Week Six: Research and Curate

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

This weeks lecture was an extremely insightful glimpse into the world of publishing.

The lecture began with various ways of researching, one of which was ethnographic research.

Ethnographic research describes the study of people's lives from the perspective of their communities. While conducting ethnographic research, it's common for the researchers to live among the inhabitants to fully understand the culture.

Before such research takes place it's important to define your objectives. Key objectives could be one or more of the following:

  • To gain insight and understanding into a particular society or culture.

  • To identify a new burgeoning lifestyle or subculture.

  • To reveal new consumer patterns or perspectives.

  • To provide a voice for social or cultural groups.

It was mentioned that the most effective formats for ethnographic research are documentary film or photography.

One particular photographer whose work I admire is Steve McCurry. His photographs are beautifully shot and document the country, culture, situation that he's in. Below are a couple of examples.

Image: https://www.photocrowd.com/blog/159-how-shoot-steve-mccurry/

Image: https://www.photocrowd.com/blog/159-how-shoot-steve-mccurry/

Richard Mosse

Richard Mosse is an Irish conceptual documentary photographer. Mosse gained significant attention for his photographs of the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo using colour infrared film intended to create a new perspective on conflict.

"Art is a way of articulating topics/subjects that we struggle to"

Richard Mosse

Image: https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/2764/richard-mosse-the-enclave

Image: https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/gallery/2764/richard-mosse-the-enclave/0

Andrew Sanigar

Andrew Sanigar is the commissioning editor at Thames & Hudson. Andrew is responsible for publishing visual culture of all areas, such as:

  • Fashion

  • Photography

  • Design

"The role of a book designer should be an active one"

Andrew Sanigar

Image: https://www.pentagram.com/work/thames-and-hudson-2

Andrew spoke about many aspects of publishing within his conversation with Stuart. Firstly, he discussed what is required for making a book, such as, dimensions, paper, text, and illustrations (to name a few). He then spoke of the key elements required for making a good visual culture book, such as:

  • Clear audience

  • Clear focus

  • Why the audience needs it?

  • Format

  • Price

Key Stages When Publishing a Book


  1. Proposal

  2. Development

  3. Publishing Meeting

  4. Formalised Proposal

  5. Sample Visuals

  6. Cost Through

  7. Second Follow Up Meeting

  8. Formal Offer to Author

  9. Contract and Dates

Andrew mentioned that from the initial proposal to the book being on the shelf can take 2/3 years, if not longer, however, there are exceptions to this dependant on how relative the topic of the book is to a certain moment in time. An example of this was Cold War Steve Presents The Festival of Brexit. His Twitter feed, McFadden’s Cold War, has become a cult phenomenon, with over 120,000 followers. Begun as a personal reprieve from an often-bleak political climate, Cold War Steve (Christopher Spencer in real life) started collaging images of longstanding Eastender Steve McFadden (aka Phil Mitchell) into Cold War-era scenarios, using a £3 smartphone app while commuting. As ‘Brexit Britain’ began to take shape his output has taken an increasingly surreal, satirical turn – in what some are calling ‘furious absurdism’ – creating dystopian, absurdly funny Brexit-era landscapes populated with a rotating cast of political, cultural or otherwise newsworthy (or not) figures, and ever-present Fray Bentos pies. A pitch-perfect marriage of Internet meme culture and the political lampoon, Cold War Steve satirizes our increasingly incongruous-seeming popular-political culture with quintessentially British humour. At the time, Christopher Spencer's popularity grew along with the time leading up to Brexit which marked a relevant time (and short period of time) for which the book could be published and marketed at the right time.

Image: https://thamesandhudson.com/cold-war-steve-presents-the-festival-of-brexit-9780500022894

What Do Printed Books Offer That Digital Technology Cannot?

  • Reliability

  • Great Photography

  • Art Direction

  • Passion

The lecture finished with describing the qualities a book designer should hold. He/she should be:

  • Really production savvy

  • Strong typographically

  • Always engaged with the text and author

To conclude, Andrew mentioned that he sees the future of visual culture books to be more of a practical nature. Practical guides on how to make and do.

Irma Boom: A Tribut to Coco Chanel

“It’s also a tribute to Coco Chanel. To envision this book, the person Chanel and to make a book which represents her but also the illusion of Chanel No. 5.”

Irma Boom

Image: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/471963235926661600/

Though Boom has infused her pages with scent in the past, she didn’t want to do so for this book commissioned by the Parisian fashion house. She simply felt it would be too blatant and instead chose a more subtle approach: The 300-page book has no ink – instead the text and images narrating the story of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel are embossed onto the paper. Moreover, the book is made entirely in white (encased in a black box), and in some lighting the embossings consequently appear somewhat invisible. Making an invisible book for an almost invisible perfume made perfect sense to Boom: “It’s also a tribute to Coco Chanel. To envision this book, the person Chanel and to make a book which represents her but also the illusion of Chanel No. 5.”

“It’s all calculation.” Boom’s books are always based on mathematics, so when she found out that Coco Chanel had the same approach, and furthermore believed in numerology (which is also why the legendary perfume bears the number 5), everything seemed to come together.

I enjoyed watching this video and learning about Boom's process. it's fascinating to see how all the details (however big or small) have been considered in visualising this story. The design fits in perfectly with Chanel, subtle, elegant, and slightly mysterious.

Workshop Challenge

Proposal One

In light of China's recent ban on imported Taiwanese grown pineapples, a decision widely seen in Taiwan as a political move meant to economically pressure the country, I want to research and celebrate this fruit that has captivated us for years. A fruit that has inspired artists, chefs, architects.A fruit that has a long list of symbolic meanings, such as wealth, luxury, hospitality, and now (for the Taiwanese) freedom and solidarity. I want to specify my research to three areas of how the pineapple has influenced creativity, culinary, and culture. I hope this will be a fruitful exploration of a fruit that continues to captivate.

Image: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4140768

Images (below) taken by at the Taiwan Design Museum

Image: The rise, fall, and rise of the status pineapple - BBC News

Image: https://eatock.com/2004/clementine/

Image: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/668714244655607017/

Image: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/market-crash-cost-newton-fortune-180961655/

Image: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2017/09/rise-and-fall-adam-and-eve-exploring-myth-original-sinners

Proposal Two

I moved to Taiwan in January 2019 and a month later I saw a cherry blossom tree for the first time, I was completely in awe of it. Although they're not exclusive to Asian countries, they are more common here and is considered the national flower of Japan. They blossom between mid-January to March and create a great spectacle that attracts people from all over the world. They've inspired art, music, and poetry. As an amateur photographer, I find them captivating, but why? Why do they draw so much attention? Is it purely aesthetic or do we draw a more philosophical attachment? Is the short blossoming period a reminder of our fleeting youth and beauty or even the fragility of life itself? And what can we learn from the cherry blossom as the delicate, fragile ecosystem is being threatened by human activity?

PDF Proposals One & Two

Download PDF • 1.20MB


I've enjoyed learning about publishing this week. I've often found myself looking at books and wondered how they've come about, what processes they've gone through. It was interesting hearing about Andrew Sanigar talk about the future of books. With an online presence the need for books has diminished slightly yet there's a market still for them, even with the invention of iPads and Kindles and such. I agree that there'll always be a desire for printed materials, online materials don't always seem to satisfy all the senses, but of course, the content provided, with visual culture, for example, will have to change slightly.


flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/691/pages/week-6-lecture-research-and-curate?module_item_id=49394 [Accessed 9 Mar. 2021].

Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Richard Mosse. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Mosse [Accessed 9 Mar. 2021].

thamesandhudson.com. (n.d.). Cold War Steve Presents... The Festival of Brexit. [online] Available at: https://thamesandhudson.com/cold-war-steve-presents-the-festival-of-brexit-9780500022894 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2021].

Channel, L. (2015). Irma Boom: A Tribute to Coco Chanel. [online] Vimeo. Available at: https://vimeo.com/142852186 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2021].

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