I have had experience (as tutor) with design students that submitted
their final work in other forms than the traditionnal essay, not because
they had "disabilities" such as dyslexia, but because either they had
problems in writing (in my experience, students usually have to write
only once in 4 or 5 years, it is for their final thesis), or because the
study itself couldn't be really developed in an essay. After all, some
design inquiries are simply not congruent with the written FORM (I use
the word in the morphological sense).
It is extremely exiting to work in that way, but one has to be cautious
about two things : that the quantity of work is twice as huge as in a
written form, and that the reception by the jury can be negative.
The way to go around the latter is simply to justify the form of the
thesis itself, by demonstrating that the way the inquiry is conducted,
and the results it leads to is directly connected to the presentation
In fact, I think that the written form should as well be justified when
it comes to design studies. We would probably avoid some painful reading
(not to mention the real suffering of students unfamiliar with
bibliography, notes, and simply academic writing).
From the point of view of tutoring, it means that one has to follow both
the development of the problematic, and ensure that the presentation
format chosen is structurally adequate.
To make it maybe clearer, I'll give you two examples of what I consider
were successful work.
One of my students did a work that was about "symbolic values of
objects". Finally, we agreed on a video for the final presentation. But
the requirement was that the video was in itself designed as an inquiry.
So the result was that she took three persons (after series of meetings),
asked each of them to choose three personal belongings that were
important to them (documented interview), then moved these objects to the
two other persons home and vice-versa for a full week. Did an interview
again while the objects were with the new "owner", and then after
The game was, as you see, very simple, but the video brought a dimension
of truth that could never be conveyed in such a short time (10 minutes)
and with so much complexity in any written work, except for a novel.
A little written synthesis was then just enough to explain and summarize
Another student I had wanted to work on the subjectivity of perception of
forms, depending on the context. Rather then going into litterature,
which would have been difficult for her, I asked her to document during
three months her own perception of one or two objects of daily use.
Finally, it ended up with a huge portfolio documenting the Braun
foodblender. It was not an artist's work (or rather, it could have been),
because the process was not merely focused on producing representations,
but on capturing instants of subjectivity. I think that it was also an
excellent work, and the jury agreed.
I have a few other examples, but I can only support your attempts, it
goes far beyond "disabled" students, and reaches deep in some essence of
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