Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Visual Narratives: Learning from the Field

Rich Pictures in the Process of Understanding the Design Journey

Prof M P Ranjan

Image01: Group members drawing on a collective scroll laid out on the table while telling their story of meetings with informants in the field.

One group of students at Gandhinagar who were working on the theme of water and Industry came up with a rich visual narrative that is both interesting and makes sense. They had fanned out across Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar and some went out of town as well in search of people, who could be “experts”, who could explain the workings of the water processing and distribution systems of the city, with particular emphasis on what they had identified as industry applications, They came back after each day over the weekend in the field and shared their experiences and face to face encounters and meetings with the people on the ground and this was done in a visually rich manner.

Image02: Group members standing in front of the large scroll that they used by turns to share their insights from the field work carried out over three days in the field.

Each member of the group told their days story in a series of pictures that they laid out on a long scroll of paper that was both wide and long. They sat on the table and talked to each other as they drew the rich pictures on their own part of the sheet and having told their version of the story of the days meetings and the record of their journeys grows and spreads on the sheet. One other device that the group innovated was to draw a star at the point in their storytelling scroll to identify one new person in the journey of information and insight gathering that they had done that day.

Image03: Members came up to the scroll individually and told their story and shared the insights that they had gathered to make their more refined models and the final metaphor.

Having drawn the images they then linked the meta story that they had begun to understand from the growing diagrams on their large sheet of paper. Rich pictures helped in their internalizing the story and in preparing themselves for the presentation that would follow. Each team member came up to the sheet and talked with conviction about their part of the information gathering ventures into the field. Deep learning and clarity of expression gave the group a clear advantage when it came to sharing the findings with the larger group and the whole class was enthused with the breakthrough that the group had brought to the class.

Prof M P Ranjan

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