Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Visual Thinking

This week, as an Introduction to Visual Thinking, BA (Hons) Visual Communications 
level 4 students were asked to carry out object analysis on a variety of objects from the collection.

The activity was based on a generic object analysis form available to download from and adapted to the learning needs of the particular students by Senior Lecturer, Sarah James. 

Initially the students were asked to describe the visual appearance of the objects by thinking about, and responding to, the following:

  • Measure (or estimate) the object’s dimensions.
  • What does the object look like e.g. Rectilinear form with a hollow casing, with opening on one side….etc..
  • What colours are present? e.g. Body colour beige with details in green with red accents.
  • What visual elements are present? e.g Repeat patterns of floral motif? Dynamic text expressive of the product…?
  • What text elements are present? Are they purely informative or symbolic?
  • Can you describe the types of plastics the object is made from? (do you know any specific types, e.g Nylon fibre, Perspex, acrylic, leatherette)
  • Are there any other materials present in the construction? e.g Metal, glass, natural fibre?
  • What does the object feel like? e.g Smooth? Silky? Fragile?
  • What techniques are involved in the objects construction? e.g Weaving, printing, embossing, lamination)? 
  • Photograph or sketch the object. Attach to sheet or in notebooks. Keep analysis sheet in the same place. What do you think (or know) the object is? 

Moving on to make some deductions about the object and its intended use:

  • When do you think the object was made?
  • Who do you think designed or made the object? e.g The end user (homemade), a mass manufacturer, an exclusive design company? Document any manufacturers mark or name.
  • Where do you think the object was made?
  • Who do you think the object was for?
  • On what occasion do you think the object would have been used and by whom?
  • Where do you think the object was bought or sold?
  • How much do you think the object would have cost?
  • What other questions do you have about the object? 

Lastly, they thought about Gaze theory and how objects make you feel.

  • Gaze Theory: Jacques Lacan developed the psychoanalytical theory known as the mirror stage: IE. That as infants, once we have recognised our reflection in a mirror we understand that we have an external appearance, and are forever more acting in the knowledge that we can be seen. He extended this to objects, in what is known as Gaze Theory. Put very simply, when we encounter an object (chair, shoes, table etc) it makes us realise that we too are objects. In material culture, we use our relation to objects to define and express ourselves. We can be intimidated, inspired or flattered by the objects we encounter.
  • How would owning the object make you feel?
  • If you were the sort of person who happily owned the object what do you think it would say about you?

This work then lead the students onto researching for imagery to place their objects into historical context.

This process could be adapted to suit a variety of courses looking at visual critical theory. Other Teaching and Learning activities can be found on our website

I would like to thank Sarah James and her students for using the collection in such an interesting and engaging way.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

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