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  Academic Writing for Art and Design > Academic Language at University
Academic Language at University

Have you ever found it frustrating trying to write your assignments in the academic language expected by your lecturers? If you ever wondered how the academic language works, have a look at this text.

Click on the highlighted text for an explanation and then try to use the same words in your own writing.

Few design practitioners, theorists or educators would challenge the central importance drawing has in their professional discipline; equally few would deny that at the same time drawing is extraordinarily difficult to talk about. Of course, a great deal can be said that is true and relevant about the nature and practice of drawing including providing facts about its materials, history and usage; but most of the concepts and issues that are central and seminal to the essential nature of drawing remain strangely elusive and inexpressible in terms other than those of drawing itself.

A partial explanation of this problem is that it is precisely this inexpressible element that makes drawing valuable and irreplaceable: if everything could be converted into other forms of expression there would be no point in drawing. However, there are historical and cultural reasons why verbal discourse about drawing has remained in an unnecessarily primitive and undeveloped state compared with other fields such as law or medicine. In Britain, as in many other countries, art and design continue to occupy a relatively marginal place in advanced education. They are rarely represented in the universities except as history of art (not, usually, history of design) and one or two cognate areas such as architecture. We continue to suffer from the cultural legacy of the Romantic Movement which often represented the plastic arts, including drawing, as a matter of intuition and inspiration somehow above and beyond the access of rational inquiry and understanding.

This state of affairs has, in my view, seriously impeded the development of drawing. The most rudimentary concepts surrounding issues such as style, content, meaning and expression defy articulation to such an extent that terms and concepts have been devised or borrowed from other disciplines in order to forge a means of appropriately discussing a theory of drawing 1.

1 Adapted from Clive Ashwin’s “Drawing, Design and Semiotics.