Ode Stones - Lithic Illustration: A Material Engagement Approach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The Ode Stones project is a pedagogic experiment in using lithic materials to reconnect 21st century illustration students to the Stone Age roots of Visual Communication Design. Within an Interpretation and Contextualisation module, the Ode Stones project was designed to improve the students’ ideation phase by engaging them through problem-solving ‘painting’ illustrations on stone. It challenged them to interpret the poems of John Keats onto three illustrated Ode Stones, and to then create three bespoke illustrated containers for each stone. This was framed by applying aspects of Material Engagement Theory (MET) to think through action, into their design processes. This cognitive archaeological theory was developed as a cross-disciplinary framework to help understand ancient meaning-making interactions through material artefacts. This paper explores the application of MET to modern Visual Communication Design practice. From their Ode Stone project rationales; each student’s text was qualitatively coded to reveal the emergent decisions they took while engaging with the lithic materials. This focused on form, texture, situation/context and painting decisions. By applying MET to Visual Communication Design, this paper reflects on how it can offer designers and illustrators a pragmatic, phenomenological and semiotic framework to underpin their tacit knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCONFIA 2020
Subtitle of host publication8th International Conference on Illustration & Animation
Place of PublicationPortugal
PublisherInstituto Politécnico do Cávado e do Ave
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9789895493906
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2020
Event8th International Conference on Illustration & Animation - Online, Portugal
Duration: 23 Oct 202024 Oct 2020
Conference number: 8th


Conference8th International Conference on Illustration & Animation
Abbreviated titleCONFIA
Internet address


  • Illustration,
  • Odes
  • John Keats,
  • Palaeoillustrator,
  • Azilian Pebbles,
  • Palaeontology,
  • Material Engagement Theory.


Dive into the research topics of 'Ode Stones - Lithic Illustration: A Material Engagement Approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this