Writing Plan Phases
Collecting Baseline Data
First Edition Writing Plan
Second Edition Writing Plan
Third Edition Writing Plan
  • phase completed
  • phase in-progress

The undergraduate program in Product Design is the newest major offered in the College of Design. Also called industrial design, product design is an inherently creative and interdisciplinary field that explores methods and tools for creating innovative objects, systems, and services. Successful product/industrial designers are skilled at uncovering opportunities, generating creative ideas, rapidly visualizing ideas, building physical and digital prototypes to test concepts, and strategically presenting concepts.

Students in the major engage in design communication in various media and take courses and studios that explore all aspects of product creation and innovation. The Product Design major unites design, engineering, business, art, and humanities as students learn to develop and prototype the objects, systems, and services consumers will use in the future. The major has grown rapidly and organically from an initial set of combined courses to a robust and popular undergraduate major. While demand for the major is high, the program continues to operate with a small number of faculty members and a dedicated group of lecturers and adjunct instructors.

Product Design Writing Plan

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Writing in Product Design

The Product Design faculty generated an evolving list in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?”

  • Drawing, rendering, modeling, writing, and speaking are interrelated components of design processes and products, and writing always occurs in conjunction with other modes of representation and communication.
  • Collaboration is a feature of design processes at every level, from ideation to production, and is a feature of design communication.
  • Communication in product design unites both aesthetic and technical considerations, requiring both creativity and research based evidence. Creativity, clarity, and precision are essential components of the designer’s credibility.
  • Design communication reaches a number of audiences and stakeholders, including other designers, manufacturers, commercial partners, and users.
  • Design communication involves answering questions and solving problems, which includes dialogue, criticism, and revision in all stages of the design.

Writing Abilities Expected of Product Design Majors

The Product Design faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s major(s) graduate?”

Minimum Requirements for Writing in the Major:

  • Use writing, speaking, sketching, and design tools to develop ideas.
  • Gather and integrate ideas drawn from a variety of sources.
  • Present ideas and solutions with confidence derived from demeanor, transparency to logic, evocative description, and the use of evidence.
  • Identify the needs of a target audience(s) and present ideas clearly to those audiences.
  • Persuade/engage audiences by connecting to their needs and interests (including designing narratives and storytelling).
  • Approach and use source information critically and analytically.
  • Clearly and thoughtfully present quantitative and qualitative data visually.
  • Integrate visuals and numeric information into verbal/written communication.
  • Communicate complex ideas, processes, interactions, and experiences in words and images (communicate about design considerations beyond an object itself).
  • Be nimble and quick: analyze and synthesize a lot of information quickly.
  • Use a professional tone while at the same time compellingly revealing the writer's voice.
  • Develop personal credibility and professional voice.
  • Justify choices in methods, designs, processes, and solutions to designers, clients, and other stakeholders.
  • Respect and accept critical evaluations of writing and be able to respectfully and constructively critique the writing of others.
  • Work and write as a team member on collaborative endeavors.

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Product Design Courses

  1. Students' written products will bring forward ideas and convey concepts related to design questions or problems. (How well does the writing, speaking, 2D or 3D representation convey ideas?)
  2. Students' written products will include a variety of sources and effectively select and summarize relevant information. Student work should include both primary and secondary research methods.
  3. Documents that include design criteria and concept exploration should be supported with evidence. Ideas presented are supported by research. Presentations include storytelling about a product and/or brand.
  4. Students' work products will clearly address the interests and needs of users, features of the market, and aspects of production, including engineering and sustainability.
  5. Student presentations have a narrative structure based on real examples and data. Student visuals are well-designed and can be viewed as real solutions. Documents include data that comes from real, credible, and appropriate sources. Data comes from multiple sources. Data is compiled, organized, and presented clearly and concisely. Sources are properly acknowledged.
  6. The students' work products will include images, renderings, charts, and tables suited to their data's scope and function. Present thematically coded qualitative data and highlight insights.
  7. Students’ work products will convey quantitative information verbally and in written prose, as well as in tables and figures, to inform and persuade audiences with diverse interests and experiences.
  8. The figures, images, spoken, and written words are clear, concise, and understandable. The scope of the problem and solution are clear from the materials submitted and presented.
  9. Student work is supported by evidence and rigor. Content is created by the student for that assignment and class. Students are capable of speaking to and answering questions about the materials presented.
  10. Students' work products will demonstrate careful revision based on feedback. As far as critique, students often submit peer reviews on assignments. These are graded on if the feedback has constructive elements and thoughtful rationale on why such feedback was given.

Highlights from the Writing Plan

Although the College of Design has been involved with WEC for more than 10 years, the WEC Legacy program gave Product Design faculty and instructors an initial opportunity to describe how students travel through our curriculum and the aesthetic, technical, and managerial dimensions of product design and user experience. Implementation of the Legacy Writing Plan will involve continuing to think of ways to incorporate writing assessments in courses and considering the interrelationship of images, renderings, illustrations, and prototypes to the forms of writing that emerge in the design process.

Legacy Writing Plan activities and implementation will include opportunities for faculty and instructors to continue to develop and integrate our abilities into core courses. As two of our three tenure-eligible faculty members have been on campus for less than a year and have experienced the campus during the restrictions of COVID-19 protocols, we are still developing as a cohesive faculty. Ongoing uncertainty about the organization of the College of Design will continue to shape our interactions with the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.

Faculty in product design hope that continuing collaborations will include opportunities to apply principles and practices of effective scientific communication and design communication across our courses. The legacy implementation plans include discussions of developing narratives in multimedia presentations, presenting scientific evidence, and communicating technical information to diverse audiences.