Students are asked to choose a pair of opposing concepts to visualize, such as the example provided that shows representations of "organic" and "synthetic." Students are asked to consider issues of color, form, and composition, and to use them in contrasting ways for each representation. Initial concepts are developed with cut paper and used for viewer-testing purposes. No words labeling the representations appear in these prototypical versions.
Each representation is then shown to twenty randomly selected viewers, who are asked to complete a semantic differential survey form and rank the particular concept with five associated words and their opposites. Students then display average viewer responses to the desired attributes for each representation (see chart, opposite). Responses to representations that properly convey the intended properties naturally fall to the appropriate side of the scale. Students also consider any written responses from viewers while refining their compositions, and then create final versions on the computer, where the original concept words are then added as labels.
This project introduces the basic process of defining objectives for their efforts, creating and testing a visual message, and refining that message based on viewer response, giving beginning students a glimpse of a viewer-centered research approach.