Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Lecture Reflection: Research and Theory
Early on in this week's lecture, Martin asked us to write our definition of ‘Research,’ I wrote, “To gather information on a specific topic.” In chapter one of the book, ‘Visual research; an introduction to research methodologies in graphic design (Why and How)’ design research is defined as, “critical investigation, a search or inquiry to discover new facts and information, or the collection and collation of old data to evaluate and test hypotheses or design proposals.” The digital age has bought us easy access to the internet, thus, allowing us to be “researchers” all the time. Even of the most mundane things such as bread or milk, if we’re at a supermarket (for example) and want to find out more information on a specific ingredient.
Martin mentioned curiosity being a foundation point of research, it's part of human nature to be curious, curiosity has led us to a huge labyrinth of information across art, literature, philosophy, the list goes on. He asks us to spend 10-15 minutes to look around the rooms we’re in and ask questions about it, for example, why is it a certain colour? Why are the light fittings placed where they are? Who previously lived here? He also asks us to imagine if the room was different, if the windows were bigger or smaller, for example. He concludes by saying that through this playfulness with the imagination we’ve potentially gained more knowledge, thus the foundation of research is to evoke a sense of play and curiosity.
There are many different types of research, such as:
The investigation of graphic and visual languages in a propositional sense, rather than those that have a predetermined commercial appeal.
The investigation of a practical problem, usually with the underlying intention of creating potential practical solutions.
Research that starts from the position of a general conclusion and then searches for data to support it.
Investigation into a field of study that is based on direct observations of phenomena
Martin briefly touches on etymology, which is the study of the origin of words and how their meaning has changed over time. The designer and historian Richard Hollis has described graphic design as constituting a language in its own right: "a language with an uncertain grammar and a continuously expanding vocabulary."
In fact the term graphic design has changed its meaning over time as new technologies have developed and lines have been blurred between graphic design and other forms of visual communication such as film, photography, fine art, and fashion.
The Cambridge dictionary defines methodologies as, “a system of ways of doing, teaching, or studying something." Methodologies are the underpinning part of any research. They can vary depending upon the subject in question. As Martin describes in the lecture, “A sociologist may approach a set of research interviews using a psychoanalytic methodology, while a linguist may approach as a study using an anthropological methodology.” The methodology will change depending on the research matter that is being undertaken and the desired outcome.
In 2005 Matt Cooke decided to concentrate on developing a working methodology for his client – a UK-based cancer awareness charity. The resultant handbook presents a rationale for a method of visual thinking which is based upon a schematic diagram of the design process, together with a step-by-step, transferable system for the construction and testing of a range of public information products. The handbook, which includes information on how to conduct market research and test the viability of alternative visual strategies, was given to the client in order to rationalise the system of new design commissions and to save on the duplication of work in the areas of research and development.
Below is an example of Matt Cooke's design methodology model:
Cooke's methodology is split into four sections:
Section 1: Definition
This section covers a range of activities that can help the designer define the problem to be solved.
Section 2: Divergence
This section covers a broad range of primary and secondary research methods.
Section 3: Transformation
This section describes the development and testing of a range of potential visual solutions.
section 4: Convergence
this section details the production of the final design at full size.
A method is a way in which something is going to be done. How the research is going to be done. Martin mentions how methods in academic research are split into two distinct areas, quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative side is looking at numbers, measurements which the qualitative is focusing on language and discourse.
The object I'm going to write about is my Pentax K1000 camera. I bought it around 3/4 years ago and its served me well. It has taken some of my best photos, some of my worst, and sometimes, none at all!
I decided to write about my camera. I live in a studio apartment in Taiwan and purposely didn’t pack too much when moving here, just the essentials, so I don’t have too many objects that hold much of a story to write about. At first, I was worried about my limited possessions with the nature of the challenge, however, it made me realise that the objects I did bring with me hold some importance. It made me think of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio Four when at the end the guest is asked what item they’d bring with them onto a desert island. It then made me think of the film ‘Castaway’ (2000) where Tom Hanks is left stranded, alone, on a deserted island and befriends a football, naming it Wilson. This also made me think of the film 'Her' (2013) in which Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his AI personal assistant (Scarlett Johansson). These examples are of course extreme circumstances but this challenge did make me think about how an object can define who we while at the same time we can have such a huge attachment to an object, even though it's not a loved one and can (potentially) be easily replaced.
I live in a studio apartment in Taiwan and purposely didn’t pack too much when moving here, just the essentials, so I don’t have too many objects that hold much of a story to write about. At first, I was worried about my limited possessions with the nature of the challenge, however, it made me realise that the objects I did bring with me hold some importance. It made me think of Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio Four when at the end the guest is asked what item they’d bring with them onto a desert island. It then made me think of the film ‘Castaway’ (2000) where Tom Hanks is left stranded, alone, on a deserted island and befriends a football, naming it Wilson. The object I decided to write about is my Pentax K1000 analogue camera. Before buying the Pentax I had volunteered with Help Refugees at their Calais distribution hub. They had a small charity shop selling donated items that weren’t suitable for the camp. It’s here I bought a Kodak Brownie camera, and my love for shooting film began. I bought my Pentax on eBay for around £100 and began shooting immediately when it arrived. I love the thrill of shooting film as you never really know how the images will turn out. There were a lot of disappointments at first, but I’ve persisted and progressed and that’s the beauty. It’s a craft and it’s learnt through trial and error and research. Research to discover what film is best for what situation, researching shooting locations and other photographers for inspiration. My photographs are a reflection of my soul as the decision has gone filters within my mind ensuring that the photo won’t be a waste of film, and is worth the capture.
I began by doing a little research into Pentax K1000 cameras. They were produced between 1976-1997 (originally in Japan) and were designed to be used by amateur photographers, such as myself.
It’s also clear from looking through numerous blogs and articles that the Pentax is an extremely popular camera and is often the first film camera used amongst student photographers. There are stories of the camera being passed down through generations, which made me realise that there are probably a lot of unique stories to be told about it. My own story is one of many and I think this is a nice detail to add into my design.
Some examples of blogs people have written below:
Image (above): https://witandfolly.co/pentax-k1000-review/
Image (above): https://www.lewisfarley.com/blog
Image (above): https://blog.jimgrey.net/2012/03/05/pentax-k1000/
I originally wanted to create something with photographs I had shot on my Pentax and create a kind of spoof, “Shot on iPhone” with, “Shot on Pentax.” However, I felt that the idea with people all around the world having their own unique Pentax story was stronger. I also wanted to create something using Illustrator as I want to develop my skillset. I began by drawing my camera.
From here I decided to create faces with the camera to illustrate different people. I went for an abstract approach to reflect the uniqueness of the individual story each person would have whilst keep the colour palette the same for each illustration as the topic for each story is the same.
I then refined the designs by removing the actual face shape, to make them more abstract whilst making the overall design simpler and cleaner. As metnioned in a previous post, words that stuck with me from Daniel Eatock's guest lecture to, "Reduce everything," are a mantra I try to stick by within my own work.
After creating my first draft I realised that the text wasn't uniform to the other images in the editorial, so I adjusted this.
I got some good feedback from other students and I'm happy with the overall result. I'd like to change the hats in order to refine the illustrations more, make individual hats rather than using the same one in different colours, in order to reflect further that everyone has a unique Pentax story, people from all over the world. I'd also like to change how the text is presented, perhaps put it into a coloured box like the illustrations.
In a further tutorial with Paul he mentioned how he was slightly disappointed with my decision to use illustrations instead of my own photography. Personally, my thinking process was that I had used my own photography in the previous weeks workshop challenge and didn't want to use it again as I thought that wouldn't be challenging enough or pushing myself to learn new skills. I also wanted to emphasise that "My Pentax" is about me having one story amongst so many others. However, I wanted to take Paul's advice and looked into photography editorials further. My own story is one of many, it made me question the potential for a photography publication with photographs shot exclusively on a Pentax K1000 camera.
Mauer is a print publication that seeks to share and promote the work of emerging analog photographers from around the world. Each edition is based on a topic that works as a starting point to explore its representation through different perspectives.
The main thing I noticed about Mauer mag is that it gives all of its space to its contributors photography. There's hardly any text, it's almost like a gallery which is what its readers want, they want to view photography. The colours/theme also remains consistent on each page/double page.
I ended up changing my original concept completely after further feedback for my original idea. I originally went with an illustrated editorial as I wanted to develop my illustration skills further, however, I'm glad I went with the advice to create a photography editorial. I was pushed for time to create a new project and it would've been great to potential create a cover and have taken this further.
Noble, I. and Bestley, R. (2016). Visual research : an introduction to research methodologies in graphic design. New York: Fairchild Books.
www.mauermag.com. (n.d.). Home - Mauer Mag. [online] Available at: https://www.mauermag.com/en/ [Accessed 23 Nov. 2020].
Cambridge.org. (2019). METHODOLOGY | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/methodology.