Where and how should research begin?
The classic advice doled out by many librarians, including myself, is to begin with a broad overview like an encyclopedia article, work your way up to books and journal articles, and finish it with data, personal observation and/or evidence – essentially making your way backward through the information cycle from tertiary to primary sources information.
While this approach works really well in a lot of cases, the research required of someone working on a creative, visual or design related project is completely different all together. It seems to me, that it is often largely about inspiration, as well as about the testing of methods, materials and techniques. In many ways it has a lot in common with the work of scientists in labs, as designers similarly must call on their powers of observation, knowledge of materials, and ability to interpret results. We have many examples in our collection at the FIT Library of sketchbooks, scrapbooks or notebooks that designers, photographers and other creatives have used for this process. I hope to feature some of these in future in blog entries.
However, there is another book – a completely different type of book – that I want to highlight in today’s entry. I discovered it by accident in early August when I decided to browse the titles on the New Book Shelf on the 5th Floor. This unassuming, tidy little paperback manual (see cover image to the left) pulled me in as soon as I began flipping through the pages. What struck me right away was how well designed and structured the book was — full of images and eminently readable at the same time. Better yet it addressed one of my favorite topics: research.
Sourcing Ideas by Josephine Steed and Frances Stevenson provides clear outlines and paths that textile and surface design students can follow. It offers useful case studies and compelling visuals, and it explores a variety of methods for primary and secondary research in textile development. To sum things up, it is a friendly, inviting gem of book that is both beautiful and utilitarian. (Click sample images to view larger).
It turns out that over the past few years the FIT Library has purchased a number books from AVA Publishing that all do a beautiful job of mapping the research process for students. So long as they keep producing titles like Sourcing Ideas, I am sure we will keep purchasing them.