The predominant focus of contemporary Art and Design education is visual, rather than written, communication. This paper explores recent shifts in Art and Design curricula, which have brought students’ engagement with the written word to a bare minimum. Drawing on my recent experience teaching at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM), Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton (WSA) and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), I will discuss how the written word may begin to take up a more productive place in Art and Design teaching.
Changes to dissertation requirements at CSM at the MA level and WSA at the BA level, provide examples of alternative approaches to the use of writing in studio-based studies. While both institutions have reduced the word count of their dissertation requirements, they are also encouraging students to use the written word specifically to explore their own studio practice. Similarly, courses such as “Writing and Making”, which I have taught at RISD and WSA, ask students to question the relevance of language to their practice and suggest that words can be understood as yet another material.
When students can see that writing is yet another creative act, we will be able to transfer the confidence many visual arts students have in their ability to communicate through visual means into written language. This written language may be something entirely different from what we know today, but it will be language that is both purposeful and useful to visual arts students.