Turning academic concept into art

Poster Final-page-001 (1)

At first, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about this idea. Presenting my doctoral research through an academic poster seemed to be too time consuming, and complex. Nevertheless, after giving it some thought I recalled one of the first conversations with my supervisor who said that PhD is not a sprint, it’s a marathon in which one needs to learn how to enjoy the run.

So I went for a run the other day and asked myself a question: what are the core elements of my thesis that I could visualise? Apart from the title, there were three elements I wanted to be self-explanatory from the start. Firstly that my research was carried out in Poland, secondly that it involved the participation of lay people, lastly that ‘work’ and ‘money’ permeated participants’ views on punishment and justice.

There was one thing I knew for certain. I wanted a telling and eye-catching illustration to be the central focus of my poster. As my PhD is based on a qualitative fieldwork, and my role is to ‘explore’ and tell a ‘story’, I thought that it would be a better idea to find a symbolic drawing that completes the text, not vice versa. So I started searching for photographs, graphics, anything that would capture the ideas that were flashing in my mind. When this turned out to be a fruitless search, I decided to ask for help. And I couldn’t have been luckier.

Joanna Wapniewska not only  brilliantly conveyed my poster ideas, but also introduced me to the well-established and reputable Polish poster tradition – regrettably this was something I had not been familiar with. The point of departure for Joanna’s work on my poster was the set of visualisations used in a fantasy novel Wroniec by Jacek Dukaj. Jakub Jabłoński is the author of the illustrations. In addition, Joanna aimed at creating certain optical illusion in the poster; an illusion that would make the viewer see the Polish flag from afar, and waving people’s hands from a short distance. It has been an enormous pleasure to work with Joanna on this project, I would have never thought that translating a 5-year-academic endeavour into artistic visualisation could feel this liberating. And for those who are further interested in the legacy of Polish poster artists, I wholeheartedly recommend the following article: Polish poster artists

All in all, the above PhD graphic illustration was recognized and named one of the winning posters in the PhD Poster Competition organized by the Department of Sociology, LSE. I am now very much looking forward to presenting the poster at the British Society of Criminology Conference in Nottingham and European Society of Criminology Conference in Münster.

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