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Graphic Design: Powers of Observation (Online)

Student working on her designs on computer. Decorative image only.

A keen-eye makes for effective communication. Observation is a process of closely studying something in order to gain information. Powers of observation can be developed by cultivating the habit of watching with an active, enquiring mind.

Tutor: Yvan Martinez

This course asks students to change perception of the everyday by investigating and demonstrating the powers of observation. Students will explore the notions of ‘narrative’ and ‘place’ and will utilise a diverse range of recording and research methods, followed by a process of decoding and interpreting collected information (photography, sound, drawings, rubbings, writing, etc). The final outcome will be a short film (1 to 5 min) that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Course Content

  • Design and produce a short film inspired by insights from a process of observational research
  • Develop, test and apply techniques of observation that combine analysis and intuition
  • Learn how to recognise important details and patterns and make meaningful connections among data
  • Turn artistic research insights into creative interpretations
  • Individual project

How will I Study

  • You will study on the University’s VLE system, developed specifically for the teaching and learning of creative practices, online.
  • Lectures and discussions
  • Group work
  • Guided creative projects you can complete from home or your local areas
  • Individual tutorials
  • Project work and Presentations
  • You will be assessed on your contribution to classes and project work.

How UAL Online Courses Work

All online courses have the benefit to be a part of the University of the Arts London Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), and have been developed specifically for the teaching and learning of Art and Design practices, online.

This Virtual Learning Environment uses the latest technologies to provide the participants direct access to lessons, assignments, portfolio space and live classes from most devices enabled to access the internet, including smartphones and tablets.

UAL Study Abroad Online courses are a mix of live classes and self-study time. Students will be required to attend live classes at a given time every week and work on the weekly assignment between classes.

Every week, the tutor and student will meet in the virtual classroom and participate as a class, which is set at a recurrent day and time (set in the United Kingdom, times GMT or BST and dates are subject to UK national holidays).

For convenience, the classes and course content are archived and made available for review for up to three months after the course finishes. The platform also enables each participant to manage their own content, including the submission of their work for assessment by the tutor.

Live course sessions:

Courses have 2 live contact hours per week, for 15 weeks in a row. The weekly session consists of 1.5 hours of lectures/seminars/talks and 0.5 hour is dedicated to tutorials. Lessons are scheduled between 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm UK time. All sessions are recorded and available to view until the through the duration of the course.

Materials and equipment needed for the course:

  • Laptop/Computer
  • Good internet connection
  • Microsoft Word
  • PDF reader

Yvan Martinez has over 15 years experience as a designer and educator. Since 2001 he has been working across the education/practice divide, leading workshops and research projects at schools internationally including ArtCenter, ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, Bath School of Art & Design, Fabrica, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, San Francisco Art Institute, Sheffield Institute of Arts, UCLA DMA Summer Institute, Valand Academy and Vilnius Academy of Arts, while working with clients including Arkitip, Edwin, Emigre, The Face, Giorgio Camuffo, GLBT Historical Society, MTV, Nike, The Face, Urban Outfitters and Wieden + Kennedy. Martinez's work has been exhibited widely and is part of the permanent collections of Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Denver Art Museum, MoMA and SFMOMA.

Martinez is Course Leader of BA Graphic Design Semester Programme at Central Saint Martins and Associate Lecturer for MA Graphic Design Communication at Camberwell College of Arts.

Martinez is a co-founder, editor and art director of Books From The Future – an artistic research platform that produces and publishes self-initiated research on contemporary culture, experimental communication and graphic design. He is also a co-founder of Public Foundry, a type foundry and community archive powered by the public using artificial intelligence.

Yvan Martinez is a recipient of Google’s Research Awards 2020, funded by the Artists and Machine Intelligence programme. He is also the 2020 Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) Typographer-in-Residence.

This course is aimed at graphic design students, graduates and professionals looking to develop skills and methods of research-led design, particularly the ability to realise artistic research into an effective piece of communication.

Level of study

UAL Online Study Abroad courses are for undergraduate, graduate and independent students from around the world. Minimum age is 18. Minimum GPA requirement for US students is 3.0. Non-US students should submit academic qualifications and achievements instead of GPA.

Level of English

The equivalent IELTS score of 6.0 or above is required. If you are interested in IELTS preparation courses, please visit UAL's Language Centre website for further information.


Each course is 30 contact hours and 30 self-directed study hours (suggested credit value of 3 US credits). Students receive a Record of Study on completion of the course along with a suggested credit value. Credit is awarded by the home institution.