Sara’s Talk: Introduction to Visual Research

Monday was the first day as a first year student on the graphic design student at London Met. To start the day off, we were in lecture hall CR1-00, where Sara Carnholm had led a presentation on Visual Research. In the talk, it was mentioned that design was a process and although is important, the aspect of graphic design should not be all and end of it all research, development and process of work all create a coherent process that creates a good, functional and designed objective.

Things like visual maps and illustrations can help to show the process of an ongoing design and it’s important to jot these things down as seeing it in paper in front of us makes it something we can look at and follow accordingly. It was then stated that research is systematic (ie. methodical, done according to a system) and therefore Design is systematic.

The visual research part is important because this shows that you are able to progress your work, and can pick and choose relevant things that will be add to your designs. It’s important for all our tutors, looking at our visual research that they can see our process and progress in its entirety. Our peers will also be interested in our visual research because from them, we can also pick up little things that can add to our processes, however we will learn from them and from being in a creative and constructive environment. Not least of all, the industry will also be interested in our visual research, because it is potential employers that will be interested in the way we work and the way we think. Through an effective creative process and visual research we can start developing our own way of designing and we can let them know who we are.

The first thing to think about is what it is we will be documenting. It could be a book or a website link, or a video or photos, anything, and so we have to document the format in the most effective way. Sara’s example was a book, and so she asked us to think about what is essential about a book and how does it work? We should therefore show how it works, and try to go into details to make it look the best it can be by taking into consideration things like lighting, background, detail and function.

We should therefore try to find ways to add to our visual research at every step, be it through drawings and doodles or anything that is interesting. We can also try to explore with animations and different formats, make charts and use different colours, as these can help our end product. Lastly, but by no means the least important, we are advised to annotate (Write down what and why we are doing those things).

Some things to consider when it’s presented to us, and we were advised to be specific in our visual research and told not go over the top however be more to the point about what is and how it is important in relation to our project. Good references should also be used, and long quotes taken from Wikipedia are frowned upon. If we are told to look at the work of a specific artist, it is because they want us to find inspiration from it somehow, but not to copy or imitate another artists work. With all of this said, we were recommended some books and websites, and left to muse on our first lecture of the year with a five-minute break.

The books and weblinks that were told for us to look at were:


  1. Visual Research: An Introduction to Research Methodologies in Graphic Design, Ian Noble
  2. Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators & Creatives, Richard Brereton
  3. Typographic Sketchbooks, Steve Heller and Lita Talacrico
  4. Left to Right: The Cultural Shift from Words to Pictures, David Crow



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