When I was 9 years old, my third grade teacher let me teach the class how to draw cartoon characters… And I haven’t stopped talking about the stuff since!

I have spoken about visual language theory for over 20 years to audiences of students, researchers, comic creators, scholars, companies, non-profits, and the general public. Using dynamic, rapid-paced, image rich slide shows and/or spontaneous drawings, my talks cover the cognition of graphics, drawing, comics, and/or emoji, situated in my research on linguistics and cognitive neuroscience.

Presentations usually last between 30 to 120 minutes, depending on the subject matter and venue, and I can be available and enthusiastic for questions.

I usually tailor the topic and presentation to the audience, but my most frequent talks discuss (but are not limited to):

  • How do we create multimodal interactions between speech, gestures, and drawing?
  • What is the relationship between language and graphics?
  • How do our brains understand comics and visual narratives?
  • What is the effect of fluency, development, and neurodiversities on visual narrative comprehension?
  • How do comics differ around the world, and how do these patterns connect to those in spoken languages?
  • How is drawing structured and how should we teach it?
  • Are emoji a language, and what are their vocabulary and grammar?

Selected prior speaking can be found on my Curriculum Vitae and videos. In addition to innumerable talks at universities, I’ve given keynotes for various conferences (EMNLP, Society for the Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image, International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature), and have spoken for various organizations (Adobe Research, SRI International, Microsoft FUSE Labs, SPAWAR) and museums (Kyoto Manga Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art).

If you are interested in having me present at your venue, or just want more information, I encourage you to email me.

Neil Cohn Teaching
Neil Cohn Teaching

Teaching and Workshops

Teaching is one of my biggest passions, and I have been instructing several university courses on multimodality and visual language for over 15 years. I can teach classes ranging from day-long workshops to week-long intensives.

My classes cover the theory and research behind the cognition of the visual languages in drawings and comics, and/or about the application of this theory to comic creation. I often construct workshops to the interests of those in attendance (often on the fly!), making each workshop a unique and interactive experience. Course topics include:

  • Visual Language Theory – the structure and cognition of drawing, graphics, and multimodal communication
  • Visual Narrative Structure and Cognition – how we make meaning out of sequential images like comics and film, and the structure of narrative more broadly
  • Multimodality – how do the vocal, bodily, and graphic modalities combine to create meaning?

I also teach workshops on comics creation, including for practical communication in science and health, such as my Visual Thinking and Composition courses at Tilburg University.

My availability for extensive workshops is limited, but I am always enthusiastic about doing them. Please email me if an event like this interests you.

Neil Cohn lecturing