The Materiality of the Book: Scientific Illustrations in the Georgia Tech Archives
Students will create posters evaluating the aesthetics and materiality of scientific illustrations taken from books in the special collections of Georgia Tech. In groups of three, teams will select one book from the collection to study in detail. Groups will research the history and significance of illustration as it relates to their assigned book, and present their findings to the class.
To prepare for this assignment students will spend two days with Tech’s special collections librarians. Students will have time to examine and take photos of the physical books to use in their posters. They will also gain hands-on experience considering the purpose of archives, the role of digital archivists, and the life cycle of library collections.
This assignment challenges students in four ways:
- First, it asks students to summarize information and create a compelling visual narrative that will inform or persuade an audience.
- Second, it asks students to demonstrate an awareness of and ability to use basic principles of visual design.
- Third, it asks students to coordinate decisions and execute them as a group.
- Fourth, it asks students to generate and distill substantive research on a topic.
Students should select from several different software options to create their posters:
- Adobe InDesign (available in the multimedia lab), see Lynda.com tutorials.
- Adobe Illustrator (There are tutorials at Lynda, and also on the web. See, for example, this one, which has a focused emphasis on posters)
- GIMP (free) or Adobe Photoshop (Again, see Lynda for tutorials)
- An online tool, such as Piktochart or Canva.
I suggest you review the section in WOVEN Text covering “Charts/ Infographics” (pp. 357-364).
Posters must include some background about the book’s author, the book itself, as well as the illustration type (wood cut, lithograph) and content (diagram, graph, map). Posters should not only summarize a selection of specific illustrations from this book, but also the print history of this type of illustration. Identify the book’s purpose and address the question of what graphical illustrations contribute to achieving this aim. For instance, teams might address the question of why pastoral landscapes were included in a book about constructing rail roads. Think critically about the value (financial, educational) of graphics in books. Students will conduct outside research to contextualize their specific illustrated book. Focus on one or two points to avoid confusing your audience by including too many ideas in your poster.
Submission/ printing for gallery style viewing
Each group will print their poster so that we can do a gallery style viewing in class. These posters will be collected and assessed by the instructor. There are plotters in the Multimedia Studio and at Paper and Clay in the Student Center (3rd floor) that will allow you to print your poster. The large format plotter can print 24”, 36”, and 42” inches wide and any length. The pricing is per linear foot $2.50, $2.75, and $3.00, respectively. Choose your size accordingly. You may orient your poster either vertically or horizontally.
Give yourself plenty of time to print your poster. Students often discover that there’s a line at the plotter and that it actually takes a long time to print even when it is their turn. Also, if you were to use a print shop (such as Paper and Clay), some require you to submit your file 48 hours in advance. You may wish to print extra copies at the time you print to keep copies for yourself.
- You should choose a size for your poster based on your reactions to other posters you find on the web. Many poster are tall images; others go for something wider. It’s not important that the image be any specific size: more important is what it can do for a viewer in a short timespan (you should anticipate that viewers will spend 1-2 minutes with your poster.
- Include a clear title somewhere in your poster. It should be specific and attention-grabbing.
- Somewhere in the poster, include the names of all group members
- Cite all sources using MLA at the bottom of the poster.
In class, each group will give a short presentation that walks the class through the poster and points to 3 specific, interesting visual choices and/or research and data in the design (which may be the same as the specific parts of the images discussed in the group supporting document).
Groups must research and write annotated bibliographies for at least five secondary sources (do not include your selected book from the archive). This is a joint, co-authored bibliography. You should use these annotations to determine what belongs in your poster, and what doesn’t.
I suggest you review Chapter 20 in WOVEN Text covering “Process: Integrating and Documenting Sources” (pp. 776-796).
Group Supporting Document
Along with your poster, your group will submit a 2-3 page (1,000 word) supporting document that addresses, explains, and supports the choices you have made in your poster. This is a joint, co-authored paper. You should consider using Google Docs or a similar web-based program in which to write your document; a “co-authored paper” means creating a unified, blended, single voice from many voices.
You should address not only the argument that your poster engages but also why you’ve chosen this particular topic. You should also address/explain your choice of style, font, color, images, size, etc., How do your choices of design elements work together to convey your topic/argument/point? Why did you choose these particular elements as opposed to something else? Why did you choose this topic? Who or what organization might use your poster in a real world setting?
- Thursday 1/17: Assign Groups
- Wednesday 1/18- Friday 1/20: Meet in the special collections at Tech
- Monday 1/30: Tutorial with Allison Valk
- Wednesday 2/8- Friday 2/10: Presentations & Gallery Viewing (bring printed posters to class for viewing)
- Monday 2/13: Revised Digital version of poster (use JPG, PDF, or TIFF), Annotated Bibliography, and Supporting Document Due on T-Square at midnight. Email is also an acceptable way to submit these documents.
- Monday 2/13-Wednesday 2/15: Login to CATME to complete your Artifact #1 Peer Assessment.
- Reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses in completing the project.
- Describe the methods and modes that were the focus of your communicative work in the project.
- Articulate areas and strategies you would like to focus on for continued improvement.
- What is your argument or purpose, and how did you make the argument or purpose visible in your artifact?
- Who is the intended audience for your artifact, and why? How is your choice of audience reflected in your artifact?
- What are the defining features of the genre or media that you are using in this project, and how do you make use of these features?
- What was your role or title in this group assignment? How did you contribute to completing this project? What could you have done better to support your team? Do you want to share anything about your experience working in this group?