In preparation for our full dissertations which we will write in third year (next year), we were set the assignment of writing our dissertation proposals.
Our proposals were made up of an opening overview, a literature review in the middle, and a research plan to end the essay. It was definitely a tricky one to write, particularly the literature review as I had no idea what one even was up until this task. Before beginning the writing of the proposal, the first thing we had to choose a question or topic to write about. Although I had several ideas, I decided on the topic of subcultures after studying them in Constellation lectures in my first year of university with Cath Davies and knowing that I really enjoyed the subject and found it fascinating – after all, my topic had to be something I was interested by because I am going to be writing an entire book on it.
To help me settle on an exact topic or question which included the subject of subcultures, I filled in a planning form. Although there were five types of dissertation structures that I could choose from on the form, the main two which interested me were the 8000 to 10,000 word thesis, or the 6000 word creative enterprise research proposal (business plan) and presentation. I decided in the end on the first of these two as I realised I had no business of my own to write about. The planning form also included a section in which we could state any areas that we were interested in such as, key designers, artists, theorists, and case studies. I made note of the Punk subculture as a case study as I especially enjoyed looking into them last year with Cath and actually wrote my essay at the time on the group. I also listed graphic designer, Jamie Reid, who was most well-known for his work done in the Punk era, particular his pieces done for British Punk Rock band, the ‘Sex Pistols’ – my thorough favourite out of all his outrageous designs was the album cover he made for the Sex Pistols’ song, ‘God Save the Queen’ which was extremely controversial for its time. I made note of Dick Hebdige as an academic and theorist that I knew wrote about subcultures, particularly in his book, ‘Subcultures: The Meaning of Style’.
After having a meeting with my Constellation tutor, they helped me put my topic into a statement for me to use as a title. I had previously been trying to put it into the form of a question and was, now looking back, making an easy job much more complicated for myself. The statement I decided on was simply: “The relationship between graphic communication and media, and subcultures.” Having linked in my own area of study, graphic communication, into the title, means that I will be able to link my dissertation into my own course work in third year. After handing in our proposal forms, we were assigned individual personal dissertation tutors who were believed to be of most help according to our chosen title. It was of no surprise when I got assigned the subcultural expert herself, Cath Davies. I found that having a personal tutor was great as you knew exactly who you could email or talk to during a mini-breakdown or panic attack over your dissertation planning and having regular meetings with mine, meant that I was able to stay on track and know that I was working in the right direction.
The next step for me was to begin reading – reading absolutely everything! My course was lucky to have workshops set up by our course leaders, with the academic librarian for CSAD, Martha Lee. These workshops motivated me to go away and begin looking for potential useful books for my dissertation proposal. However, after a week or so, I found myself struggling to find books that were useful to me. After sitting around and avoiding the hold-up for another week or so (which was most definitely the wrong thing to do), a peer told me that they’d been to have an individual meeting with Martha who helped them to find plenty of useful books, so I decided to try it out for myself. Sure enough, Martha was great help to me too! She helped me find a few books that were subculture-based, but also showed me how I could narrow down my MetSearches to find more exact results, rather than finding books that maybe said the word ‘subculture’ in them once, on one page out of hundreds, and then didn’t mention the word again. I had my first mini-breakdown at this point (which had been expected to arrive soon-ish), due to thinking I needed to change my topic because there were barely any books which spoke about the relationship between graphics and subcultures, it was more about the textiles world (fashion). Fortunately, my personal tutor did a good job at convincing me otherwise and that it was in fact a good thing that there was not a lot written on the relationship, because I had managed to find a gap to fill in myself. Leaving Cardiff to go home for Easter, I had pages and pages of quotes collected from books and a stack of about ten further books to read at home.
I was struggling to get my head around what a literature review actually was, so instead of getting started on it, I found myself avoiding yet another hold-up (which I seem to be very good at doing) and instead just collecting more and more quotes, some of which I haven’t even used in my finished proposal. I found myself not wanting to start it just because I was scared that I might do it wrong. In the end, I convinced myself to just begin writing the overview at very least, and fortunately I got ‘on a roll’ and realised that it wasn’t that difficult after all. Looking back now, I am so glad that I started it when I did, because I have not had the stress of it being a mad rush last minute – I have just been doing little bit at a time, about 500 to 1000 words a day. Overall, I feel that perhaps the definition of a literature review could have been explained a bit more clearly to us, as I left university still not being 100% sure on how I was writing it. Questions I had included things like, “Am I allowed to put my own personal opinion in it?” and “What person am I writing it in – first person, third person, a mix of both?” It was difficult not being able to get it checked over, however my friends and I were able to peer review and compare each other’s proposals to understand if we were on the right track still.
Final thoughts – “Thank god it’s over… for now.”
Overall, the Field module this year for me has been really positive and I’ve really liked it. After not enjoying the module hugely in first year, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was this year. I feel that not only have I enjoyed it the projects that I took part in, I have also benefited from both of them.
Both projects, Publish and Significance of Information, have allowed me to push myself and develop my skillset. One of things I enjoyed most, was working as a small group on our Graphic Communication prospectus as it allowed us to create something bigger and better – without the opportunity of working as a team, I am sure that I would not have been able to achieve the outcome that we did if I had worked individually on the project. I was lucky that the other members of my group all had similar ideas of how we wanted the finished prospectus to look and what we wanted the content to be, which meant the we were able to create a consistent prospectus which we were all very happy with.
Although I worked on my own, rather than as a small group, during the Significance of Information project, I was still happy with my outcome. I was able to show my own personality and humour through my final video outcome, which was rewarding. I had a lot of fun with this project and although I treated it seriously and wanted to create a professional looking documentary-style film, I added a spoofy spin which was a really entertaining aspect of both the design and creating stages, and the final outcome. If the opportunity arises again for me to create another video, I would love to.
It was also great to work with students from different courses within Cardiff School of Art & Design as I was able to experience how different subject areas work and it encouraged me to visit other areas of the university to carry out work. For example, I was inspired by some of the work of the Textile students and decided to visit their studio and work area. This certainly affected the direction of my studies, as I went on to take part in a digital stitch workshop in the Textiles area and used it to further my research and development of my branding project in the Subject module.
Both of my Field projects allowed me to advance my skills in two completely different design areas – firstly editorial, and then video making. I am glad that I was able to pick and take part in two projects that were so contrasting, especially as I enjoyed both so thoroughly.
For this project, it was great to have so much freedom – it was completely down to us what topic we chose. I wanted to pick something current and inherent within society. Almost immediately, I knew exactly who I wanted to base this project around – the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
I find the first original idea that pops into my head is often my strongest, as it’s usually the one I’m most passionate about. My next step was to narrow down what I wanted to focus on within my character of Trump – this part was a bit more tricky. I started out with ideas such as a timeline of Trump’s life or his famously outrageous quotes, however, both of these seemed too much of an obvious choice – I wanted to do something new. I determined that the best chance I had of doing this was to simply watch the man himself in action.
Through watching everything from interviews and conferences, to compilations of Trump’s ‘best moments’, I arrived at an idea. Inspired by social-media sites where you often find videos ‘taking the mickey’ of celebrities, such as remixes of particular sayings they have, I decided to compile a range of Trump’s many hand gestures, giving the project the comedic title, How to Speak Donald Trump. As the majority of Trump’s worldwide presence is negative, I didn’t want to acknowledge this negativity in my own work – he is considered a man to be intimidated by and afraid of, so for this exact reason, I believed it was necessary for me to spin this around by adding humour and a light-hearted feel.
After creating a short stop-motion film in our previous project, I felt confident enough to create another, this time individually. I decided against using stop-motion as I felt it wouldn’t work so well this time with my subject. Although I’d decided that I wanted to do a video, I struggled with actually starting it – I didn’t know where to begin. It made sense to me to start at the beginning, however, as I was struggling with this, I jumped into creating the middle of the film instead and then worked outwards by adding more and more as I needed it. This way of working seemed to suit me much better and I was on a roll in no time.
In the end, after several tutorials, I created a nature documentary-style film with a David Attenborough inspired voiceover, treating Trump as the ‘wild animal’ being observed. The whole nature documentary-style is such a contrast with Donald Trump, that this is what makes it work. I drew the whole film together with an extended metaphor, which was that Trump’s hands gestures were his ‘mating calls’ as he tried to gain a ‘relationship’ with America – essentially, he achieved this. Overall, I was extremely happy with my outcome although there are several improvements that I want to make before summative feedback.
I’m glad to have had the opportunity of such a wide brief, because it’s meant that I’ve been able to use and create something that I would not normally be able to. I’ve widened my skill-set and feel that if the opportunity arose again later in my own practice, I would be able to use my new movie-making skills again.
Today was the deadline for our Beautiful Systems project that we have been working on in groups for the past week.
After continuing our stop motion film that we started on Friday, we finished it and had it ready to hand in this morning at 10am. Although the process was quite slow, we still got it completed faster than I had initially expected that we would – my group mate and I worked really well together as a pair and got the job done in good time and to a great standard of quality.
The process involved us moving the laces bit by bit and taking a snapshot after every small movement in order to create the frames which then create the film. The procedure was fiddly at the best of times – it was often a real struggle to get the laces to stay where you wanted them to stay. The pie chart was probably the most difficult piece to create, but from then onwards, we seemed to have gotten the hang of it and we were away on a roll. Apart from laces, the only other objects we used were ripped scraps of white paper in which we wrote the shoe style, the school title and the data percentages on – we felt that these were needed in order to add clarity to our finished piece, enabling viewers to see exactly what each segment of the charts were percentage-wise. We hand wrote them onto torn pieces of paper because we wanted to keep the film fun, informal and playful, with a homemade feel to the whole thing. The final thing we had to add to the film once we had exported it was to add music. We used AfterEffects to do this, and chose a song that we felt would fit perfectly: These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, Nancy Sinatra – the song is fun and lively and of course, it’s about shoes.
Below is the final outcome of our stop motion animation:
The feedback that we got from both David and the class was very positive – they loved how ambitious we had been with the small project, particularly as we were the only other group that had created an animation/film; all of the other outcomes were purely posters. They approved of our use of shoelaces, commenting on the fact that the viewer knows an understands straight away what the data is about: shoes. Finally, we were praised on how colourful and fun the piece was overall. The only minor point that David pointed out was that in the pie chart, the “boots” and the “heel” segments are perhaps too similar in size and don’t show a clear enough percentage difference – fortunately we had the hand written labels which prevents them from becoming completely undistinguishable – but of course, if we were to do the project again, we could certainly make this more clear by repositioning the green lace to make the “heel” segment smaller.
Personally, I was really proud of our final outcome that we handed in today – I really enjoyed the process of making the stop motion and was really pleased with how the finished film turned out. I think the brightness and contrasts of the colours really add to the piece, making the movement even more energetic and fun. Overall, I really feel like we have created an imaginative, adventurous and creative information design – it’s really effective.
Constellation Study Group Reflections
The process of completing my columns analysis for my formative assessment:
The columns analysis is made up of three columns: describe, analyse and theory. The method is used to analyse all sorts; from photos, to case studies, to working methods… practically anything and everything. For example, for my formative essay, I was looking at a piece of digital art by Chiara Bautista (AKA Milk), so I used the columns analysis method to analyse it. From the image, I analysed a range of parts to put in my essay, including: the orifice in the figure’s chest, her skin, the red liquid dripping from her eyes, the tentacles in her hair, the chopsticks, the arrows in her skin, etc.
Difficulties I encountered when filling in the second and third columns:
The third column, which is the ‘theory’ column, is the most difficult column to fill out. I was finding it difficult to find suitable quotes and information in some cases for the highlights that I had picked out from Milk’s piece. I felt that the main reason for these difficulties was that not all of the readings that we had looked at were relevant to what I wanted and needed to write about in my essay.
How I overcame some of these difficulties:
I borrowed loads of books from the library that related to my first and second columns. Rather than look for books specifically relating to each individual point that I was wanting to theorise from Milk’s image, I decided on a more abstract approach and searched for books which had the subject of the ‘grotesque’ – this seemed to work well for me and I was able to include a lot of my readings in my bibliography at the bottom of my essay. When I began to look at the grotesque more widely, the subject became so much more interesting and I suddenly felt that I was finding much more information that I could use.
Significant concepts/theories that have emerged in my columns analysis and why these have interested me:
During my columns analysis of Milk’s digital illustration, I realised that the ‘grotesque’ in general, rather than ‘glamour’ was something that I found really interesting. In particular, I was intrigued by the idea of skin, and the penetration or destroying of it – the theory that skin is the barrier between the insides and outsides of our body completely captivated me. I focused a large part of my essay on this, as well as the idea of ‘meta-morphing‘ which was a completely new concept to me on finding it in my own research. It is similar to the idea of transformation, which we learnt about with Cath Davies in our study group, from human being to monster. I was surprised at how much the unusual and ugly side of art interests me, because through all its gore and carnage, there is a hidden beauty that really compels me.
How approaches in this study group can help me with the development of my ideas and ways to progress next term, e.g. for dissertation preparation and for my other modules:
I feel that the columns analysis technique that we have been using in our study group will come in handy, not just in constellation, but in my subject and field too, as well as my dissertation planning and writing. I can use the analysis method to analyse my own work in order to help me to understand how the viewer would perceive it when looking at it – it will allow me to take a step back and look at it from the viewer’s perspective, rather than the designer’s.
Learning Process Reflections
How could the concepts and theories from my study group help with developing ideas in my studio practice?
There is certain aspects from this constellation study group that I feel I will not be able to stop noticing in the real world, for example, phallic objects – suddenly they are everywhere. I’d like to hope that perhaps I can even link in the grotesque to my work somehow, just because of the bizarre beauty it has.
What has been useful in the analysis and writing about others’ work in Constellation sessions?
In the same way that I will not be able to stop noticing phallic objects everywhere in the real world. This will most likely be similar for the that I look at my own work within both my subject and field work, not specifically in terms of phallic objects, but in the way that I will be able to assess and analyse my own work in the same way that we analysed other artist’s work and case studies in constellation.