An Approach to Writing for Art, Design and Architecture Students

14596777065_2705e4d98e_zWriting is an integral part of art, design and architecture education and practice. It is a way of communicating learning and ideas alongside your visual work, and can also be a means of generating and deepening those ideas. Yet many students in the creative practices are reluctant to write, perhaps because they lack confidence in producing writing as compared to making visual work, or because it seems like a distraction from studio practice that has to be done because of the demands of the course, rather than being an enriching practice in its own right.

Learning Support and Development provides individual appointments and workshops to support students in their writing for GSA. On this website we provide guidance on writing for art school: writing for studio (including reflective writing) and essay and dissertation writing. These forms of writing all involve communicating clearly and the use of academic writing conventions. At times we set out clear guidelines that approach writing in a very structured way, but for some students and for some writing projects a more free and creative approach may be best.

An approach to writing that closely parallels the creation of visual work, one that recognises the role of uncertainty and taking risks, has been set out by Carolyn Mamchur and Linda Apps. They present the four main aspects of writing in the creative practices as:

1. Discovering your subject – finding a topic to write about that you understand fully enough, and are sufficiently interested in. This also involves narrowing your focus to more specific subject matter.

2. Sensing your audience – knowing who you are writing for, and why, and framing your writing in a way that will best communicate to a particular audience.

3. Searching for specifics – finding the specific details which provide focus as well as making the work more meaningful, ‘moving from the abstract to the particular’.

4. Creating a design – working the piece of writing into ‘a shape, a form, a structure’ so that it is a cohesive whole that is accessible both to the reader and the writer.


The key aspects of writing also apply to the production of any kind of creative work.

Reference: Linda Apps and Carolyn Mamchur. 2009. ‘Artful Language: Academic Writing for the Art Student’. Journal of Art and Design Education 28.3: 269-78.

 Image: Theresa Moerman at GSA Flickr