Graphic Design Dissertations

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The work carried out by Julia Lockheart and John Wood and many others, for Writing-PAD (Writing Purposefully in Art and Design) at Goldsmiths and elsewhere nationally and internationally, became central to the articulation of this report.

Their re-thinking and research gave me the conceptual ammunition to propose to the School and the Department a shift in the way contextual studies, and especially writing, was delivered and employed by the students.

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Contexts 50% attendance, 50% average mark, and 50% plagiarised.

A slight exaggeration, but this is how it came across to me when in 2007 I started to assess the seemingly half-hearted essays that were being produced by the 30 first year BA/HND graphic and digital design and 3D digital design and animation students, in our Design Department.Two of the first year briefs where re-written with this conceptual shift in mind and the design dissertation course was manipulated to encourage and enable students to involve more of their studio practice and practical skills.In the next sections I will sketch out how these ideas were put into practice.Some students enjoyed, some hated and many muddled through producing writing and research that was disconnected with their lives, design and their studio work.The position of writing in relation to the practice that went on in the design studio seemed semi-detached at best.It involved the students carrying out in depth research into two artists or designers one of their choice and one given to them by their tutor.This ‘getting under the skin’ research then had to be transcribed into a three way fictional conversation between the student and the other protagonists.At the start of this research process it soon became clear, as I had suspected all along, that a great deal was being said and put into practice in this field.Having just come out of a especially constructive experience of practice-based visual arts doctoral research where the debates about the relationships between, writing, theory, research and practice had raged for over twenty years, I was not at all surprised that they were alight elsewhere in art and design education.The reasons for this unsatisfactory state of affairs were not immediately apparent, as the lecturers were very lively, delivering exciting material to sparky students.Additionally I was one of a team of Design Dissertation tutors, and although there was some high quality writing being produced by the 3 year design students, many were in the ‘lets get it out of the way before we go on to the proper work of our practice’ variety.

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