theory topics


Back to top


making and responding to effective research


1 broad and informative Research


Why do we conduct research and what can it achieve? Research is how designers gain knowledge and inspiration before and during the design of a new visual communication.


In order to design well you need to be well informed. To be well informed means you are aware of current trends in your field of design and understand parts of design history that influenced these trends.


Secondly, you will note that assessment criteria often states that students should make '... drawings in response to thorough research'. Suprisingly, the actual research may not contribute to your grade - but, how you use the research you have shown, does. This page will show you how to respond properley to your research. Research is your starting point. Collected pictures, your drawings and your written analysis of existing designs demonstrate your knowledge of the field of design you're working in.


Back to top


When to conduct your research


Students may think that reseach is a stage that is made at the beginning of a Design Process and then left behind as they begin working on their new, original designs. This is false!


Infact, it is only when one has begun to design that they realise more about the needs of that design. Research is an ongoing part of the 'cyclical' design process. As you develop and refine your ideas to higher levels, so too may you need to deepen your understanding of the design field or presentation format you are workingn towards.


Continue to add more images, textures and/or observational drawings throuought your folio in real time.


Back to top


creating a genuine relationship between research and final work


A good folio should maintain a good relationship between research images and the developing and refining work. It is often the case that a folio may be well researched at the beginning of the design process, then as the student's design progresses and takes new directions the visual roots are broken. The student ventures into ill informed territory.


It is important, as your design progresses and incorporates new ideas or visual imagery to maintain an informed approach with fresh research.


Back to top


What to research?


There are many kinds of approaches to broad and effective research. Here are three;


Client, audience
existing Products or designs

Back to top


Sources of inspiration for designers


Students should be aware of the range of places designers go to research. Why not use this range yourself. Don't just use Google images! Places where designers go to research are listed below.


Resources include;

Back to top


Acknowledging your sources


All images that are not the student's own work need to be acknowledged in the student's folio. Make sure you keep track of the book or website location when you collect your images. Write the web address beside every image.


It is not sufficient to cite 'the internet' or 'Google search' as a reference.


Back to top


what effective research looks like


A great page of research shows the student's response to the research in annotations and images. It also is a starting point for observational drawing.



Back to top


2 Responding to research


When you research you also need to show that you are responding to it. Infact the assessment criteria for the final assessment task in Year 12 Visual Communication Design does not assess research but how the student responds to it. This is the important stuff. This is the student's work.


effective annotations


When you paste in pictures you have collected you have to reflect on why you chose them and justify that choice. There are two main ways to do this:


  1. Explain how or why the image is related to the communication need in the Design Brief. For example; This kettle would be suited to the elderly as it has a large soft handle that insulates the user from the heat of the hot steam.'
  2. Explain what attracts you to the image in design and/ or aesthetic terms. Use design terminology centering around the materials, methods or media and/ or design elements and/ or principles used. Relate your comments back to the purpose, context and/ or target audeince defined in your Design Brief. For example; 'The background in this WW2 poster is done in oil paint to give a solid feel. It has strongly contrasting shapes that evoke a feel from the past. This would suit the target audience which wants a retro feel to the book cover.'
And try not to...
  1. Say 'I like this picture' without justifying the reasons in design terms. Or say, 'Because it's different!' This is meaningless.
  2. Simply describe the contents of an image. For example; 'This is a brown wooden chair.' Your assessor can see that!

Back to top


Observational drawing


The best way to get started with a new idea is sometimes to draw an existing one. Observational drawing is an important part of the Design Process. There are two ways we can use observational drawing in our research and Generation of Ideas stage:

obervational drawing as research


A page of observational drawing. Don't forget to do them from life - really!



Back to top


Creative thinking for designers


We have to think in different ways to come up with new ideas. Google creative thinking techniques for a list. Try SCAMPER, word lists, random words, or just make an old fasioned 'mind map'. Any of these ideas will help you to see your ideas in different lights.


3 Things to do for research

  1. Collect pictures of like and unlike products from the past and present.
  2. Make several observational drawings of similar products to the one you are designing. Describe the products in annotations beside your drawings. Remember, observational drawings are done by looking at the real product - not a photo!
  3. Make a written analysis of designs. Analyse the key features of existing visual communications. Make and document design decisions that were made to make the product sucessful.
  4. Collect inspirational scrapbook stuff. Don't stop at pictures. Make rubbing textures, collect paint swatches form hardwares, collect newpaper clippings of type you like, tickets from band concerts, photocopy your (or pinch someone elses) students diary, photocopy your jewlery or things from your pencil case. Make a 'secret diary page' from a grade 5 student.
  5. Describe exactly what you like about a picture. Explain why you think it is appropriate for your brief and note how you might integrate key features into your work.
  6. Conduct creative thinking techniques to get your mind going.

Back to top