The Drawing Excellence Framework

Craft skills in the UK are in the same position historic buildings were a hundred years ago. The Guardian, 4/8/2017

We must have a dialogue about finding ways to redesign the curriculum of Visual Communication/Graphic Design/Illustration courses around solid drawing skills. The pressures of hours spent on each student often limit the ability of the school/College/University to offer drawing as a compulsory activity for at least the first two years of the student’s progression.

Drawing remains a central and pivotal activity to the work of many artists and designers It is an essential tool of creative exploration that informs visual discovery. It fundamentally enables the visualisation and development of perceptions and ideas. With a history, as long and intensive as the history of our culture, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to interpret, record and analyse the world. The role of drawing in education remains critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational.

As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. The need to understand the world through visual means would seem more acute than ever; images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communications in an increasingly globalised world. The aim is to find concrete and practical solutions on how to embed this neglected activity back into teaching and learning in Higher Education.

“I can’t draw”, sometimes followed by “very well” is a phrase all too frequently repeated by Art & Design students. This incident, is unique in the Arts. A medical student would never say, I don’t now my cardiovascular anatomy very well, a journalism student would never say I cant write very well, a chemistry student would never say, I cant use my periodic table of elements in my equations very well and a music student would never say I cant hear notes or even worse play my chosen instrument very well. It has everything to do with the level. Over the past couple of decades we seem to have managed to dilute was used to be HE (Higher Education)to a level below what used to be FE (Further Education).

In the United Kingdom it is evident that the NSS (National Student [Satisfaction] Survey), REF (Research Excellence Framework) and TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) and other measures recently implemented by the government have proven to be inadequate to create solutions to this and other related issues. Therefore, a new kind of framework is required.

Today I am introducing the DEF, the Drawing Excellence Framework. The DEF is based around a minimum of 4 hours per week of extra curriculum compulsory activity. Direct observational/creative drawing not A level style academic drawing. Framework designed to fully develop Heart Hand Eye coordination. To paraphrase the legendary artist/designer Paul Rand, “drawing is simple, this is why it is so complicated”. We ignore its implementation at our peril as it only through applied visual literacy that we can create the designers of the future .

Thank you

(The text is based on my lecture given at #Ideasofrevolt conference of the Graphic design Educators Network at Sheffield institute for the Arts, Sheffield Hallam University on Sep 8, 2017. The political and social landscape of 2017 offers graphic design students ample rich subject matter to react to, dissect and interpret, but where is the revolt?)

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