Writing can serve as a concept driver as much as sketching in the early phase of a project. Students are reluctant to use writing in this way, but a simple brainstorming activity can reveal the potential power of words as they relate to the built environment.
Word Cloud Exercise – A group exercise that quickly produces results for further discussion. Students were given 5 minutes to write as many words and phrases they could think of in response to an article and photos from a design publication. No editing or revision is required or encouraged – spontaneity is key. All texts were placed into a word cloud generator and the resulting cloud was discussed as a group. Redundant, inaccurate and over-used terms were easily highlighted while the most meaningful descriptors were less obvious. The same exercise can be repeated with students responding to each other’s work. How our intentions align with other’s perceptions is testament to the strength of a design concept.
In addition to the inspiration images and sketches that students assemble at the start of their projects, I have begun to require key words and phrases as part of their conceptual work. These can evolve into statements of goals and objectives and in some cases remain part of their final presentation. By introducing writing at the beginning phase, students are less likely to view their final mission statements as an afterthought.