One of the most significant changes in the design world over the last few years has gone largely unremarked. No, it’s not some aspect of technology. It’s words.

Today, designers are required to use the written word to explain, to inform, to narrate, and even to critique. Purely visual interventions are no longer enough. Content and narrative have become vital components in the design mix. The change has been one of stealth, but nonetheless notable.

It’s strange then that the only university in the UK to offer a dedicated postgraduate course in design writing and design criticism is now proposing to write it off, at least in its current form. As one of our leading design institutions, the London College of Communication (whose course I describe) may be suffering a failure of nerve. It seems no longer prepared to risk investment in a pioneering area of study and research, one which anticipates and responds to the growing importance of the written word in design.

Some of those in higher education I’ve spoken to recently see things differently. The big and influential universities, those with international reputations, often take a contrary view of risk. In the face of financial stringency they see the reputational danger in stepping back from the pioneering and the ground-breaking – the things that made them famous in the first place. Arguably, the LCC has been more attuned to the ‘real world’ of design than many of its peers. It has been known internationally for stretching the boundaries of design and responding to change.

Will that reputation survive the long knives?

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