Geoff Grandfield

Associate Professor Illustration Animation Kingston School of Art, Kingston University

Geoff Grandfield

Eye Function

Innovating Structures - Illustration Practice prototypes new possibilities in Research


The paper will provide an overview of issues and considerations that relate to supervising Illustration Practice (IP) based doctoral research, applying innovatory research methods to establishing new knowledge and its effective sharing.

The lack of discipline specific research, theory and critical analysis maintains Illustration as an overlooked academic practice. Emergent understandings of expanded IP as a research tool collide with entrenched associations and academic / cultural / systemic bias.

University Research culture has been dominated by the alpha-numeric dualism of either quantitative values such as particularity and conclusive results, or qualitative enquiry through process orientated exploratory breadth and interpretation. Both historically communicated through the non-visual prisms of words and numbers. These tools limit and perhaps distort ontological enquiry.

IP presents the locus and identity for diverse ways of working that can combine art, design, technology and science and the capability to exist in both qualitative and quantitative research realms. While the natural location in the academy for Illustration research practice appears to be in the latter, illustration has been defined by its use by the more economically significant former. The academic world of quantitative fact appears to distrust pictures unless employed as a representational ‘fig.1’. and categorises illustration as a commercial mass consumption mimetic. That may be partly true when commodified, but its methodological ability to generate from the emotional life of society is one of its great strengths and potential for new knowledge.

The inherent plasticity of the discipline contributes a bridging device between the opacity of academic disciplines. Understanding the positioning of creative interpretative image generation within academic structures, how IP methodology contributes research outcomes and can be used by a larger research community is a key consideration for IP based doctoral research. Illustration as more than a representational form is a key part of the validation of interpretative practice and a new understanding of its societal value.


Geoff Grandfield’s teaching and research interests are centred on Illustration Practice and its agency for social imagination. He is an illustrator, was Head of the Illustration Animation Department at Kingston School of Art (2016-20) and previously BA IA Course Leader. His professional illustration commissions include work for The Guardian, The Folio Society, The Tower of London and has centred on visualising ideas and graphic narrative. The understanding and recognition of Illustration as a critically reflective practice that has values beyond those determined by industry and the Higher Education sector led to co-founding of ‘Mokita', an illustration critical forum in 2010, to reposition Illustration as an independent subject, discipline and practice and consolidate its importance for societal and cultural value and identities. Since 2015 he has supervised six PhD doctoral research students that share a common ground of using Illustration Practice as a tool to examine archive, place, education, interpretation and choreography.