3: Visualising Empowerment (Oct 2019)

See: Assignment 3: Gathering Data (forthcoming October 2019)

‘what does empowerment look like?’ how does creative application of visual dynamics of line, shape, colour and placement lead to different possible ’empowerment translations’ rather than imposing one particular style or view.

Community Empowerment Voices

My exploration starts with visual review and semiotic analysis of drawings and role play photographs of empowerment and disempowerment from women and men in communities I have worked with. I select community drawings from different participatory processes which I have facilitated or been very closely involved and so have good visual materials and documentation to work with. These are yet to be finalised, but likely to include:

I consider how different visual styles and media affect how ‘meaning’ has been, or might be, interpreted in different contexts. I also point to a number of different ways in which drawings and photographs can be used as the basis for wordless info-graphics and disseminated by the organisations involved.

I begin with semiotic and visual analysis of what I consider to be the most interesting community drawings from participatory workshops where I was directly involved or where there is good documentation for me to understand the meanings intended and the visual communication process that led to the visual outputs. The aim will be a comparative study of ‘universals’ and ‘specificities’ of empowerment visions and communication styles and how these are affected by different media, contexts and participant backgrounds. Some examples so far that I will develop further are:

  • Kyrgyzstan??
  • DRC??
  • Ethiopia??

Visual dynamics principles and techniques

Part of my aim will be to significantly broaden the range of graphic styles that might be considered as ‘professional’ by people in development agencies through referring to styles employed by artists and illustrators. As is consistent with the bricolage approach, I want to leave this selection open and contingent on requirements of the content being translated.

I take inspiration from selected international illustrators who work in a direct and simple style with no or minimum text and is likely to include:

  • Tracy Emin (expressive, nervous line in drawing)
  • Michel Basquiat (bold, angry, colour)
  • Eva Pienkovska (angular expression and colour)
  • STIK (large stick figures with expression)
  • David Shrigley (thick line direct style)
  • Yoshimoto Nara (large head and dramatic expressions in simple drawing)
  • Marjan Satrapi (bold black and white shape-based drawings)
  • African and Pakistani/Islamic illustrators yet to be identified.

Visual innovation

I develop a number of libraries of digital symbols in a range of graphic and cultural styles in Adobe Draw and Illustrator that communicate what participants said was the meaning of the original drawings and/or could visually communicate new meanings related to empowerment (eg vulnerability/confidence, tradition/change)

I plan to use Adobe Draw on my iPad to analyse and make vector copies from photographs of selected community drawings, then send these to Adobe Illustrator on my pc to produce a series of symbol and style libraries that produce a range of possible ‘translations’ of the original meanings.

Selected graphic symbols will be available for download from this blog as png images for use in Word and Powerpoint.