work a little bit and see it differently. Might be a nifty way to present the idea of derivative works if/when you try to get that across.

  14. I’m with Mike Rauch. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. If it’s just the bare process of saying stuff from one person to another, then the first does that. If you want to say something about transmitting a “meme” from one person to another, then you need something that is recognizably that meme, like the flower.

    In the third case you’re adding cultural difference into the mix. Plus there’s the added complexity of the big flower in the bubble and the little flower in the head. I’m wondering how this one would read if we hadn’t seen the other two first? Would we be so quick to realize the big flower in bubble1 corresponds to the small flower in head2?

  15. #1 makes me think of the old “telephone” game. Where people say things to each other, and the thing changes in the telling.
    #2 – the colors fade into background and lose their significance compared to the sameness of the flower symbol. In which case I get more of your “copying” ideas concept.
    #3 is like #2, but also has the cross-cultural metaphor (and possibly a cross-history metaphor?).

    Personal pref: #2

  16. it took me a while to figure out what it was about, and i’m still guessing. if it’s how messages are transformed when transmitted from one person to another, then i can see how each of the three might indicate that. however, it wasn’t obvious.

    the flowers don’t add much from my point of view. part of it might be that i’m a little colorblind, as are many men. i can see the colors changing in #1, but there’s so much difference between each that the concept (if it IS the concept you’re trying to get across) doesn’t jump out.

    perhaps, if the line connecting the word/thought balloon on individual #A was *OBVIOUSLY* going thru something that looked like individual #2’s EAR, and each balloon was only a LITTLE different, than the concept (kind of like playing “telephone” as a kid at a party) might be clearer.

    that IS the concept, i hope . . .

  17. doh!

    i just looked at the previous page (which i should have, initially) and the three drawings there clearly show the ear, and the listening, etc. i agree that the details on the people’s dress, etc., is quite distracting.

    i’m still unclear, even after reading the info on the previous page, what you’re trying to convey. if it’s that info is spread from person to person – well, the initial picture on the previous page

    gets the idea across. however, it’s confusing to me that the “thought/idea” first comes out of individual A as a sprout, and then changes into a bud, and then into a flower. to me, it would be clearer if you just had three pictures:

    first, one showing individual’s A & 2, with the idea in A’s brain.

    next, the big panel in the middle. it’s obvious that A is saying or expressing or communicating it, via the bubble coming out of hir mouth.

    last, a panel showing both A and 2 with the same idea in their heads.

    so please ignore my previous response – i guess i didn’t get it.

  18. I’m surprised so many people like the 1st one best, since the 3rd is by far my favorite. Guess I’m in the minority here. But I just like the cute, warm, funny tone of the 3rd best. I think the message is perfectly clear in all 3 versions, it’s just more fun in the 3rd.

  19. “Bird Flew!” is the meme that is apprehended by each link in the circular chain of listeners until the originator of the phrase is treated for H1N1; drastic, preemptive authoritative action.

    The meme remains the same, kinda, but there are very human consequences for the mini-culture of the chain of participants.

    Like Lulu, I see “Telephone”, also the loaded implication of an 8-petaled lotus, and that viral/meme thing always seems to smack of pathology in consumer-cultured automata.

    Culture is strenuous work that flows from the agency of caring people. “Consumer culture” is mostly an oxymoron and an obsoleting 20th century neologism. These panels you’re presenting are all wonderful examples of collective experiments in making meaning.

    Number One on the other page.

  20. I agree the first one is graphically the strongest but it doesn’t say “what” is being communicated. The second one is more of a complete sentence but falls apart graphically. So, I would agree with the above comment to change the flower so it reads better. Your character is flat the flower should be flat, not at the ¾ angle and not shaded. Also, I like how the “word bubble” goes into the head in 1 and 2, but I prefer the detailed characters in 3. So, I’d put them closer together, lose the lower half of the body, use the simple flower and see what that yields. May be too busy? I would have to see it.

  21. Personally, I don’t think gradients mix well with simple ink/vector line art, at least not in this fashion. When trying to convey a message in graphic terms, best to keep things simple and direct.

  22. The problem with the first one is: It’s creepy. It might be about sharing information, but it might also be about making us cogs in a machine.

    The flowers don’t fix that though: they’re almost creepier because the flowers never change from person to person. If the information morphed somewhat from mind to mind, that would demonstrate the individual creativity of each person affecting the meme.

    Of course if you *want* us to imagine shiny happy brain control then you’re in good shape, and I’d stick with image one.

  23. TOP! clearest, simplest communication of the idea. I suppose you are close to the 2nd for the Asian reference/nod. 3rd tmi, idea not central.
    Nina, I love everything about you: your beautiful Sita; your clear but layered expression visually and verbally; your courage; energy; your foul mouth. Bless you. T.

  24. Interesting stuff. Topmost is my favorite, because it seems to say more with less. But, while similar, the three seem to say different things. #3 seems to be about an idea (the flower) being communicated accurately across cultures. #2 seems to be more about how the same idea appears different based on the mindset (colored field) holding it. #1 immediately reminded me of the whispers game, also called rumors, where what’s being communicated changes a little bit with each iteration until the ending message is a scarcely recognizable rendition of the initial message.

    (You can thank the WSJ for this drive by comment.) Thanks for sharing.

  25. I vote for iteration #2. In #3, though leaving more room for the visual fun of your cast of characters, the notion of a meme (or whatever you’d like to call it) being transmitted (though altered) from vector-head to vector-head is pretty lost. In the first, the constancy of a “color” category only slightly shifting loses the sense of there being anything in particular being transmitted from one mind to the other, while the flower in #2 gives a constant “something.”

    I mean, unless you’re totally going for the ultra-permeable hoo-hah of deconstructionism. That stuff makes my brain dribble out of my ears after a while (I rather like the idea that we could, in fact, convey ideas to one another… that there is *something* constant in language, despite how shifty it is, and despite the cultural difference jag you highlight in #3). But you don’t really strike me as a deconstruction gal, anyway.

  26. The top image says that sharing ideas also means interpreting them. It makes me think of the telephone game. The act of speaking is in itself an act of interpretation just as the act of listening is; when we communicate a thought we can’t help but transform it in some way. I’m not sure what the middle image says; I find it busy and confusing. The bottom image says that some ideas are constant across cultures and over time.

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