Illustration 3: Research

Course Level: 3 (HE6) | HE Credits: 40 | Approx. Duration: 15 months at 10hrs/week


This unit builds on the skills, knowledge and understanding acquired in previous levels of the Open course and represents an opportunity to synthesise theory and practice through a self-initiated extended written project and a substantial visual research project.

For visual communicators, understanding visual language and having your own voice within it is important in being able to communicate effectively, respond to challenges creatively, and helps to define your practice. In consultation with your tutor you will devise a project that focuses on areas of interest from both a practical and critical perspective.

You will produce an extended written project of 3,500 words alongside a substantial body of supporting, exploratory and investigative visual work. The extended written project may take the form of a traditional essay researching a specific and relevant topic, investigate an aspect of the design process and generate primary-sourced data exploring this, investigate a more specific career orientated area or focus on your working methods and influences in the context of contemporary visual communication practice.

The unit will develop your research skills by exploring research methodologies, primary and secondary research, undertaking written and visual research; exploring approaches to documenting research and integrating visual research and outcomes; support your understanding of critical frameworks by identifying a range of appropriate theoretical and critical frameworks; outlining and signposting major ideas, theories and debates around visual communication practices; and help to develop your ability to document and present your ideas through academic writing skills; identifying sources and analysing appropriate source material; developing analytical and evaluative skills, presenting the extended written project and the visual research and outcomes.

This unit encourages a high degree of self-motivation and autonomy. The assignments will provide a structure to support students’ proposals, research process, writing and presentation, and the learning log will be used to support the development of visual self-reflection, academic enquiry, and evaluation.


The unit aims to:

  • A1 develop a substantial body of visual work and a written project that supports and contextualises your practice
  • A2 undertake focused and sustained research to support the development of a substantial body of written and visual practice
  • A3 further develop your technical and practical skills to realise an ambitious body of work
  • A4 develop a comprehensive knowledge and critical and contextual understanding of your subject area.


On satisfactory completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • LO1 demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of your subject area and contextualise your practice (A1)
  • LO2 demonstrate the application of appropriate research methods in the development of your written and visual practice (A2)
  • LO3 demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of technical and practical skills through your work (A3)
  • LO4 synthesise, articulate and evaluate critical, contextual and conceptual knowledge and understanding of your subject area (A4).