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Several design instructors have confessed to me, in casual
conversation, their struggles to inspire students to write.
Students complain about writing: always have, always will. Design
students are no exception. Writing is boring. Writing is all
about rules. Writing has nothing to do with me. Writing doesn't
matter. But students don't find all writing boring or
irrelevant or burdened by rules. They complain mainly about the
nature of their school writing assignments. So how can design
teachers make writing more interesting for their students?
It's a great problem. I came up with 21 prompts that are
dramatic, provocative, fun, urgent and personal.
Assignments that require research tempt students to copy entries
from Wikipedia or other online sources. Designed to defeat that
urge, these prompts depend on personal information or perspective.
Some involve parodies, which promote awareness of language by
demanding that the student bring one kind of language into a new
and jarring context (like, say, writing about a rifle through
language typically used to advertise a new baby stroller). To
combat charges of irrelevant subject matter, I geared many prompts
to involve popular culture, technology, and current trends and
debates, but most importantly they demand the student to write
persuasively—that is, engage in argument in order to persuade a
specific person of some specific thing.
My intent is to get writers thinking about the uses of language,
about audience and authorial intention, about jargon and slang and
context and how language works or doesn't work in different ways on
different people at different times.
Students already write on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and email.
Most email services, such as Gmail, save all emails. This material
may be selectively gathered and repurposed in a variety of ways,
such as for collages, found poetry or dramatized conversations.
Starting with existing forms is a great way to ease students
into writing. Students can download real forms online, such as tax
forms, police forms, accident reports, résumé templates, query
letters, immigration forms, consumer-complaint forms, opt-out forms
and more. Instructors can also create their own forms in order to
allow greater space for certain entries. And forms as a category
does not necessarily have to limit you to actual forms or
templates—blogs, product reviews, holiday cards, opinion columns
and letters of resignation, for example, also follow conventions.
The dramatic twist, however, is for students to fill out the forms
unconventionally. Students should be encouraged to write outside
the lines, literally and figuratively.
A useful structure for persuasive writing is the
Argument/Objection/Reply form. The writer begins by informally
listing all conceivable arguments for and against a proposition.
Choosing a side in the first paragraph of the essay proper, the
writer begins with the strongest argument. In the second paragraph,
the writer envisions an opponent's strongest objection to that
particular argument. In the third paragraph, the writer replies to
that objection. The fourth paragraph begins a new, second-best
argument in support of the writer's position, and the cycle
repeats. A standard essay of this form sets out the three strongest
arguments in support of the writer's position.
Why do we need graphic design theory? Armstrong calls on the design community to meet the challenges of our time and keep the discourse alive.
Section: Inspiration -
graphic design, critique, Voice, social responsibility
The way we read is constantly changing, and so is the way we write. Curtis articulates why this is a good thing.
Section: Inspiration -
user research, professional development, personal essay, Voice
Should designers be taught writing the same way as everyone else? Lupton looks at current teaching methods to help the visual become verbal too.
In what ways can an e-book be better than a printed book? First-time author Marks looks at the upsides of digital publishing.
Section: Inspiration -
e-publishing, education, writing
Could computers be to design what cake mixes are to baking? FitzGerald welcomes students back to school with an “outside the box” lesson.
The naming and branding of sport teams that can be considered racist to Native Americans are a problem needing to be solved. This presents a great case for design to rise to the challenge.
Recent launch of a distinct, new look and feel for the much-loved but often behind-the-scenes, philanthropic arts organization, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. This includes a new a dynamic logo system, overall look and feel for branding, and website:
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