This is where students must decide on which media will best communicate their completed design proposal. Who is the audience? What is the message? How might the message be most effectively expressed for that audience? The options for visual communication are endless and tend to be the focus of students’ efforts. Accompanying text and labels are equally important but many will leave them to the very end. To get students thinking about writing as an integral component of the visual message, I developed a two-part scaffolding exercise:
Diagramming Exercise – A 2-hour in-class exercise in Presentation Techniques 3. Here the students’ personal experience is essential. The only criterion for the choice of subject to be diagrammed is that the student must have expert knowledge of it. Students were free to use the media of their choice, but were restricted to a maximum 11×17 format. I started with a PowerPoint introduction, drawing heavily on the work of illustrator Christoph Niemann to set the tone for the exercise. A variety of diagramming techniques and the use of graphics, text and colour were discussed.
By eliminating the performance stress of communicating something outside their expertise and allowing them to choose their favourite graphic media, students were immediately confident and engaged. Almost all of them consulted me with their first draft by the halfway point of the exercise. Under the guise of play, we were able to discuss and revise their messages with the same rigor as a more formal exercise. The atmosphere also allowed for spontaneous peer reviews as they naturally shared their work with their friends.
The results ranged from purely visual to heavily reliant on text to support a graphic message:
Concept Statement – A 4-hour in-class exercise in Presentation Techniques 3. Students were asked to use a new software (Adobe Illustrator) to prepare a set of presentation boards from a design project completed the term prior. Composing the boards required them to analyse and select their strongest visuals to include, and to introduce their work with a concept statement of at least one paragraph.
The concept statement intimidates students and they often fail to communicate coherently or ignore the component entirely. I started the discussion with a brief presentation about the goals and structure of a concept statement borrowing content from Writing for Interior Design.
The Writing for Interior Design examples are overly formal in my opinion, and acceptable variations from the poetic to the academic were discussed in groups and individually. Not all students sought me out to review their work in class, but for those who did, we were able to collaborate together to refine their writing. This was an important moment in demystifying the writing process for the students. Watching me play, re-work, and struggle with text in the same way that they do reinforced the importance of trial and error, draft and revision that they are continually exposed to in their design work.