Reflections of working with a graphic artist to disseminate my research
As a trainee EP on the Manchester doctorate course, we’re encouraged from the outset to grapple with the practice implications of our research.
One of our thesis papers specifically focuses on dissemination – how we plan to spread the message of our research. At the beginning of my project, my best hopes were to present at a UK conference, share my research findings with my team or perhaps try for a journal publication.
Impact through art
This line of thinking soon dissipated after carrying out my research interviews and realising that the data uncovered was not likely to be heard by those most able to affect change. I felt drawn to investigate creative ways to share the young peoples’ views. My concern was that these young people’s voices mattered but might not reach my target audience through journal publications and conference slides alone. My challenge was therefore to find ways of making psychological research relevant to those with or without a background in psychology.
At this years annual conference in Brighton, the DECP commissioned an artist to live-illustrate the keynote talks. Social media buzz around the event led to me spotting the work and performance of graphic illustrator Beci Ward. The approach reminded me of the process of creating a ‘rich picture’ and Beci’s style also reminded me of Turner-prize winning artist, Grayson Perry. Grayson regularly gains audience participation, then visually synthesises his social commentary onto different mediums, using metaphor (and a heavy dose of irony). His ultimate aim is to democratise ‘art.’ Similarly, I wanted to make my research open and accessible to all and Beci’s modern medium (drawing on an iPad) seemed the perfect platform to give an instant impact.
Research accessible to all
The collaborative process of working with Beci on the graphic took around six weeks. Being a person with little or no artistic skill, providing Beci with a rough sketch for the graphic was quite a challenge. It did however force me to think about distilling the core messages of my research and how this could be best encapsulated in a snapshot.
Now complete and at the stage of sharing the graphic, I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm received on social media. Feedback from EPs and corporate parents has also been overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly of all, the young people involved in my project really appreciated and liked the graphic.
Hopefully, choosing to represent my interview findings this way has allowed me to reach a wider audience than I might otherwise have done. I have been able to share the graphic on social media platforms, including Twitter. The graphic has also made it onto a virtual school website, widening dissemination further.
All in all, working collaboratively with a graphic illustrator has made me think that, perhaps as a profession, we shouldn’t be restricted to prevailing dissemination mediums and methods. The potential that psychological research could as easily end up on Twitter threads, or blogs – accessible to all; as opposed to on conference slides is to me really exciting!