Masters – Practice in Context Proposal

Practice in Context Proposal – G. Sleightholme –  As handed in May, 2012.

1 – Format of Written Submission.

With subjects such as CATS – or Critical & Theoretical Studies – those students who have hoped to escape the, to them, exhausting formal linguistic rigor and difficulties with comprehension of dense language (and seemingly alien vocabulary) of written and researched information by just turning tail and throwing themselves into visually creative subjects, can be sent into apoplectic fits through the simple act of asking for a paraphrased sentence or two on a long dead, or out of (current) fashion, creative; even one in their own field.

In the realm of education this is obviously an issue; and one that needs addressing or at least softening, that is part of the reasoning behind this research in practice. So, here I am exploring:

The Visualisation of Educational Concepts for Art & Design Students.

Hopefully investigating potential visual “Gateways” to ease the students access to the (to them) inaccessible.

Text versus Image versus Text & Image.

So it is perhaps ironic that a subject that proposes a number of visual solutions is tackled in essentially the inverse manner i.e. via pure academic text and dense language.

However, given the choice between a document that is best suited for proposing ideas based upon quantitative data, or one that evidences its argument via qualitative data perhaps the Essay or Dissertation structure is the best of the limited options available.

Also in no way do my proposed ideas hope to reduce the amount of written content that a student should engage with, nor replace even one sentence; but instead simply to provide a clear and engaging gateway that allows the student to first engage with the idea of a subject or broad concept, then gently usher them towards a self-motivated investigation into the denser possibly written material on their own.

2 – Identify Practice Context

The Practice Contexts or access points and user interface points for the, as yet not fully identified, though essentially graphic or visual outcomes of my work, are essentially threefold.

1 – Intrinsic: The personal development of myself as a practitioner. The investigation of an area that, though having had a long-term interest in the subject of infographic display and Graphic design in general, will hopefully broaden my range as a both a professional practitioner.

Here I will need to put my work up for perusal and critique by my creative peer groups and creative further afield. Communities of practice online and “real world” external creative groups, groups both formal and informal and those known to me (and vice versa) and those that are not.

2 – Professional Development as an educator – looking at the development of teaching methods that I can use in my own practice and potentially share as part of both my close and extended educator based community of practice.

Looking primarily at the way information is conveyed to students, particularly in an Art School setting (as that is where my practice as an educator resides) where as discussed the students, though not quite visual learners but without doubt have a bias toward the visually stimulating (evident by their choice of subject).

I am interested in researching methodologies and stylistic considerations that could be taken in order to clearly visualise academic information to art students.

I am interested not so much in looking at the “subject specific” information as the additional, sometimes pastoral and more holistic concepts and other information that students are asked to grasp and understand, from timetables to course content and flow and ultimately there place within the college and how that fits into the wider picture of life beyond academia.

For example how to visualise “Why CATS is important and how does it relate to your studio practice?” or “How do the different modules on the Games design course relate to real world Games Studio practice?

As part of this I will no doubt need to liaise and share research and prototype designs with:

Educational Institutions – In particular Art & Design Schools.

Education Training Departments within Teaching Institutions.

And further, looking at how visually augmented, enhanced or solely visual information effects understanding amongst primarily visual and non-visual learners.

I.e. Other Unique User Groups with a Visual Bias, for example:

The users of cosmopolitan multi-lingual cities.

The Deaf.

3 – Finally, as a jumping off point for further research. As an academic educator in a higher education institute it is part of my remit to continue my research in practice or as a further academic qualification.

The act of research not simply being an end in itself or something from which practical benefit can be drawn but as a sign that the institution to which the individual belongs is still vital. Producing research that can act as a link between institutions and as a point of kudos that might draw more students to this place where even the tutors are continuing to study and learn, reflecting the principle of “Lifelong Learning”.

3 – Research Summary

Starting with a brief look at the history of visualising elaborate concepts, especially those with a social or educational message, I hope, for my own sake, to fathom the extant, abandoned and contemporary ideas and subsequent “rules” or established guidelines in developing imagery that is potentially gravid with meaning.  Investigation the thinking of accepted leaders in the field of contemporary design such as Saul Bass and Milton Glaser as well as younger more current designers and creative image-makers; and theorists that have tried to unravel the base confusion of message and delivery method and how that affects audience perception.

Alongside the history of the visualization of concepts I will need to investigate the birth of the science of Signs and the work of Charles Sanders Peirce, Charles Morris and Umberto Eco in the field of Semiotics. The once sought after grail of a concept of a Universal Visual Language, looking at the pictogram based work of Otto Neurath, Rudolf Modley and the mathematic and science based Logicians who sought it out for their own reasons.

Indeed, even investigating the science of perception itself and its relationship to the creative arts and audience, the act of visuals and image on the ability to access, decode and memorise the content of that image, and the thinking of other educators looking at this field, and those myths and hangovers of previous theories that continue to hinder or sidetrack the development of higher functioning artifacts of Information Transference.

As part of this process I will have to breakdown and perhaps even break completely with ideas relating to aesthetics that I have built up over years of professional practice and creative output. Tufte’s concept of the “data-ink ratio”, “ChartJunk”, and the possibility of holistic data truth, and it’s relation to Bauhaus’s “Form… Follows Function”, sitting at odds with my life as an illustrator and occasionally (during my tenure as a Theme Park designer) “aesthetic decorator”.

It may well be the case that as a side issue within the broader investigation I look at those fine artists that have touched upon this subject, or the wider subjects of text versus image (despite its abstracted context), Jenny Holzer, Eric Loyer, Martin Firrell, Barbara Kruger and on the opposite side of the fence, Banksy. Along with the Philosophy of Images and Modern Living.

I will need to balance this almost historical investigation with research based on specific groups, particularly potential user groups, this research may take the form of surveys, not of tick box data but qualitative responses to visual stimuli or questions relating to their relationship with information as presented visually and in written form.

This data will need to be collated and perhaps transcribed with the raw data supplied as appendices or even online “vox pop’s” footage (permissions allowing) with links supplied as appendices.

The data will then be used to describe potential outcomes or solutions, linked to design theory in order to further guide my actual practice and the drive towards potentially useful outcomes.

4 – Partial Projected Bibliography

Tufte E. R., Visual Explanations (Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative), 1997, Graphic Press LLC, USA

Tufte E. R.  Beautiful Evidence. 2006, Graphic Press LLC, USA.

Ware, C.  Information Visualisation. 2013 (not yet released), Morgan Kuafmann, China

Neurath, O. Froam Hieroglyphics to Isotype: A Visual Autobiography, 2010, Hyphen Press.

Lupton, E – Modern Design Theory. Essay, 2009, accessed online.

Bass, J, Kirkham, P. Saul Bass – A Life in Film & Design, 2011, Laurence King Publishers.

Glaser, M. Graphic Design, Revised edition, 1983, Overlook TP.

McCloud, S. Understanding Comics. 1994, William Morrow Paperbacks.

Edby Bhagat D, O’Neill, P.  Inclusive Practices, Inclusive Pedagogies Learning from Widening Participation Research in Art and Design Higher Education


 Arthur Koestler (creativity), Charles Sanders Peirce, Charles Morris and Umberto Eco (semiotics), Jean Baudrillard and Roland Barthes (Philosophy of Images), Rick Poynor et al (the Design Process)

5 – A Notional Plan/Outline of Written Submission as Chapter Headings

INTRO – “The Transparent Gateway”, the separation of delivery medium, stylistic approach from content – An Introduction.

Pt 1 – Infographics the New Black; and the search for a universal visual language.

Pt 2 – Signs, Symbols and the Intangible Painted Pipe.

Pt 3 – The Legacy of Predation, the science of perception.

Pt 4 – Chart Junk and the Data-Ink Ratio, telling the truth, holistically.

Pt 5 – Banksy vs. Baudrillard, the Philosophy of Modern Image

Pt 6 – Vox Populi and the Minds Eye, a series of encounters with image users.

CONC –  The Solid Gate and the search for transparent paint – some conclusions.

Chapter titles and occasional content may eventually vary…

Below is a visualisation creatre using Wordle that shows a visualised weighting of terms and words from the proposal which interestingly reflects what I had in mind as the core of my study… An adapted and much more adaptable version of this type of software may well be part of my final research.

~ by hesir on May 22, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: