Start Here

Are you a scientist gathering data and generating new knowledge through scholarly outputs and public engagement? Are you intrigued by the possibility of collaborating with a creative in the task of communicating your findings, but you’re not sure where to start?

Here are some questions that can assist in thinking about the role that visual creativity plays in the communication of your research:

  • Which audience do you want to connect with: policy makers, funders, peers in your discipline, peers outside your discipline, the public, local communities, or children?
  • What kinds of artistic genres (painting, photography, film, illustration, etc.,) do you personally enjoy engaging with? Why?
  • What kind of genre could your intended audience enjoy engaging with? Why?
  • What particular aspect of your research could be translated into visual creative content?
  • Are you looking to share a “big picture” finding or argument, or to share details about a complex detail of your research?
  • Are you seeking to create an emotional, intellectual, analytical, or political response to your message?
  • What role does visual material play in your research process? Do you have any visual data (photographs, graphs, video, sketches, diagrams, etc) to work with?
  • What role does visual material play in your analysis process? Does it help you organise themes, see bigger patterns, or understand in-depth, intricate details?
  • What role does visual material play in how your report on and publish your research findings? What potential is there to translate that visual material for non-specialist audiences?
  • To what extent are your research findings “visible”?
  • Are your needs relatively simple (e.g., a poster for a conference or a design for a book cover) or more complex (e.g., you want to think creatively about how to turn your findings into an animation, or need to access a community through social media)?
  • Consider the following visual creative genres, and ask yourself what place they might find in your research programme: animation, cartoons, collage, graphic design, graphs and charts, illustrations, infographics, installations (in three-dimensional spaces), logo design, mind-maps, painting, performance (theatre feedback/puppetry), photography, portraits, sculpture, sketches, sound, storyboards, video and moving images, visual note-taking in real-time, and web stories.

Finally, when in doubt, reach out to a creative person and have a chat. Before any commissions can be undertaken, it is always helpful to have an exploratory conversation. Great ideas come up through exchange!

Working with Creatives

By commissioning a creative to help with visual communications, or some other aspect of your research project, you are investing in the local creative economy.

Many creatives are freelance, and rely on commissioned projects to make a living. Therefore, it is important that you treat their work with respect, pay them market-related fees, and set up a clear expectation of deliverables and working arrangements from the outset.

Commissioning agents must observe the requirements in relation to the practitioner’s legal rights such as copyright and moral rights over their work. Download the VANSA Best Practice Guide for the Visual Arts in South Africa 2016.

Countries around the world rely on the creative economy to produce jobs and growth, stimulate innovation, fuel tourism, and promote culture. Now you can explore the potential of visual language for science.

Commissioned artworks are works produced under a commission arrangement where the practitioner functions as an independent contractor in producing the work or project. This arrangement is distinct from an employee relationship. Under a commission relationship, the commissioner and the practitioner agree on the nature, form, and content of artwork or project to be produced, the commissioner pays a fee to the practitioner for the production of the work, and the practitioner produces the work or project to the specifications previously agreed on between the parties.

In the case of a buyer commissioning a work directly from a practitioner, a commissioning contract should be drawn up based on a flowchart. The agreement should describe what the commissioning process entails, and a schedule of how and when payments are to be made during the process. The contract should include the following details:

Get Inspired

Here are some links from around the web and the world of amazing art-science collaborations. We hope you find them inspiring. You’re welcome to email us with suggestions of other projects or references that we should add here.
JohannesburgDumisani Jere
Devolution: returning back to the essences of space and time.
JohannesburgMondli Kunene
#BrushstrokesfromtheFuture is a term he coined to describe his style and technique.
JohannesburgThalente Khomo
Futuristic with an attempt to heal and unpack childhood traumas.
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