Developing research and visual analysis skills in design students: a multi-agency approach

Will Hoon, Georgina Dimmock, Fiona MacLellan, Suzanne Stenning, Fiona Watkins

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Rationale Since 2009, a team of staff from the School of the Arts and the library have collaborated to develop a series of learning and teaching activities aimed at improving students’ research skills. The focus has been on research methods that merge design theory and studio practice, providing students with real world research skills that are authentic within the context of design (Dimmock, Hoon and MacLellan, 2013). Specifically, the team has worked to develop students’ research ability through the visual analysis of primary artefacts. For the conference, the team will deliver an interactive workshop modelling visual analysis, which mirrors an assessment undertaken by second year Graphics and Illustration students. In this assessment, students select an artefact from the University of Northampton special collections and analyse it in terms of the aesthetic, cultural and technical data encoded in the artefact (Hoon, 2013). This exercise is then used as a springboard for the students to conduct further research through direct engagement with specialist museums, agencies, archives and libraries. Workshop participants will be given the opportunity to discuss how this pedagogy could be used in their own subject. The team is now also working on an OER for the Skills Hub (LLS, 2013) that will model this research methodology. Content and Delivery Methods The workshop will cater for up to 20 participants working in groups. The facilitators will explain the process of visual analysis and each group will be provided with an artefact to examine according to its aesthetic, technical and cultural qualities. Groups will then be asked to consider how they would use the observations from their visual examination as a springboard for further research.


ConferenceLearning and Teaching Conference
Period3/12/12 → …
Internet address


  • Visual analysis
  • object analysis
  • Special Collection
  • teaching & learning
  • research skills


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