Project Proposal: Participatory Visual Communications for Empowerment


This Research Module will focus on innovation for my professional work:

to produce on-line animated interactive training resources for empowerment that are accessible to all, require little or no translation and can be downloaded to a mobile phone from the Internet.

This builds on my professional work skills and the research project aims to address key gaps in my skill set in relation to graphic design and animation to make much more engaging and impactful pictorial materials. Pictorial materials avoid the need for translation, be accessible for people who cannot read and write and increase communication between people of very different levels of education. Low bandwidth materials for mobile download in rural areas would enable cost-free dissemination. Increasing numbers of men and women farmers these days have smart phones and are on facebook, particularly youth.

The resources will include:

i. very simple but expressive animated single image and sequential narrative cartoons using Adobe Animate/Illustrator/After Effects.  A number of digital styles could be explored for different types of content/animation and market-tested: a) collating the most expressive drawings and diagrams from communities using flipcharts and four coloured markers presented as a visual narrative b) producing my own new drawings in the community visual drawing style using markers and flipcharts c) digitising this community visual style in Illustrator or iPad  d) digital pixels e) colour drawing on photographs from workshops and role plays. These have a potentially huge outreach at significantly reduced cost as part of more home-based work contracts for me with development agencies and private companies.

ii) pictorial-based infographics bringing this information together into diagrammatic narratives

iii) Interactive pictorial website section using Animate html canvas and Dreamweaver/Wordpress where this material would be hosted. This website should be navigable for people who have access to rural computing centres/mobile internet even if they cannot read and write, linked to other my other existing websites for more information and written material.

iii. App download of website and material??. (maybe not necessary?)

Taking at least a couple of pieces to completion and made available on an expandable website should generate further client-led paid work as with international development agencies as part of more home-based contracts to produce training materials on other topics.

I already have a wealth of primary source material from communities in different parts of the world. It is likely that further more targeted material can be collected as part of my professional work over the course of the module. Whatever happens I have ways of testing materials for community and staff feedback with organisations in different parts of Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, DRC, Ghana among others) and Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Philippines).

1 Initial ideas

My Visual Communications practice is currently split between:

  • graphic design and photography/video/web design interests related to my professional work
  • art, illustration and printmaking I do for pleasure/relaxation/creative outlet.

I have separate websites, on-line identities and networks for each, and this separation will continue. A key issue being my need to diversify my physical activity away from computers and even iPad to avoid/manage RSI. I want to continue this diversity of activity and subject matter into level 3, upgrading my skills across the range of my interests, but bring my skills and approach together more, and increase linkages.

Mind Map for Visual Communications degree - provisional plan October 2018
Mind Map for Visual Communications degree – provisional plan October 2018

In the VisCom degree, as outlined in the MindMap plan above, I am planning to focus on:

Module 1 Advanced Practice: traditional digital illustration skills around related themes of documentary, psycho-geography and landscapes in UK.

Module 2 Research: my work-related skills in participatory community-led visual communication, building on past and forthcoming community-level work to produce an on-line interactive pictorial training package on leadership development. As outlined in more detail below this will entail significantly improving my graphic design, animation and web design skills.

Module 3 Sustaining Your Practice: will then bring these two levels together in some way yet to be decided. Probably focusing on the idea of ‘landscaping’ or human  interactions with natural and built environments. Producing a range of on-line and physical outputs for activism at personal, local, national and international levels. Using material from my work travel to Africa and South East Asia, and the input from Module 1 and the on-line graphic design skills from Module 2.


I will do a review of NGO illustration and graphic design styles. But much of this I find a bit monotonous – with a few exceptions. One of my main aims will be to explore and adapt innovative styles from beyond the development world. The main sources of inspiration will be:

For drawing:

  • Islamic protest artists and illustrators like Marian Satrapi (Persepolis graphic novel and animation) and Middle East Street Art.
  • Western political cartoonists, caricaturists and illustrators like Art Spiegelman (Maus), Ralph Steadman, Steve Bell, Steve Brodner
  • Minimalist surrealist illustrators like Alessandro Gottardo and David Shrigley
  • Japanese cartoon and manga artists including Yoshimoto Nara

For graphic design:

  • African geometric styles
  • Islamic geometric styles
  • Western graphic designers: Neville Brody, Philippo Marinetti, Wolfgang Weingart, Sarah Fanelli, fanzines

1.2 How will it extend my previous projects?

My primary material will include:

  • Community drawings on leadership from past participatory workshops in Tanzania and Ethiopia and possible future workshops during my work on this module.
  • My own photos from these workshops
  • My own sketches using materials available within communities: markers, felt tips, crayon, simple notebooks and flipcharts
  • My own digital extension of these in Illustrator, Flash and InDesign

Some of my work community-level work – innovative and distinctive within my professional field – was presented in:

  • Book Design 1 Image and Text
  • Illustration 2 Project 4.4 Street Art
  • Illustration 2 Project 4.5 Contemporary Ceramics

It will also aim to significantly improve my graphic design and illustration skills that I started to develop in:

and build on e-book and animation work I did in:

what you could do to extend each project and itemise areas of potential
interest from each one.

Now look specifically at the visual pieces and think carefully about your personal visual voice.

• What
makes your work different from other people’s?

• How do
you produce your work?

• Do you
have a specific style?

• Do you
predominantly use certain media?

• Do you
tackle certain topics?

another look at the critical reviews you produced at Level 2 and your tutor’s
feedback to these. What do you need to improve now that you’re working at Level

Mind Map for Visual Communications Degree
Mind Map for Visual Communications Degree

1.3 Identify your strengths and weaknesses

To help you make a start, take a look at Emma Powell’s ideas for mapping, mind-mapping and concept mapping: Link 2, 3 and 4.

Now analyse your strengths and weaknesses using four different techniques:

a) SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

b) PEST (Political, Economic, Social, Technological)

c) Mind-map

d) Concept map

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