Writing Design
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Writing Design

Original photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

The Struggle is Writing

Writing can feel like a never-ending existential exercise. An exercise in coming up with a new idea or a new revelation. As an academic, I structure my life around periodical induced timelines. Timelines to publish, track, document, maintain, organize, and offer as proof. Proof as evidence of effectiveness. An effectiveness that demands polished presentation. Presentation understood, accepted, and cataloged — a signal of finality.

But, as a designer, I prefer to be iterative. I prefer building, making, responding, and thinking. I leave space for failure, refinement, feedback, editing, serendipity, and the unexpected. I let the process unfold toward the desired outcome.

This is why I struggle to write — process and finality oppose one another.

So, logically, I need a writing process. I need systems and structures. I need functional activities that motivate content production. I need production broken down into manageable tasks. I need manageable tasks that promote sustainable activity. Yet, processes and activity only matter if there is a desired outcome. And, to have an outcome, there needs to be a place to start. Here are five places to start:

  1. Capture: So much daily activity has informative value. Creating projects, building presentations, providing feedback, or guiding others all have content value. Write about the knowledge gathered through these processes. No insight is too small — someone is taking on these tasks for the first time.
  2. Make: Writing is making. Pen or keyboard — both are physical. Connect your body to the act. Expel energy. Leave a mark. Not everything will be perfect. There will be waste. There will be refinement. There will be struggle. There will be success. Most of all, there will be words.
  3. Describe: Writing is a visual activity. Language used to share, acknowledge, agree, understand, and connect knowledge, message, and voice. Words project imagery. Don’t know what to write? Scribble it down or sketch it out — then, describe what you see. Descriptive language paints a picture with words.
  4. Practice: Writing — like all activities — takes time and practice to master. A few minutes a day is not enough. Use a time tracker and set goals. Set the timer and write as many words as possible. Do this daily. The more you write, the more you will write, well.
  5. Map: Map out the development of your writing practice. Define future goals. Create daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines. Do the work, meet the deadlines and you will see results.

Taking these steps will put words on the page — this is the desired outcome. This will remove the pressure of finality. The first step will not be perfect, yet there will valuable knowledge produced. Knowledge that someone needs. A knowledgeable contribution and that is enough.

Great. Sounds easy. I can do that…

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Scholarly writing is an integral part of many design faculty’s research agenda. As designers and writers, we know it can be daunting to sit down in front of a blank screen. A writing group provides structure, support and feedback. Cover photo by Amador Loureiro.

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Johnathon Strube

Johnathon Strube

Assistant Professor of Graphic Design

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