Communication in Collaboration

Engineering News Record recently shared a great article promoting importance of teaching and encouraging collaboration in the education of architects, contractors and engineers. Full article here.

We couldn’t agree more with the points made, namely “The bottom line is simple: Students who enter the workforce having been exposed to broader and more collaborative curricula will be far better equipped to handle the myriad challenges they will face, regardless of their chosen discipline. We ask that our partners in engineering and landscape architecture join us in making a similar call to the academic community. ”

Designing Strategy wishes to underscore that lessons in empathy, trust and collaboration can already be found within rhetorics and communications programs on college campuses. Some universities are even actively engaged in Writing and Communications Across Curriculums initiatives, such as this one at UNCG.

Science and business have long been aware of the importance of rhetorics and communication. These disciplines have influenced writing and general education curricula to reflect writing course offerings that are specifically catered to their industries. It should come as no surprise that such programs often have less trouble winning funding for research.

One of our favorite mentors, Steven B. Katz, co-author of Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse, has been influential in helping scientists better leverage their gifts and proliferate findings via academic and non-academic journals. Wouldn’t it be nice if future architects, contractors and engineers had the option to take a design writing and communications course?!

Title Envy

We Love the recent article from It’s Nice That: “Designers are from Mars, Consumers Want Snickers: Let’s stand up for the value we create.” The article caught my eye because the title kind of suits my dissertation, however is much more clever and catchy than, “Ubiquitous Libidinal Infrastructures of Urbanism.” I was immediately envious.

In short, the article suggests that designers need “to work harder to prove its worth.” 

I agree 110% that designers and architects need speak up about the value they create!! So do poets, artists, musicians, mothers and caregivers. But, designers are some of the hardest working people I know. I’m not sure if they can work any harder. They may be able to work smarter, and of course, I believe the missing link has to to with Rhetoric and Communication.

Designers, a lot of them anyway, lack audience awareness. There are currently not enough opportunities in architectural education for students to engage with diverse audiences. Architecture students are habituated to talk about their value only to other’s who understand it (fellow students, critics and teachers). It is hard the make one’s design ideas matter to someone who does not understand complicated vocabulary about geometries or spatial joints, for example. But, if a student has been coached to think about communication at each stage of the design process, from the inceptive moment, to the development of ideas ant through various instances of the delivery of those ideas, then they will be better equipped to integrate this thinking into their process and practice. They might become forces for change.

I’m biased because I love language. I also love poetry, and arguing both sides of an issue until I understand it more deeply. Yet, I believe our educational system needs to teach how to creatively communicate with non-designers/makers of all kinds. We need to emphasize communication in general. We need to know what is being taught in English101, and reinforce those ideas in the classroom. Universities offer writing courses specific to business, science and technology… so why not design?!