Innovating structures - illustration practice prototypes new possibilities in research

Grandfield, Geoffrey (2021) Innovating structures - illustration practice prototypes new possibilities in research. In: Education and Illustration : Models, Methods, Paradigms, 11th Illustration Research Symposium; 11-12 Feb 2021, Kingston, U.K. (Held online). (Unpublished)


The paper will provide an overview of issues and considerations that relate to supervising Illustration Practice (IP) based doctoral research, applying innovatory research methods to establishing new knowledge and its effective sharing. The lack of discipline specific research, theory and critical analysis maintains Illustration as an overlooked academic practice. Emergent understandings of expanded IP as a research tool collide with entrenched associations and academic / cultural / systemic bias. University Research culture has been dominated by the alpha-numeric dualism of either quantitative values such as particularity and conclusive results, or qualitative enquiry through process orientated exploratory breadth and interpretation. Both historically communicated through the non-visual prisms of words and numbers. These tools limit and perhaps distort ontological enquiry. IP presents the locus and identity for diverse ways of working that can combine art, design, technology and science and the capability to exist in both qualitative and quantitative research realms. While the natural location in the academy for Illustration research practice appears to be in the latter, illustration has been defined by its use by the more economically significant former. The academic world of quantitative fact appears to distrust pictures unless employed as a representational ‘fig.1’. and categorises illustration as a commercial mass consumption mimetic. That may be partly true when commodified, but its methodological ability to generate from the emotional life of society is one of its great strengths and potential for new knowledge. The inherent plasticity of the discipline contributes a bridging device between the opacity of academic disciplines. Understanding the positioning of creative interpretative image generation within academic structures, how IP methodology contributes research outcomes and can be used by a larger research community is a key consideration for IP based doctoral research. Illustration as more than a representational form is a key part of the validation of interpretative practice and a new understanding of its societal value.

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