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  • Writer's picturelisa winstanley

Redefining Illustrated Portraits Using Augmented Reality. 12th On The Image Conference 2021

Yesterday (13th September) marked the first day of the 12th International On The Image Conference: Picture a Pandemic. The Visual Construction of Meaning In Digital Networks. This event is a hybrid conference held in Lisbon, Portugal. I've attended the conference a few times previously in person, however, this time unfortunately, given the circumstances I'm participating online. I miss the connection, I miss having face to face conversations with real people. I miss being able to travel to beautiful places such as Lisbon! But I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to connect with people on a global scale online to share my work.

The project I discuss is something very new to my repertoire as a designer and a design educator. I am always pushing boundaries and looking for new ways in which to develop my pedagogical approach and to support my students in becoming critical thinkers and intrepid explorers of novel and emerging technologies, trends and theories. So this project pushed both I and them out of our comfort zones and attempted to address 3 key areas which could provide students with the transferable skills that industry is now seeking:

The first being

Bridging Art and Technology

This project explored the integration of emerging technologies, in this case Augmented Reality or AR and the use of social media: as a tool for both dissemination of outcomes & to provide a platform for self-reflection.


Collaboration both within & beyond the classroom

So this project redesign aimed to Position students as both the client and as the creator in order to investigate the varying creative perspectives of production and consumption

Thirdly, Developing Communication skills

In person, through critique, presentation and consultation with their ‘client’ and the instructor

Online communication and dissemination of process and outcome via social media

and exploratory visual communication skills, developed by redefining The ‘Seflie’ as a form of Visual Narrative

In order to address these key issues in the contemporary design studio classroom, this project asked students to reinterpret the self-portrait and the notion of the modern selfie using AR and social media technology.


SPARK AR is free software developed by facebook, that allows users to create and share their own AR effects for mobile and is fully integrated with both Facebook and Instagram social media platforms. Meaning students could design their own AR Face Filters, overlapping digitally generated content onto a real world environment and accordingly provide opportunity to actively engage audiences with their interactive content on social media.

Over a period of 6 weeks, the students were tasked with creating 2 separate illustrations; the first, a self-portrait, focussed on hedonistic self-expression and the second a portrait of a classmate, designed to develop utilitarian and entrepreneurial thinking. The portraiture could take form in any medium traditional or digital but would then need to be translated to SPARK AR to create an interactive face mask filter.

The results were beyond what was initially envisaged. The student's embraced the new technology and created expressive illustrations which surpassed y expectations.

I'm currently writing a paper to discuss the pedagogical approach and how developing a future focussed curriculum means up-skilling oneself as a design educator to remain current and relevant to industry demands. Watch this space!

Here are some of the outcomes. Awesome work!


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