My research takes place against the backdrop of the design research debate
ongoing since the 1990s. This debate highlighted the potential contributions
that design artefacts and practice could make in a scholarly and professional
research context. Despite numerous interesting possibilities, the discussions
taking place in the design research community largely do not attend to
contemporary Visual Communication Design practices and outcomes.
In this research, I specifically focus on outcomes taking place at the
margins of the Visual Communication field, which, though peripheral, are
both admired and engaging, and what this research entitles ‘sticky’.
Eleven projects are examined including, for example, one that collected
the ephemera serving as the impromptu bookmarks in the books shelved
in a university library, yielding the meticulous inventory of three hundred scraps
of paper listed by Dewey decimal classification number.
Despite their ‘stickiness’, I found that these outcomes are in fact only partially
accounted for by key authorities in Visual Communication Design: despite a
strong graphic language these projects are not concerned to convey an
unmistakable message directed to a particular audience.
Instead other discussions taking place in the sociological sub-field of
Visual Research, which values the open-ended inquiry of the observable
features of everyday subject matter, seemed more relevant. Ultimately
however, in view of other expectations – a theoretical framework and sustained
textual analysis – these ‘sticky’ projects similarly confound
Consequently I realised that these ‘sticky’ projects are ‘homeless’ and,
to indicate the partial explanations provided by Visual Communication Design
and Visual Research, I tagged them ‘creative, investigative, visual projects’.
This research thus sets out to derive a language to attend to
such ‘sticky’ but ‘homeless’ creative, investigative, visual projects.
I explored diverse literature and additional visual work – on topics
such as the origins of the encyclopaedia, the tendency to make lists,
psychological explanations for keeping personal collections, scientific
visualizations, French Poetry, experimental travel, where to file UFOs
in a picture archive, information management, the anatomy of the human heart,
documentary photography and post–modern cartography.
By bringing this interdisciplinary analysis to bear on the set of ‘sticky’,
‘homeless’, creative, investigative, visual projects, I derived a language
of Collecting, Ordering and Positioning. From this tripartite model a design
strategy was then extrapolated which I applied to produce an original creative,
investigative, visual project, called BikeWork, which involved
the participation of sixty-five cyclists and production of a series of three posters.
This research concludes by speculating that the value of a creative,
investigative, visual approach – vivid and systematic though fragmentary and
approximate – is its agency. Accordingly I finally recommend that future ‘sticky’
researchers further explore the distinctive appeal of a vivid and fragmentary
THE ‘HOMELESS’, ‘STICKY’ DESIGN IN QUESTION
Eleven key projects are discussed.
Lipstick (Greene 2001)
Why Are All These Books Orange? (Siegel 2004)
The Last Periods of Some Books (magnified 4266%) (Buchanan-Smith 2003 )
The Bicycle, Cross, and Desert (Weed 2005)
A Coming Of Age Reading Checklist (McMullen 2004)
The Readers Before Us (Waller & Beard 2002)
Periodic Breakfast Table (Weese & Halpern 2001)
Endcommercial: Reading the City (Böhm, Pizzaroni & Scheppe 2002)
I [heart] [heart] (Daly 2007 )
Newsmap (Weskamp 2004)
NameVoyager (Wattenberg & Wattenberg 2004-2005)