In concise terms, critical thinking is an attitude towards visual communication that is grounded in theory and its relationship to making. It is more than a philosophical position: informed or engaged practice is less about the ways in which theory can inform practice – it is graphic design engaged in the theory of practice, or praxis. (Bestley and Noble, 2016)
Creativity is a valuable source of knowledge within the academic world but as the understanding we gain is often not tacit we need to find ways of communicating our insights
The physical and experiential nature of creative practice can stimulate new ideas and questions and can encourage us to take risks in our approach to research which we might not have considered if we had only followed traditional research channels. It might also inspire us to investigate not-theoretical subjects such as practical skills and materials.
The basis of any new knowledge or further understanding is explored through research; knowledge situated in practice is not, as is sometimes implied, a newish form of knowing alongside propositional knowledge, but is a tradition of enduring character. (Barnett, 1997)
We can then follow up on these organic ideas generated during creative practice and try to identify a question or argument that we can investigate and refine through our research processes.
We can then take these new insights gained through research back into our creative process and produce more informed work, better understanding why we are working the way we are.
By connecting the ideas and issues generated during our creative practice to a larger theoretical framework and reference points we are able to make a meaningful contribution to the existing debates and schools of thought within our discipline. It adds value to our creative ideas by allowing us to frame them within an academic context which is open to assessment and argument.
Indeed, the research methodology is intrinsic in determining the rationale and aims of the intended work. The rationale, aims and objectives declare the criteria for the investigation against which the success or failure of the project can be assessed. (Male, 2016)
By thinking about our work within the context of existing theories, methodologies, historical and contemporary influences we can start to better understand our motivations as practitioners.
As we find confidence in our academic voices we will be in a better position to actively engage in dialogue with a network of scholars and practitioners from within our own discipline and also other disciplines. In this way we become valuable creative contributors to the body of shared knowledge in our discipline and not just passive consumers of information.
By participating in research activities we will also become more aware of the issues and ideas other practitioners in our discipline are investigating, broadening our understanding of our area of interest and developing us into more informed participants in the creative community.
I can see how I can enrich and give broader academic context to my creative practice by embracing theoretical scholarship and the research process. I can see the usefulness in making my work more communicable to others and helping them to understand the value of my creative practice.
To do this in a meaningful way I can see how I will need to critically engage with the dual process as part of my daily practice in order for both contributions to be in sync with each other.
Barnett, R. (1997) Higher Education: A Critical Business. Buckingham: SRHE/Open University Press.
Bestley, R and Noble, I. (2016) Visual Research. 3rd ed. New York: Fairchild Books.
Male, A. (2016) Illustration: A Theoretical and Contextual Perspective. 2nd ed. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts.
Why NCAD? n.d. [Photograph] Available at -http://220.127.116.11/images/site/NCAD-8857.jpg [Accessed on – 13th March 2017]
Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2010). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools. Dillon Beach: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.