Does the Book Offer Enough of a Challenge to Contemporary Undergraduate Design Students? An Approach to Making It Meaningful

By Simon Bell.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Design students usually approach bookwork with reluctance. They see it as a ritual activity with vestigial significance; they see the book as established and remote; they suspect it is straightforward to design; and they pity it as an endangered species, beyond help. However, by concentrating on the word and on narrative, rather than on more familiar and expected aspects of art and design practice, it is possible to make bookwork relevant. Tradition can become a working partner, neither slavishly condoned nor aimlessly subverted. Layering reading patterns can be experimented with, the making process can be celebrated as a way of demystifying the object, and abstraction of formal concerns can lead to less inhibited and more universal ownership of content. This paper demonstrates, using four representative examples of coursework sessions, that second year undergraduate design students can be complicitly and successfully led to become part of the authoring process. The students can thus produce designs that are both transcendently rewarding to them, and respectful of the book.

Keywords: Reluctance, Word, Narrative, Relevant, Authoring

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.9-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 441.966KB).

Simon Bell

Senior Lecturer, School of Art and Design, Coventry University, Coventry, West Midlands, UK

Simon Bell graduated in Typography and Graphic Communication from Reading University in 1974, having started off as a Literature student. He was in book publishing from 1974 until 1996, working for a range of publishers including Weidenfeld, the BBC, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Royal Academy, Pan Books and Phaidon Press, amongst others. His work included editorial, text and caption writing, design, illustration, photography, and production. He has won four National Book League prizes. Since 1996 he has lectured at Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, specialising in book and publishing-related work, contextual studies, dissertations and all aspects of written work. He has sat on validation panels for other institutions, given conference papers focussing on fostering critical thinking in undergraduate art and design students, has won a Coventry University Teaching Excellence Award for Innovative Assessment, and recently completed a Masters in English Literature with Distinction. He has several ongoing writing projects, and has embarked upon a PhD, exploring the value of writing for visual arts students.

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