Assignment 5 – Finalising your submission

Assignment 5 consists of three parts that can be accessed below:

  • Your final written document – uploaded to the OCA Learn portal
  • Your final visual portfolio showing the development of your visual work throughout the course – all visual development experiments and the final outputs can be accessed here.
  • A final review and analysis of your entire visual and written work on your blog and/or learning log – see below

Final reflective evaluation

In this review I reflect on my experience and learnings from Visual Research: what I set out to do, what happened, what I learned, and where I might go next. I include analysis of my learning log and tutor feedback.

The starting point was my pandemic diary. I knew why I wanted to do something with it and imagined (incorrectly) that I knew how to do the work, and what a final artefact would look like.

The problem I had to solve was one of layout and presentation, and I imagined the design solution as a linear chronological record of daily events.

In Assignment 1, I boldly stated that my plan was to finish both the Advanced Practice and Visual Research units by the end of 2021. I thought both units would run in parallel, one feeding into the other, and whilst this was true to an extent, working between the two units wasn’t fluid and took an additional 5-months to complete.

I thought the coursework built logically, and through following the prescribed processes I discovered what interested me most was how the pandemic impacted the lives and work of other creatives.

I started data gathering I wanted to gain insights from as many people as possible. An online survey tool was a good solution: it minimised research effort, had broad reach and included data analysis features.

Designing questions was more complicated than expected. My original question set didn’t work because it was too specific and when I tested an offline version on a fellow student, I got a confused response. After generalising the questions, I tested them again using the online tool. This time the results were positive, and I published the questionnaire after making minor tweaks to wording.

I received 80 responses which was far greater than I had anticipated. Asking fellow OCA students and tutors to participate was extremely effective but did create a strong ‘education sector’ bias in the results that needed to be acknowledged.

Findings highlighted the pandemic paradox that I had seen in my literature review. People directly impacted (through physical or mental wellbeing, increased workload or loss of income), had a hard time, whereas those who experienced lockdowns as an opportunity to stop the clock and see things in a new way, had a positive experience.

I approached the visual development work using an experimental method because I felt it was an effective method to deal with ambiguity.

I conducted four experiments, each one structured in the same way, each one building on the last, with lessons from one being taken forward and developed in the next.

There were several key moments:

  • A realisation that I didn’t need to follow a linear diary format.
  • Recognising experimentation using chance and a rules-based approach freed me from my own preconceptions.
  • Seeing my Zoom notebooks as valuable and valid content.

Bringing it all together into a single critical review was a relatively quick process although my first draft had almost double the required word count. Most of my effort was spent refining and editing.

  • Tutor feedback played an important role in moving me forward through the suggestion of different approaches and providing encouragement when I felt stuck.


  • Visual mindmapping was an effective way of demonstrating links/thinking between visual research and visual development.
  • I began to have a more open outlook on the diary format – this was acknowledged as a big step forward that would open up possibilities.
  • Random image generation added life to visual process and created some fascinating juxtapositions.
  • Unexpected visual links that formed through the printmaking and risograph extended the narrative of the work.
  • Raw diary entries were very revealing and brought different levels of information to light.

Areas for improvement

  • My initial research focused on the positive aspects of lockdown. I became quite conscious of this bias and tried to present a balanced view in findings.
  • It would be good to see more of the rich data quotes being tested and integrated – this was done to a certain extent but there is scope to extend this more in the next iteration of the work
  • Could the random nature of image combinations be used in final structure so that the viewer creates their own combinations? – Definitely. I considered creating a series of two-sided postcards that a viewer could reconfigure to build their own narrative but didn’t have the time to realise this.

Key learnings

  • I’m quite good at the WHAT – the technical side of illustration – I don’t find it difficult to get excited and motivated by exploring new materials and techniques.
  • I’m ok at the WHY – framing the work as outcomes.
  • I don’t do enough critical thinking around the HOW.
  • External tutor input caused the biggest realisations/jumps forward. How do I build this into my practice? I need to focus on more being more outward looking. Doing stuff is only half the story. Getting it out into the world in front of a critical audience is how it comes to life. I need to engage more in current contemporary debate with other practitioners.
  • Framing the visual development work as a series of structured experiments worked well. Failing fast with minimal effort is an efficient way to learn.
  • The most valuable and hardest lesson came from having to live with uncertainty and trusting the process.


Visual Research gave me important insights into how to conduct my practice. It was the hardest course unit for me so far, but one of the most rewarding. I had to take risks that felt uncomfortable, and I need to find a way to continue this.

Reflecting on the critical review, there are several interesting starting points and areas to explore more fully that don’t necessarily sit together easily. For example, the quantitative research clearly engaged people (based on the response rate). It seems like a topic worth exploring. But I didn’t use the findings in that way, choosing instead to use the qualitative information as new pandemic diary content.

Finally, I’m curious about how the visual style, tone of voice, and approach apparent in the visual development will manifest in my work going forward.

This has given me a platform and ideas to work through during Sustaining your practice.

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