I am developing a toon story to illustrate my company's offerings. May be I'll use a landing page, or just create it on the home page.

I have 3 actors in it, a cab driver, a bpo company owner and me. I am using speech bubbles to connect the problem of cab driver's, bpo company owners to a solution that my actor will speak.

I am using rounded rectangle bubbles for all. Is that ok ? Do the speech bubbles have some specific meaning ? I know rounded direction means thought, straight line direction means talking. I tried to google, I just got a lot of text trying to explain, but no clear guidelines on what type of speech bubble to use when.

Edited, I wonder if I have represented the bubbles correctly ?

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  • Unfortunately, this is more of a "sequential art" question than a UX question -- maybe you should ask this over on the Graphic Design SE? Dec 4 '12 at 20:33
  • 3
    It probably would help if your characters were a little more conversational, terse, and not so 'marketing speak'. Aug 22 '14 at 18:52

Depending on how much dialog you need to fit in, you'll probably find it creates a simpler, more streamlined aesthetic to remove the lines around the speech altogether and just have a short line from the character pointing to the speech. It's not clear whether your story will be on the web or not, but this design aesthetic is especially true in web-based applications. I read a lot of webcomics, and most of them just use a line from the character toward the speech to signify who's speaking. Some even omit the lines in most cases, relying upon the proximity of the speech to the character to show who's speaking.

If you have a large amount of narration that you need to distinguish from characters' speech and do decide to include lines around speech, here are some general rules as to what various shapes of bubbles signify:

A cloud with circles leading to it signifies a thought not spoken aloud.

thought bubble

An oval-shaped bubble (or more rarely a rounded rectangular one) signifies speech.

oval speech bubble rectangular speech bubble

An oval bubble with ovals leading to it is ambiguous as to whether it's thought or spoken and should thus be avoided.

oval speech bubble with ovals leading to it
(source: freestockphotos.biz)

A jagged speech bubble indicates shouting.

shouting speech bubble

A zig-zagging line is common for text coming through a computer or telephone.

comic with examples of zig-zagging lines. source http://xkcd.com/565/


For the most part, it's an artform; aside from the few major types that people have already pointed out, as long as it's clear which is which (and you're consistent in doing so), you'll be fine.

If you're getting really clever, though (and you might be), there's a full collection of Comic Book grammar.


Speech bubble (often called speech balloons) types are mostly indicated by the part pointing to the person that they are referring to.

In the image below (from Wikipedia) the bubbles / balloons indicate: speech, thought, shouting.

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