University of Minnesota
interdisciplinary studies of writing
center for writing

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Publications abstract: Writing in the Design Disciplines

bus stopRoger Martin, Landscape Architecture
Paul Damon and Jean Spraker, Research Assistants

Writing in the context of the design process has not often been reinforced within the traditional design studio in Landscape Architecture. The focus of this study was to determine to what degree specific writing techniques could enhance some of the basic design skills. A separate research segment was organized to study the impact of writing on each of three design skills: building design observation, design idea-making, and design communication.

The research was conducted in the context of a typical design project assigned within basic design studios at the University of Minnesota. Each research segment was organized around an interactive workshop between the researchers and students in basic design. In the workshops, writing skill techniques using group interaction explored applications of writing to the specific design skill. Specific writing exercises were selected from a review of both recent composition and design process literature. Each exercise attempted to explore writing within the context of drawing, sketching, and diagramming. Students used design journals to record workshop exercises and subsequent design-writing assignments.

At project reviews, outside evaluators assessed students' improvement and instructors compared students' work with that from previous years' students. Students' journal reflections were also evaluated. In general, the evaluators saw improvement in the quality of the design projects completed following the workshop.

Although some students felt some techniques introduced in the workshop were more useful than other techniques, most felt the strategies were worthwhile and said they would continue to use them in design. Results of the three explorations reinforced the value of writing to expand students' skills in design observation, idea-making, and design communication.