Writing in the discipline of Interior Design takes a variety of forms and addresses many different audiences. Depending on the context, different genre-specific norms are employed and a skilled writer knows what style and voice to use in a given situation.
Early in the process of building the portfolio I attempted to chart the variations in design writing and find links to course content. The result was the equivalent of an architect’s sketch on a café napkin – loosely organised, barely legible, but serving as a launchpad for the final structure of my work.
In nearly all instances, our writing is meant to bridge the gap between designers and our audience, serving as an adjunct to visual communication. At its most effective, writing in design clarifies our intentions, opens the possibility for dialogue and at the same time limits and controls possible interpretations of a visual presentation. Ambiguity can have serious consequences, in some cases legal and costly in the applied practice of design.
This genre-specific writing is intimidating to students and many view it as a foreign language to be mastered. While this is to some extent true, it need not be so foreign. If writing becomes an integral part of a student’s creative process, then formal writing can be approached as a problem-based exercise that they might encounter in any design studio.
Writing as a tool for critical thinking has a direct parallel to the role of drawing and sketch. The motivation to do so and its link to cognition is identical to that of the sketchpad. However, as educators in a program that emphasizes the mastery of applied skills, I find that teaching writing is often sacrificed at the expense of developing students’ visual language skills. Given the ease with which we promote sketching as part of the creative process, teaching writing skills with the same approach should be intuitive and simple. My goal from the start of the Writing Fellowship has been to find concrete ways to integrate writing into design teaching in a way that is natural for both student and teacher.