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.
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.
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.
There are many kinds of approaches to broad and effective research. Here are three;
- Research the client or business (or a similar client if you have made one up). Find out about the company (or similar ones). Where do they operate? How big are they? Where do their ideas come from? Who is in their design team?
- Research design fashion trends the target audience looks at or likes. What other things do a similar age group like? Why is everthing 'retro' now. What colour or textures do they enjoy? What fashions shape they way they look?
existing Products or designs
- Research a broad range of similar products or designs from the past and present.
- Design teams 'bench mark' ideas against a range of cheaper or more expensive products designed to do the same thing,
- Go back in history to see how the design or product evolved,
- Research particular components or sections of products or designs that can be applied to yours. For example; if you need controls, look at a broad range of controls from different products from the past and present.
- Research similar products or designs from different countries and/or cultures.
- Reseach a broad range of dis-similar designs or products that you like because of the way they look. Designers often use the strategy of combining the aesthetics of something with the form and function of something else. Have you ever seen a radio that looks like an industrial machine?
- Research forms that might become the basis for your design. If you're designing an apartment block why not look at stacks of children's blocks. The most expensive and sophisticated kettles are reference pure geometric forms like cones and cylinders.
- Go back to nature. Look big. Look tiny. Let the forms of clouds, water running on glass, ice, cracked desert inspire a poster or a sky scraper.
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.
- Internet - sites on the topic - not just ‘the internet!’,
- Social Media - discussion sites where the target audience relates to others,
- Social Media image sites - Pintrest, Tumblr, etc.
- Libraries, books, magazines on the topic,
- Visit to the client’s work area,
- Field trips to museums, zoos, specific historic or natural locations - to make photographs or observational drawings from life,
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.
what effective research looks like
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.
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:
- 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.'
- 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...
- Say 'I like this picture' without justifying the reasons in design terms. Or say, 'Because it's different!' This is meaningless.
- Simply describe the contents of an image. For example; 'This is a brown wooden chair.' Your assessor can see that!
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:
- Draw existing products of the kind you are researching. This will train your eyes to see, and train your hand to draw.
- Draw objects that have similar underlying geometric forms as the products you want to design. This gets your hand moving and increases confidence in drawing similar forms to the ones you are designing.
obervational drawing as research
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.
- Collect pictures of like and unlike products from the past and present.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Conduct creative thinking techniques to get your mind going.