1b Research Proposal: Narrowing down the topic

Participatory VisCom model

1.4.1 Is the project driven by visual or written work.

This research is driven by visual challenges thrown up by my professional work on empowerment and leadership through participatory workshops with farmers, companies and development agencies. It is part of the development of a new model for participatory visual communication in development (see modelling above).

Addressing those visual challenges to translate drawings and photographs from the participatory workshops into powerful narratives that can work over multiple contexts to promote communication between farmers in different places and companies and development agencies requires research on other illustrators and animators who have developed engaging textfree narratives. This will establish some guidelines and principles that can be generalisable to other participatory communication processes – replacing currently ‘professionalised’ design with communication based directly on farmer visual images.

1.4.2 Action Plan

February – July Assignment 2

    • Review and cross-cultural analysis of existing farmer drawings and photographs in different countries in Africa and Asia from my own archive and from other colleagues – community farmer trainers and staff in companies and development agencies.
    • Download and analysis of known internet resources and search for other material on empowerment and leadership
    • Facebook discussion on VisCom4Dev set up on gamechange Facebook page
    • Review and analysis of books on textless (or near textless) infographics and 1 page comics
    • Review and analysis of textless animations on-line and methodologies of designing 60 second animations and interactive presentations.
    • Development of underlying viscom framework for the research and experimentation
    • Learning Adobe Animate in depth from manuals

July – December Assignment 3

  • Visual research and experimentation with converting selected farmer images and photographs into 1 page infographics, 60 second animations and interactive presentations
  • Sharing of my experiments as I proceed to get ideas and feedback from development colleagues (I want to get the development content agreed first)
  • Refinement of the experiments on the basis of feedback (depending on my consultancy work, I hope to be able to test directly with communities)

January-end Feb Assignment 4 

  • Sharing the revised infographics, animations and presentations with visual communications networks for feedback on design and aesthetics and communication to a wider audience
  • Further revisions to the materials in the light of that feedback and revisiting the theoretical research from Assignment 2
  • Drafting the Research Report

Feb-end March 2020 Assignment 5

  • Final revisions and review

1.4.3: Visual research: What do I want to achieve?

I want to develop skills in  designing simple textless infographics and animations  with interactivity in Adobe Animate.

I want to consolidate skills in:

  • ways of converting farmer drawings into usable digital form using image trace and blend modes etc in  Adobe Illustrator and/or Photoshop and/or Animate.
  • use of my own and other photographs eg through working over them in gouache/pen/crayon and/or collage to tell ‘reality-based’ narratives.

I want to produce:

  • a series of textless one page info-graphic comics, 60 second animations and interactive presentations based on farmer drawings and role plays about empowerment and leadership for download onto mobile phones to increase farmers’ voice in communicating with other farmers and companies and development agencies worldwide.
  • a short set of principles and guidelines on making engaging textless animation that can be applied by farmers and local organisations using locally available Apps on mobile phones

This will require review of:

  • farmer drawings on empowerment and leadership from participatory workshops I have facilitated
  •  company/NGO/academic ‘expert’ empowerment training materials
  • Design principles used by illustrators and animators who have produced simple wordless narratives, particularly those working in Flash
  • Types of Apps for local mobile smartphones

I want to promote my work to:

  • Farmers in Africa and Asia through on-line social networks and contacts I have
  • communities, companies, agencies and researchers interested in farmer empowerment
  • Illustration/animation forums interested in participatory/community VisCom

I want to refine my own skills in expressive textless visualisation and video design principles to be able to make the best use of farmer drawings

I want to explore

  • How textless visual communication works – types of framing, juxtaposition and contrast, role of humour/tension, timing etc
  • Differences in audience response to drawing and photo-based information and different roles these might play, can they be combined?
  • Different layout options for one page comics/infographics
  • Different methods of animating : stop motion of drawing process or role play, frame by frame and tweening
  • How far the same images can be used in layout and animation and what design adaptations might be needed going from sequence/infographic to animation.
  • How the original drawings are best done and preserved to maximise the ease of digitisation/photographing
  • How far these methods and principles can be applied by farmer organisations and local development organisations using software available to them

I want to prove that:

  • it is possible to create powerful textless one page comic infographics and short animations and presentations based on farmer drawings and role plays.
  • It is possible to do this at least to some extent using media available in communities and software that is available to most development agencies.

I want to involve:

  • farmers, local organisations and companies facilitating empowerment and leadership capacity-building with whom I am in regular WhatsAp/Facebook contact with in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Philippines.
  •  others working on empowerment and leadership in international development agencies and academic institutions
  •  infographic designers and animators and OCA VisCom students who might be interested in giving feedback from a design/aesthetic perspective

I want to integrate:

  •  visual communications theory (semiotics, post-modernist/feminist approaches), design and animation principles  and
  • participatory development theory: theories of change and empowerment and leadership methodologies.

to develop a new model of participatory visual communications that enables the voices of farmers to be powerfully represented in strategy and policy.

5 Narrowing down your research topic

4.1 Look through and identify main areas of interest

I started by printing out and pasting all the elements from my previous maps that were relevant for my answers in Question 3. The remaining elements I pasted on a separate page for possible follow up later in other modules or outside this degree.

Maps revisited and refined
Maps revisited and refined

2 Take each starting point and turn it into a series of questions

My starting points focused on a range of different types of output:

  1. How can information graphics best communicate voices of women, youth and men farmers to global companies, development agencies and researchers using insights from visual communications theory on semiotics and cross-cultural design?
  2. Most infographics integrate text and image. How far can the text be eliminated? When is text really needed? (involving me working with existing infographics by development agencies and seeing how far I can simplify and remove text, drawing on examples from illustration)
  3. How can collage and layout design principles be used to produce clear textless infographics using photographs of farmer role plays and drawings of empowerment and leadership?
  4. How can textless animation design principles be applied to farmer drawings and role play photographs to create powerful 60 second animations on empowerment and leadership?
  5. How far and in what ways do animation and interactivity add to clarifying textless communication farmer-identified  empowerment strategies ? What lessons can be learned from illustrators and animators?
  6. Which design and story-telling principles used by animators and illustrators creating textless narratives are most important in converting farmer drawings and photos into powerful representations of farmer voices on empowerment and leadership in development?

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