On what should have been the opening day of the 49ᵉ festival de la BD d’Angoulême, I felt like doing a post about a comic.
Two natural questions arose:
- Which comic to choose? knowing that I read very very few.
- What kind of post to do?
Which comic book to choose?
The choice fell directly on a graphic novel:
- Who had received the “Fauve d’or” at a previous edition of the Angoulême Festival.
- “readable by people who never read comics”.
In short, you’ve all guessed it! It is indeed The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf.
A post, an analysis
Because of my job (data scientist) and my field of expertise (User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI)), I have algorithmically analyzed the reading experience of this comic. This post reports on that analysis. In this case, the different elements evaluated support some well-known singularities of the comic book artist.
So what about this analysis?
- A screen video of my reading of the first pages of l’arabe du futur (in digital format) has been recorded. A summary of this video is available in the summary tab of the shared project here.
- This video was uploaded to the UXvizer platform, a solution we developed to automatically analyze the UX of a digital interface. This technology has the particularity of extracting a certain number of graphic and dynamic criteria.
Reading contexts analyzed
The segmentation of the playback video detected 9 different playback contexts:
On which a graphical analysis has been carried out.
Note that the title page is absent from this segmentation. It has not been detected as a context. It is, however, present in the reader’s journey, but it has been classified as a reading transition.
The sequence of images extracted from the analysis details this transition effect:
Texts similar to a press article
It can be seen that the area taken up by text in comparison with the area of a drawn page is particularly large. Indeed, the reading area varies between 18% and 40% of the page:
This is equivalent to the reading area of a newspaper website. In fact, in this type of site, line spacing, paragraph spacing, advertising space and also images The textual part of the site takes up only 20% to 50% of the screen.
How were these ratios calculated? They represent the area of all the word boxes (in green below) in relation to the total area of the page:
In addition to the importance of the text in l’arabe du futur, its formatting is comparable to an article. The near omnipresence of narrative elements at the top of each of the vignettes is reminiscent of the columnar reading of a newspaper article.
To this is added a direct writing style. So many characteristics of Riad Sattouf’s work that make it easier to read:
“I make comics for people who don’t read comics. That’s my obsession.”
Riad Sattouf – excerpt from an interview on the programme Ca fait du bien of 14 June 2021.
This effort to make it easy to read is also reflected in its typography: a sufficiently thick, large, black font on a white background. A contrast ratio and typographic characteristics that are accessible and readable by all.
Colours for a reader-centric approach
The second notable and singular point of the cartoonist: monochrome. One colour for one environment.
In this case, blue is associated with Brittany, yellow with Libya and pink with Syria. (The latter colour is absent from the first pages of the comic).
“I impose constraints on myself, in order to make the reading easier and the experience more intense.”
Riad Sattouf – extract from an interview conducted by Laurent Beauvallet and published by Ouest France on 28/03/2020.
This limitation on colours and their low number contribute to making the reading simple. This is comparable to the best practices for creating a graphic interface! One colour for one action. And the number of colours is limited to 5 to make it easier to remember.
The colour palette of these 9 plates speaks for itself. The monochrome contextualises, supports and naturally gives rhythm to the reading.
Another notable fact is the dominance of white. If we extract the three most representative colours from the image on the pages of the comic book, white is in the lead colour. It is most often followed by the monochrome of the country in which the story takes place and the black used for the text and drawings.
This proportion of white is explained by the natural margins of the page, but also by the numerous and voluminous cartridges and speech bubbles. Another characteristic shared with traditional stories or newspaper articles.
These graphic and stylistic constraints present in the boards of “L’arabe du futur” are at the service of the reader, for his or her comfort and to create a unique experience.
What Riad Sattouf has succeeded in doing with “l’Arabe du futur”, a Reader eXperience (RX) of great quality.
I would like to thank Victor Garcia for his article in l’express about Riad Sattouf and his autofiction. He gave me free access to the first pages of the Arab of the Future comic book in digital format. This made possible the visual analysis that was made of it.
Thanks also to Vincent Josse, producer of the programme Le grand atelier on France Inter, for his programme dedicated to Riad Sattouf, on 12 May 2019. The topics discussed allowed the interpretation of the objective metrics extracted from the visual analysis.