Selecting and combining visual examples

As you look for suitable visual examples, consider how you will justify your selection. Adding an explanation of why you have selected particular material enhances your argument. You may make aesthetic decisions without thinking about them, but endeavour to note your choices. If you like something, ask yourself why? To focus on justifying your selection, consider the following questions:

  • Does it have characteristics or techniques that fit a particular style or movement?
  • Does it have unusual characteristics?
  • Did it influence other practitioners?
  • Is it significant in other ways? If so, why?
  • How is your selection a good example of the idea you are discussing?

How you select and combine visual examples impacts your answer to the essay question, and how well you complete the assignment.

Below are some examples of image combinations and essay text that relates to the images. These images and text examples are in response to the essay question: Can the legacies of modernist architecture be seen in today’s built environment? Consider these examples and apply similar criteria when you make your selections.

Note: Curate your research

Carefully consider your selection and combination of visual material. You can use visual material to exemplify particular periods, movements, themes and styles of art, design and architecture. Comparing and contrasting characteristics of visual examples enables you to elaborate on styles and their historical significance. Your examples need to have some similarities to make their differences meaningful. By selecting and combining visual examples, you are curating your research.

Selecting suitable material, and being able to justify your selection, is a strong foundation for your essay. Good examples make it easier to research and write a sophisticated response to the question. Relevant, engaging and significant visual material gives you plenty of ideas to write about. Examples that are not suitable can leave you with nothing much to say. Consider if examples are relevant, engaging and significant.

  • Relevant: select visual examples that make a connection to your topic by depicting it, alluding to it, framing it, or being indicative of it.
  • Engaging (to you): it will be a better experience writing your essay if you choose examples that inspire you.
  • Significant (meaning well-known and respected): selecting significant visual examples helps ensure you have enough resources to develop and support your argument. Significance isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for choosing examples, but it makes finding resources easier.

How do you know if visual material has these qualities? If you feel as though the combination of formal elements is coherent, or the meaning makes sense, then you are on the right track. Think critically as you consider images you might select, but use your intuition too.

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