Title: Storyboarding tools for public engagement: Visualising the life-cycle of built-landmarks, and their impact on urban and social identity
The project will explore how visual storyboarding tools, annotated narrative sketches, and collages can play a new role in public engagement in urban regeneration and enable inhabitants to communicate in new ways with commercial and government stakeholders at King’s Cross. The time frame for this study runs from 2000 to the present day, encompassing the period of rebuilding at the area.
The storyboarding tools will enable inhabitants to visualise possible futures and roles of urban landmarks based on their experiences through the notion of writing known as “design fiction”. ‘The invention, creation and construction of possible futures, which are explored, tested, evaluated and improved, to allow, utilise, and materialise their central features as stories. (Grand and Wiedmer)
Experimental workshops were taking place at a Japanese boarding high-school as part of a regular art programme in Slough. I had been working as an art teacher at the school and I had already built good relationships with students, so it seemed like an appropriate vehicle to examine and generate the methodology for a creative workshop which will be held with local communities in King’s Cross.
The classes are held once a week for five weeks, with each class session lasting two hours and student groups comprising the third year A and B groups (aged between 17 and 18), wih a total of 30 students. The school campus was likened to a small cityscape during the experimentation.
During the series of workshops, the first week consisted of a briefing and sketch exercise. I asked them to show me their favourite places on campus in the form of either a drawing or photograph. Other questions I posed were in preparation for a discussion of their work in the following class, e.g. “Why is that your favourite place?” “What’s happening in there?” I asked them to write down 10 lines before they came to the next class.
The second week was a full exhibition of their work from the previous class. They shared experiences of their favourite places through the conversation over their drawings and photos. After the exhibition, fifty students were divided into ten groups based on their chosen area, objects and interests. However, the project faced some difficulties at this stage. At the first year level (age 15-16), most of the female students were hesitant to share their sketches, pictures and stories, and some of them were complaining about this exhibition. Moreover, it was in April (which is the very beginning of the Japanese school year) and they had only recently met and started to build relationships among students they expected to be with for the next three years. So students, especially the girls, were really discreet about what they were expressing, saying and showing to others. In fact, during break, I saw some banter between the boys and girls. It seemed quite a sensitive issue for this boarding school and I felt that if this project were to become a cause for bullying, I would not be able to mend their relationships because I was a part-time teacher for just one day a week. So, I gave up on the first year students’ involvement in this project, and they switched to learning and designing pictograms for the campus.
In the third week they became collectors. Students asked the members of staff what they felt about their chosen area/space? They were supposed to ask three local staff, and three Japanese staff. I also challenged students insofar as if a member of staff showed a lack of interest, I wanted students to ask them to think what they would do with it? This would be an important phase for the co-participatory design process because by collecting other stakeholders’ opinions by themselves, participants would be able to turn this into a spontaneous role, rather than passive students.
4th and 5th week - Through the previous interviews, students were rethinking their favourite places, and drew their improvements on tracing paper with their photographs. Meanwhile, students were also asked to create a cohesive storyboard to tell the future of the campus based on their idea sketches.
Then on 4th – 6th of October 2013, the final outcomes and whole process were exhibited at a school festival at the Japanese High School.
Visual Storyboard* please refer the summarised PDF Storyboard
Students and teachers have been given a feedback form. Also, other professionals were asked to respond using the same feedback form based on documentation from the workshop. The questions are divided into three sections, 1. About the storyboard, 2. About the workshop, 3. About the exhibition and 4. Communication through the outcomes; in total fifteen questions. Then the results are analysed and points that need to be fixed for the next workshop are derived from it. (Figure1 - PDF)
Most of the feedback was positive however there are some comments that need to be improved before the next workshop at King’s Cross. Workshop Section: Question 1. Any difficulties? – Some students mentioned that sketching was just difficult for them and they were slightly hesitant to draw. Also, an artist said that the visuals might be insufficient to communicate with an audience who do not know about the campus and students. He suggested that I should have spent more time teaching basic drawing techniques before students started creation of their visual storyboarding, or it may be necessary to generate visualising methods for participants who do not have artistic experience. Workshop Section: Question 7. What would be nicer? – Some students answered that art supplies were too poor to express what they wanted to show, neither supplied paper. Also, the artist suggested that showing other storyboards may not be necessary but to show more detailed techniques would enable students to create storyboards more easily. How to draw buildings, interiors, and the human body. Communication Section: Question 1. Do the stories and visuals communicate effectively / clearly to audiences? – I also apprehend that both stories contain some offensive materials (they are cut off on this digested version). The target group in King’s Cross will be adults so there is less risk but it is crucial to mention in the brief any expressions that should not be in the story.
Apart from the above mentioned issues, other processes were evaluated positively by the students, teachers, and other professionals. By analysing data from the experimentation, problems and factors that need to be improved have been clarified, Shown in Figure 2. Additionally, each visual was supposed to be drawn on separate sheets at the experimentation and subsequently combined with the script as a storyboard. It was too descriptive, so the new system which combines sketches and possibly stories will be generated.
Plan for the next step – workshop in King’s Cross
The next workshop in King’s Cross with a local community group will be designed as a 3 – 5 hour programme, with an expected number of participants of approximately five. Consequently, the structure and time schedule of the workshop should be organised precisely and any brief should guide participants towards the smooth creation of visual storyboards.
To apply new visual storyboarding techniques to the next workshop, On Modes of Visual Narration in Early Buddhist Art (Dehejia, 1990) has been referenced. Currently, I am focusing on two types of visual storytelling from Dehejia. The first is ‘Synoptic Narratives – multiple episodes from a story are depicted within a single frame, but their temporal sequence is not communicated, and there is no consistent or formal order of representation with regard to either causality or temporality.’ This may be applicable when creating a basic format of storyboard to correspond with geographical locations and participants’ stories. The second is ‘Continuous Narrative – Continuous narratives depict successive episodes of a story, or successive events of an episode, within a single frame, repeating the figure of the protagonist in the course of the narrative.’ This can be applied to the storyboard format which is more focused on the time sequence of visual stories.
In terms of a preliminary design for the visual storyboading format, a storyboard will be a combination of different stories form participants, so the screen will need to be divided into different sections before participants sketch their work on it. Japanese picture scrolls have unique methods to divide different scenes in one visual by using natural landmarks such as trees, rivers and clouds. This methodologis will be applied to prepare a base format for the King’s Cross community group. Target participants will be asked in advance what their memorable built landmarks are to prepare customised sheets for their creation. The precedent study for base format. (Figure 4)
Currently, I am researching about other elements to design concrete workshop system.
• Vidya Dehejia On Modes of Visual Narration in Early Buddhist Art The Art Bulletin, Vol. 72, No.3. (Sep., 1990), pp. 374-392. [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3045747?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21102939606647> [Accessed November 10th 2013].
• The Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre (2013) The Vanity of Small Differences, Grayson Perry, Hayward Publishing [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/geisha/assets/files/Grayson-Perry—Education-pack-FINAL.1.pdf> [Accessed November 10th 2013].
• Grand, S. and Wiedmer, M. Design Fiction: A Method Toolbox for Design Research in a Complex World [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.fhnw.ch/hgk/idk/themen/mediendaten_themen/design-fiction-a-method-toolbox-for-design-research-in-a-complex-world> [Accessed January 10th 2013].
• 朱 琳「日本美術における時間と空間―絵巻と建築を中心として」Kyoto International Cultural Association [Internet]. Available from: <http://kicainc.jp/contest/essay2005-2.html> [Accessed NOvember 13th 2013].