A reflective journal is both a communication tool and a design method for developing professional practice. Such journals allow designers to publish their projects as they progress and provide a platform for critically reflecting on creative works and the design process.
Reflective journals can be used to discover insight about how designers approach their creative problem-solving. This is commonly understood as a central requirement for designers to develop their professionalism and to become experts in the field. They do so through reflecting on their work - characterising common features and critically analysing successes and failures.
Reflective journals also help designers situate their work within the broader creative industries and contemporary visual culture context. Designers might use their journal to document developing trends and to collect examples of inspirational works. These collections might be made as part of the research phase of a given project or contribute to a more general understanding of a design field.
Such journals should take an appropriate form so that they communicate effectively and provide necessary insight. They might exist in a singular form e.g. a workbook, a weblog or they might exist as a collection e.g. as a workbook of sketches with notes/annotations and as a weblog/Tumblr of photographs/videos with associated critical reflections.
The following are examples of art and design reflective journals:
"Search for biographical and service details for over 115,000 New Zealand service men and women from the 19th century till today and especially from World War One and World War Two."
(Auckland War Memorial Museum)
Fig.1  Portrait, WW2, soldier standing in front of jeep, wooden hut, cigarette in hand, wearing beret. Godfrey Perkins 20/641254 at Mizuba 1946.
Fig.2  Group soldiers, Perenchies, Germany. Wilfred B Quennell 1st row standing 4th from left, scanned from copy of original.
"The Norsk Folkemuseum is Norway's largest museum of cultural history. With collections from around the country, the museum shows how people lived in Norway from 1500 to the present.
The more than 150 buildings in the Open-Air Museum represent different regions in Norway, different time periods, as well as differences between town and country, and social classes. The Gol Stave Church dating from 1200 is one of five medieval buildings at the museum. The contemporary history is presented through exhibitions and documentation projects focusing especially on children, youth and the multicultural population. Permanent indoor exhibitions include folk art, folk costumes, toys and Sami culture."
(Astrid Santa, Norsk Folkemuseum)
[Actors are located in some of the buildings to provide visitors with a sense of the life of the original inhabitants.]
"The final year NTU Multimedia module called the Research Project provides useful insight into the changing knowledge relationships operating within regionalised knowledge contexts. The module requires students to demonstrate scholarship that spans multiple traditional domains, it requires them to: situate their work and communicate its worth through academic writing; build conceptual models which they must be able to explore through applied research; express their design knowledge and craft skills so that they are able to plan and produce creative work; and design software and application development skills to produce working prototypes. In this way the module provides a challenge which is unique to such programmes. It requires that students engage in a sustained conceptual and technical discovery process which is located within a rapidly changing knowledge context."
(Simon Perkins, 2011)