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Week 7 - Processes

Research & Theory - Methogologies, Management, Catalysts, Theories & Fiction

Week 7 designed to prepare us for our extended writing task, we were asked to think about ways of approaching enquiry, not just in terms of methods (ways of researching, e.g. reading a journal or searching an archive) but also in terms of the overall genre of knowledge that underpins our approach (the methodology).  I think I have this correct!  Although I am still trying to make sense of all the 'ologies'!  

And so to my notes for this week, detailed in the presentation below...

Analysis of Research

Martin Hosken began this week asking us to consider our definition of the word 'research'.  There was quite a debate about this question on the ideas wall.  Some of us sharing a succinct and minimal description, whilst others thought more elaborately and conceptually in response.  My description was 'broad or focused enquiry and engagement in a topic/s that facilitates deeper understanding'.  Later in the week, Laura replied with her thoughts on defining research, she said "I agree, I research without even thinking about it - everything I read, watch, listen to, everything I take in is adding to or changing my opinion or thoughts about something!"  As I read her reply, I was struck that 'research' is intrinsically part of our lives and although we might deliberately and consciously carryout the action of 'research', we also sub-consciously absorb our everyday experiences and these unconsidered thoughts are effectively, 'research'.  Harnessing and utilising this research for the purposes of academic study or to enhance our wisdom is about tapping in to that knowledge we have harvested and stored, a sometimes difficult task, given that these thoughts are sub-conscious and therefore, potentially, buried quiet deep.  For me, they manifest as sudden magical connections that pop up at times when I am performing a mundane task and my mind is wandering!

Another discussion that evolved on the ideas wall this week was concerned with etymology, the study of words, their origin, form and meaning.  The word in question was "object".  Yara had presented a research idea that related to NFT's.  I confess that I had no idea what an NFT was.  Non-Fungible Tokens as Yara explained are "NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital objects that are encrypted to make them unique or give them a “verifiable artificial scarcity” in a digital domain."  I learnt this week that in the digital domain, there are unique and original 'objects' that are verified authentic by the non-fungible token encryption attached to them.  I questioned whether these NFT's could be classed as 'objects' as the dictionary definition claimed an object to be "something material that can be seen and touched"  How can you touch an NFT I asked?  Moreover the fact that these items are desired & coveted was a completely new concept to me, and one I confess I still do not see the appeal of, however if digital artist Beeple can sell a NFT for over $69 million (Thank you to Olly P for posting this insight on the wall)  at world renowned and respected art auctioneers Christies, then it must be a real object, right? (Fig 1 )


I was struck by the parallels between the concept of a purely digital piece of art that cannot be physically touched, to the reproduction of art works as discussed by John Berger in his 1972 film 'Ways of Seeing'.  In the film Berger questions the value of reproductions of original art works.  In that era (1970's) he is regarding televisual and photograph image representations of the original art and asks what meaning a reproduction has in comparison to the original.  Is it less valuable because we have less control over how we view it?  How does this view stand up against the NFT Beeple piece? In contrast the piece can be viewed exactly as you would wish, you can zoom in or a particular area, you can project the image on to a wall or view it on your phone.  In this sense the viewer has full control and as it is meant to be viewed as a digital image, the original artists intention is still maintained, whereas a reproduction of a tangible oil painting hanging in the National Gallery, is not. 

So if the NFT can hold value to the viewer from a purely aesthetic & engaging stance, can it also hold monetary value?  It appears that it can, as Beeple's work sold for over $69 million at auction.  In comparison, this work by Francis Bacon (Fig 2  )sold for over $84 million when auctioned at Sotheby's in 2020.  These not too dissimilar final value selling prices indicate that a relatively unknown digital artist with an unusual idea and the dedication to see it through, can stand almost shoulder to shoulder with a hugely celebrated and respected artist like Francis Bacon - at least in financial value.   I guess one must consider that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' when it comes to art appreciation and one persons favoured artist is another persons rubbish pile, however it does raise some interesting questions about value & authenticity in a digital world.

In understanding the notion of Methodology this week, I was asked to consider "what arena of knowledge underpins your approach?"  I learnt that the arena itself sits upon one of 4 key concerns of philosophical debate, metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics and epistemology.  As a designer, I feel instinctively drawn towards the realm of aesthesis, however I also find the idea of justified belief and opinion an interesting facet of the nature of acquired knowledge.  I am curious as to how much peoples opinion is based on validated facts and how much on inaccurate or manipulated information.  Are all beliefs fully justifiable?

Tim Plowman, in his entry to the book Design Research: Methods and Perspectives:  Ethnography & Critical Design, eludes to the manipulation of our beliefs when he states "our sense of self & identity flow from the raw material of design that permeates our high modernist world".  If our identities are entangled in designed artefacts that build our world, how much of our lives are lived through our responses to these designed objects and therefore or beliefs moulded by designers and marketers of products and services?  Plowman also writes that the majority of designed artefacts are planned, prototyped and produced without the benefit of primary ethnographic research on intended audiences. (Laurel pg 31)  I found this unbelievable and could only assume that this fact is heavily influenced by financial constraints, after all thorough consumer research takes time and money.  My understanding is that well designed products and services must consider a user centric approach and what better way to know your consumer than through ethnographically collated knowledge.  This requires further investigation.

After listening to Regular Practice disassemble our workshop challenge this week I was drawn to the 'Cabinet of Curiosities' and almost immediately thought of a cabinet in my Grandmother's house that was a source of fascination to me as a young child.  Having decided that the objects inside this cabinet would be the focus of my workshop challenge this week, I dwelled on Tom & Kristoffer's comments in relation to collections and archives, how they can be kept in cabinets to make them even more curious, almost putting them on a pedestal and how taking single items and placing them with others can create a story.

I decided that the project need would be to tell the story of the relationship & connection between the objects in the cabinet and various people in my family.  This decision led me to naturally conclude a qualitative approach to research and 1:1 interviews in particular to gauge opinion, feelings, memories & facts about the objects.

I first began to look at the idea behind the 'Cabinet of Curiosities' and learnt that the original cabinets were in fact whole rooms of houses full of interesting artefacts. (Fig 3) Objects could include natural history (sometimes faked), geologyethnographyarchaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings), and antiquities. (Wikipedia).  Collections were primarily purveyed by the rich and royalty and later developed in to display cabinets. (Fig 4) Such collections became synonymous with status and wealth and later were opened up for public viewing, considered to be the first museums.

When researching the Cabinet of Curiosities I came across this video uploaded to Youtube by the Victoria and Albert museum.  I was struck by the depth and breadth of enquiry the researchers at the museum were undertaking in order to uncover, what ultimately were, uncomfortable and ugly truths behind the distance colonial landlords whose artefacts grace the museum displays.  Furthermore, I was intrigued with the partnership that developed between the artist and the researcher as they both strove to uncover and communicate the objects truth.













Watching this film made me consider if my objects had a background that could unearth a salubrious or unethical past.  I decided to disregard this path due to my objects connection to my family being more interesting than, what I could uncovered about mass produced souvenirs during the time period they were purchased.  The paradox between the meaning to the producer, seller and buyer was of interest but difficult to investigate in such a short space of time and when family members memories were what I felt needed investigating to tell the story I wanted to tell.

Despite this rejected idea it did help me begin to ask questions about souvenirs, the objects in question being cultural doll souvenirs purchased in 1960's & 70's.  I began to wonder why people bought souvenirs, what they meant to them upon returning from their travels and what mattered to a person if they were buying for someone else?

Wikipedia states modern day collecting to be a descendant of the cabinet of curiosities and that collecting often goes hand in hand with an interest in the objects collected and what they represent.  It is what they represented to my family that I was keen to explore and so I prepared my questions to interview my father, uncle and sister about the dolls. 

Interview with Melvyn Nuth

Date: 08/03/2021

Time:  11am

The interview with my father was very insightful as we sat with the dolls, relinquished from their suitcase storage and lain about our feet.  My father has a tremendous memory and provided his recollections, feelings and opinions about the dolls, but also about his Mother (my Grandmother).  He believed it was a natural action to take home a present for a loved one, given upon your return from travelling, eluding to a time influenced by respectful & thoughtful British traditions.  He confirmed that my Grandmother had already begun the collection of dolls following several trips she had taken herself and it had seemed a good idea to continue to add to her collection as he travelled for work.  Elaborating on the origin, purchase and local relevance of the dolls, my Father vividly described how the Atlantic liners would arrive in port and alighting passengers would be caught up in the feverish quayside souvenir marketplace. 

When asked what significance the dolls had to Nanny, he believed that pride in her well travelled sons and a desire to show off her success at raising such respectful children may have influenced the way she had displayed the dolls, behind glass in a grand looking cabinet, in the formal and poshest room in the house, where she would entertain guests - they would be a talking point with which she could share her son's achievements.

Interview with Martin Nuth

Date: 09/03/2021

Time: 12pm

My Uncle, being 3 years younger than my Father, had a perspective that involved much more reflection about his mother and their relationship.  Following in his older brothers footsteps, becoming a chef and also working abroad and on ocean liners, Uncle Mart had a few years at home without his older brother.  In that time he made observations to me that she was a very inquisitive lady.  He believed that she had joined the RAF to broaden her horizons.  She also worked in the hospitality and catering industry, in which she revelled in establishing connections with all manner of people.  He told me how she would frequently take herself off to explore on the bus and take her children to London to instil a love of adventure in them.  She was very determined that her children would be knowledgeable and well rounded young people and saw it her duty to educate them so.  My uncle said of his Mother, "I greatly admired her curiosity" and he believed that the dolls were a symbol of that part of her personality.  She also gave Bournemouth foreign language students bed and board, many of them thought very highly of her and would re-visit year on year.  This my uncle said was another example of her broadening her perspective on the world and some of the dolls may well have been gifted by those students.

Interview with Shelley Nuth

Date: 09/03/2021

Time: 11am

Like me, my sister recalls the dolls as precious objects that were not allowed to be touched by us children.  She remembered the formal front room that we very rarely sat in, but when we did we had the dolls to ponder over and tease us, as all we wanted to do was open the cupboard and play with them.  Shelley admits she does not really know why she chose the dolls as a keepsake after the passing of our Grandmother, perhaps it was just the memory of peering in at them with longing or maybe they were a good reminder of Nanny in life.  They are being kept for her in the loft of our parents house and she does not know what she will do with them.  Her own adventures, desires to travel & moving from place to place, have prevented her from keeping them herself.  When you know that about my sister, it is perhaps ironic but also somehow just,  that she should be the person to now own the dolls, someone who treads in the explorative and intrepid feet of our Grandmother.


Qualitative Research - Rolf Potts - Object Lessons Series  - Souvenir

As I looked in more detail at Souvenirs, I discovered this book by Rolf Potts, one in a series that aims to bring everyday objects to life and asks us to take a second look at what we consider banal.  In chapter 8 Potts discusses Souvenir's in relation to memory and the shortness of life.  I was very interested in his perspective on what happens to objects after the passing of the collector.  I highlight this in my editorial piece and it is something I think worthy of further investigation.  Potts says "I was struck by how much of what we collect in life ultimately becomes depleted of meaning without any sense for the memories or desires that led [one] to save these keepsakes"  A melancholy view but one worth investigating, as I think some collections do live on after a persons death, but how much do they resonate with the new people they connect with, could the link every be as strong as with the original collector?



































































































Development of Ideas
Francis Bacon Triptych Inspired by Orest
Beeple Art.webp
Development - Qualitative Research 1:1 Interviews
Beatrice Nuth's Collection of Souvenir Dolls
Editorial for Web Viewing
Curious Dolls.jpg
Reflections on Editorial Delivery

All this week in the back of my mind is the process and completion of the interactive PDF for Module 1.  Thank you to Sarah and Harriet for the great advice on how to present and expectations to meet.  Having never worked with Indesign before I used it for this weeks editorial piece.  Although I have learnt a few tricks and managed to produce an editorial, I was not happy with it.  The story I was telling in the copy was not being communicated the way I wanted through the page, not just because of my lack of experience to achieve this in Indesign, but also because I felt frustrated with the digital medium.  I feel like I am going against the grain because I want to 'design' away from the computer.  Seeing the Beeple work this week exasperated my feelings of inadequacy in the digital realms.  I'm not a complete technophobe, but I want to feel a raw connection to the work I am doing.  I need to find a happy medium between working in a tangible, crafterly, hand made way but then communicating through digital means when I need to.

I stumbled upon the work of Barbara Stauffacher Solomon this week and this had led me to investigate a more traditional method of layout, Paste Up.  I watched the video about Solomon's work by Adobe and was fascinated by her work process.  She is clearly extremely exacting in her application, using drawing board, set square and guidelines - a reflection of her training in Switzerland with Armen Hoffman.  She explains how she would spend hours plotting out the shape of the letters for the Helvetica Font and could see instantly when something was a millimetre out!  Although I do not have Solomon's architectural drawing skill, I thought I would try to layout in a Paste Up kind of way.  I am much happier with the second version of the editorial and am going to keep trialling elements of this way of working blended with digital presentation.




































































































This week really challenged me in understanding the frameworks for methodology and the philosophical nature of some of the reference materials.  I have developed a much more secure comprehension of qualitative and quantitive research approaches and the techniques used to gather data and info.  I have taken on board Sarah and Harriet's comments that to ensure a rigorous exploration we need to broaden our resources past wikipedia and google, also I now appreciate the importance of wider reading in sectors beyond design.  Interviews with my family this week have really brought home how insightful human beings are to research, but also how influenced their opinions are by their own experiences.  

I feel I have made more important steps towards finding a method of working that plays to my strengths and have discovered interesting authors, artists and designers to add to my 'go-to' personal archive.  I think my next steps are to continue trialling different ways of working with a view towards communicating my raw material and process methods through a digital medium without losing too much of the tactile essence of my work.  

Updated 27 May 2021

Frustrated with my lack of experience in publishing layout, typographic considerations and Indesign knowledge, both editorial presentations I made this week were not pleasing me.  I listened to Harriet's advice about making informed choices about type and giving display text space.  My understanding from week 7 to week 12 evolved significantly and I felt that I should now re-visit this outcome.  I now present this as my final delivery and I feel it is both compositionally better and blends my hand cut, pasted & stitched  collage with digital medium. 





















Curious Dolls Editorial A4 Print.jpg
Journal Reflection
Figure 1 NFT - Everydays:The First 5000 Days - by Beeple
Fig 2.  Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, Francis Bacon, 1981
Fig. 3 - Engraving from Ferrante Imperato's Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples 1599) - the earliest illustration of a natural history cabinet
Fig. 4 - An early eighteenth-century German Schrank with a traditional display of corals (Naturkundenmuseum, Berlin)

List of Figures

Fig. 1 - Everydays: The First 5000 Days, Beeple Available at: [Accessed 11/03/2021]

Fig. 2 - Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, Francis Bacon, 1981.  Available at: [Accessed 12/03/2021]

Fig. 3 - Fold-out engraving from Ferrante Imperato's Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples 1599), the earliest illustration of a natural history cabinet. Available at:  [Accessed on 12/03/2021]

Fig. 4 - Fig. 4 - An early eighteenth-century German Schrank with a traditional display of corals (Naturkundenmuseum, Berlin).  Available at:  [Accessed on 12/03/2021]


BBC (2012) Berger, John. 1972 Ways of Seeing. [online video]  Available from: [accessed 12 March 2021]

Laurel, B (Ed) 2003.  Design Research: Methods and Perspectives.  [online] Massachusettes: MIT Press. Available from: [accessed 12 March 2021]

Potts, R. (2018) Souvenir.  Bloomsbury Publishing Plc: New York

V & A Museum. (2018) Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities. Available at:  [Accessed on: 08/03/2021]

Wikipedia.  Cabinet of Curiosities. Available from: 

[Accessed on: 08/03/2021]

Wikipedia. Collecting.  Available from:

[Accessed on: 08/03/2021]

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