I come to this thread a little late after a busy assessment period.
>We can help our students learn to write. Doing so helps them learn to
think better. It is my observation that these kinds of skills also help
students to learn and master a body of subject-related issues in design
or any other field.
I concur. Further, I am a firm believer in the value of
post-rationalization in designing. However, this needs to be conducted
longitudinally, with rigour and to a purpose.
What do I mean by post-rationalization in designing? In practical
situations marked by open-endedness, uncertainty, the epistemologically
inconsistent, etc. designers tend to deal with the unpredictable
opportunities that arise when they allow the work to talk back to them
through moments of non-rational and unselfconscious activity. Making
sense of these moments is sometimes urgent and immediate, and sometimes
it is cause for later reflection. This 'sense-making' is necessarily
about language use and conducted in a rational and selfconscious frame
of mind. In this context writing is a process absolutely about thinking
better; words in written form are open to critical reading, dialogue and
rewriting. The kind of theory that gets used to underpin an argument for
a particular design decision or process in my field is very varied. Most
commonly referenced in third year and masters project rationales over
the last ten years are theories on learning, museology, marketing,
communication, tourism, heritage interpretation, decision making and
Perhaps against the general trend 80% plus of our undergraduate students
do enter design and design related employment. So their purpose in
learning to write a project rationale is very pragmatic. They learn a
powerful vocabulary to use in presenting their work to clients and
potential employers, one that shows awarenes of social and cultural
context and confidence in explaining design thinking.
Maybe we're too good at this because so far none of our home-grown
students has returned to us to do a PhD. However, when one does I am
confident that they will not struggle with the value and purpose of
design writing in the research process.
Just a couple of references:
Matthews, G. (2000) Writing Design, Research by Design, conference
proceedings Delft University, pp.216-21.
Harrison, A. (1978) Making & Thinking: A Study of Intelligent
Activities. Harvester Press.
Dr Geoff Matthews
Design for Exhibition & Museums
Lincoln School of Architecture
University of Lincoln
Lincoln LN6 7TS
T: +44 (0) 1522 837139
F: +44 (0) 1522 837155
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