The Make and Look Lockdown Book

(R) Researcher

Matt Johnston

Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Coventry University

Read the research

How can we foreground the role of the reader as meaning-maker in a post-digital world?

My research involves looking at the role of the reader in constructing meaning from visual books. Specifically, I have been exploring how readers navigate and experience photobooks.

Through a series of interviews, observations and a survey with 178 photobook readers from around the world, I have been able to map a set of eight acts, performed by readers, which chart a relationship with the book from before it enters our hands, to well after it’s put down. Far from seeking to provide a blueprint for reading the photobook, these acts remind us of a significant part played by the reader in producing meaning, and influencing a book’s life.

Though my own subject has been a particular form of book, an emphasis on the often overlooked reader can be applied to other forms readily, and is something that Lucie recognised in her work as a children’s book author.

It’s this attempt to elevate and celebrate the reader that formed the foundation for our early discussions. Over the first few weeks of the project we met regularly online — seeking to grasp one another’s work, and the possibilities for a variety of outputs, as well as how reading was changing in lockdown.

As we continued our conversations we undertook several interviews with local readers of the photobook as well as children’s books to complement existing data and provide stimulus for Lucie’s artistic response. The DIY artists’ book which Lucie has produced provides a platform for readers to engage with the research in a physical way — quite literally making the meaning of the project. This, combined with the accompanying video and written contextual piece, is intended to encourage conversation about our part in reading — from how we picture characters in books to how we navigate pages, store our favourites and give, share or borrow books.

Download the context behind the research

Experiments with the Academic Book

(pdf 117.35 KB)

Download the PDF

Acts of Reading

(pdf 8.03 MB)

(A) Artist

Lucie Felix

Author and artist

Author and artist Lucie Felix writes books that are experimental, using narrative and poetic devices to immerse the reader as the main character.  Games and childhood are at the heart of her work, and The Make and Look Lockdown book is no different. Available to downloaded and print at home, along with instructions. Have a go yourself and see what you discover! 

Download the Make and Look Lockdown Book

Create your own

(pdf 91.28 KB)


A digital exhibition of artworks created during lockdown and inspired by university research. Amongst these 18 artistic responses to research, you’ll discover poetry about Coventry, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matters movement. Find stories about what Coventry means to refugees, and learn about Coventry’s twinning history, women’s suffrage and how interactive games can help break down the complexities of homelessness. Hear the words of healthcare workers during the first peak of Coronavirus, and explore creative connections forged by ‘The Artist and the Prof’.

Coventry Creates is part of the ongoing work by Coventry and Warwick universities in the lead up to the City of Culture. The University Partnership has funded over 30 creative research projects, involving over 50 Coventry organisations and local communities.


More information about Coventry Creates