(Fogra 29_WF)Job:08-28858 Title:RP-Writing & Research for Graphic Designers
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(Fogra 29_WF)Job:08-28858 Title:RP-Writing & Research for Graphic Designers
#175 Dtp:225 Page:59
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Writing & research for graphic designers
long form / short form
Do you like to write long or short? Long equals around 1,000 words
or more—a long essay, article, scholarly paper, or book. Short is
from 250 to 1,000 words—an extended caption to a short essay
or column. Skill is needed for both. And it is often harder to write
short than long.
An editor will usually dictate how long you must write to
fill the space. Some periodicals are predicated on short stories;
others include a mix, but maybe never exceeding, say, 2,000
words. Sometimes you will dictate how long you want or need
to write. The case studies that follow are of different lengths
owing to either editorial or authorial demands. The former
must budget space, the latter must respond to the needs of
the story. If you have considerable and meaty research, it may
be impossible to write short. Conversely, many subjects are
better when concise.
For many neophytes it might seem that writing short is
a virtue. After all, you do not have to fill up space with
descriptions (or as Homer Simpson comically achieves it by
writing “Screw Flanders” over and over). Nonetheless, both
approaches can be found in the long-form/short-form discipline
as well as the other six disciplines covered in this section of the
book. As you read each case study in Section Two, keep in mind
how economical or expansive is the composition of the writing.
Akiko Busch has been writing both long and short on
design and cultural themes for over twenty years. Here she
discusses her attraction to the designed world.
What draws you to a topic?
I come to design as a user, so it’s the interaction between the object—
or room or building or landscape—and the user that interests me; and
how that engages the imagination, or doesn’t, for better or for worse.
Why do you feel it is important to examine our
relationship to and with objects?
Because it is so incongruous, strange, improbable, and often so illogical,
but human beings are also so deeply capable of having emotional
relationships with inanimate objects.
Akiko Busch is the author of The Uncommon Life of Common Objects.
Akiko Busch Talks about Being a Design User
What do you look for in an object in order to write about it?
Both its capacity for emotional engagement and its ability to reflect
unexpected truths about the world it inhabits.
How do you usually research a piece?
With any luck, from a variety of perspectives: That of the designer;
users of different ages and backgrounds; critics; how the object may
have been represented in a piece of fiction; referenced in a poem; or
appeared in a film; and how the object endures and mutates over time
are a few of them.
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section 2
surveying the diciplines
Journalism encompasses various methods. Reportage is the
accumulation and presentation of facts through eyewitness accounts
and commentaries, woven together to reveal an event or phenomenon.
While criticism can be journalism, reportage is not necessarily
meant to be critical or analytical. Interpretation is left for
commentators, who intermingle fact and educated supposition.
In the design field much of the writing has been “trade journalism,”
a method of explaining to professionals what is occurring
in their world(s).
In recent years, more critical analysis and personal points of
view have been injected into design writing, particularly with
an ear and eye toward introducing nondesigners to design
concepts. Alice Twemlow, a design writer and chair of the
MFA Design Criticism program at the School of Visual Arts,
New York, writes often for the mass market. How to get
across design issues in a more general journalistic context,
and how to discuss the everyday in design terms, has been
a matter of great skill. She addresses this in the following
case study.
Akiko Busch Talks about Being a Design User
What skills should one actively cultivate for good design writing?
Probably the same skills in most other kinds of writing: attentiveness,
unprejudiced inquiry, a bit of skepticism, a sense of history, and—one
way or another—arriving at a sense of clarity about what you want to say.
A technical question: How important is your opening sentence, and
how do you approach creating it?
Vital—but there is no single formula for finding it. Sometimes the lead
presents itself clearly, right up front, but often it does not. It may come a bit
later as the story is refined and articulated. Because writing about anything
is such an associative process, the progression of the story can easily morph.
When writing a story, do you have the reader in mind?
In a distant and abstract way, perhaps, but the reader does not usually
factor into what I am writing about.
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