English 853 Visual Communication

Spring 1999 Syllabus

Important Information

Instructor Dr. Christine Boese
Class Meeting Times 6:30 pm to 9 pm Tuesdays in 409 Daniel
Class Bulletin Board VisCom
Class Web Ginger
E-mail cboese@clemson.edu
Phone 656-5416
Office 605 Strode Tower
Office Hours 2:00-4:00 Monday and Wednesday, 4:30-6:30 Tuesday
Department English Department
Institution Clemson University

Table of Contents

Required Texts

Course Description


Practice Exercises

Required Projects

Tentative Class Schedule

Required Texts:

(Available in the off-campus Student Bookstore, corner of College and Sloan)

The Graphics of Communication: Methods, Media, and Technology. 6th ed. Russell N. Baird, Duncan McDonald, Ronald H. Pittman, and Arthur Turnbull. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.

Stop Stealing Sheep (& find out how type works). Erik Spiekermann, E. M. Ginger. Adobe Press, 1993.

Interactivity by Design: Creating and Communicating with New Media. Ray Kristof, Amy Satran, Adobe Press, 1995.

Other Readings provided on Reserve and in a box in the MATRF Lab.

Course Description

This seminar provides students with a thorough overview of the theory and practice of visual communication for both pre-press and electronic media. It is designed to help writers and information designers integrate both verbal and visual elements into effective communication artifacts. Students will learn principles of layout and typography, study the use of color and electronic image editing, practice desktop publishing skills, create video graphics, and explore interface design for interactivity. There will be two major projects, one print-based, and one electronic, plus reading response papers and a research paper.

We will be using the collaborative electronic learning forum on the CLE. I will also introduce you to other leading edge forms of electronic communication, as we explore what it may mean to communicate effectively in the future. Some assignments will proceed in a more traditional fashion, while others will integrate the equipment in our classroom.  The most important goal for me is that the computers do not obstruct human interactions, but rather, that they become a tool for accessing people, images, and ideas, and thinking and writing about them.

This course will take a theoretical and hands-on approach to visual communication and will include topics such as visual perception, design theory, and creative design processes. This course will help you improve your ability to see and interpret visual information. My goal is to give you a basic understanding of the importance of design in the communication process.

Four types of activities will take place in this class, and you are expected to actively participate in all of them.

We will have active discussions of assigned scholarly and professional readings. You are expected to come to class prepared to contribute to the seminar discussions at a graduate level.

We will also have public viewing of our weekly exercises and projects, called "Crit Sessions" or "Crits," in which everyone will contribute positive and constructive comments applying design principles we have learned, thus becoming steeped in the vocabulary of visual communication.

We will have lecture and instruction in various software packages, as needed. You are expected to follow along in any tutorials, and to come to the aid of any nearby classmates who might be struggling. This class operates under the principle that learning is a collaborative experience. We will cover a lot of ground very quickly. You will have to stay sharp and help each other in order to keep up. If we all work together, we will be able to move past design fundamentals in order to move toward quite sophisticated discussions and design projects by the end of the semester.

Finally, a good portion of this class will involve hands-on workshop time, as you work on your projects and get help in process. Even with this in-class workshop time, you are expected to put in considerable hours outside of class on your projects.

Academic honesty is expected. Due to the interactive nature of the class, there will be many opportunities for collaboration on projects. However, it is not acceptable to turn in pieces professionally designed by someone else as your own work.


There will be three major projects in this class. A brief description of each project is listed below; more details will be distributed later in the semester.

Project #1: Print-based Design Project. Design and execute a professional publication for a real world client. Examples: Manual, Booklet, Newsletter, Annual Report, Magazine Design Mockup, Book Design Mockup.

Project #2: Creating A Digital Portfolio. Design and execute an interactive professional portfolio, either low-band, Web-based, or high-band, CD-ROM-based.

Project #3 (Optional): Research Paper in Visual Communication. Write a research paper on a topic in visual communciation, suitable for presenting at a professional conference. Present your paper orally at our class symposium at the end of the semester.

Thirty percent of your grade is based on Class Participation. This includes weekly reading response papers and discussions posted to the email-based class bulletin board, VisCom, as well as weekly practice exercises and participation in face-to-face discussions. Clearly attendance is mandatory, especially because this is an evening seminar where so much ground is covered. Please speak to me if you absolutely must miss class. More than one absence will adversely affect your grade.

Your final grade will be determined as follows:

Project #1: Print-based Design Project: 25%
Project #2: Creating A Digital Portfolio: 25%
Project #3: Research Paper in Visual Communication: 20%
Class Participation: 30%

Our Class Web (Ginger) will make explicit the inter-relatedness of our work, and we will have opportunities to explore alternative ways of thinking and writing, in a nonlinear structure, informed and influenced by contextual ideas from our class, the language of different cultures, fields and disciplines, and the world of the Internet.

The VisCom email-based bulletin board space and the CLE bulletin board are yours to use as you please.  Remember that writing exists in a context, and your classmates are your audience. Practice communicating with each other.  I will not intrude on your discussions as a Teacher-Authority-figure.  You will have to lure me in with lively topics. Although I will not give additional credit for each posting beyond one a week, I do want to encourage electronic discussions.  I believe that this type of informal dialogue will help your learning and comprehension in ways that may sneak up on you.

I want to specifically request that you keep flaming to a minimum and treat all classmates with the honor and respect all human beings deserve.  I will be just another list member, posting along with you. You may also email me privately at any time during the semester.  Also, should you get carried away and accidentally write a response paper that you realize in hindsight is too personal or volatile for the public forum, you may send it to me privately, with a clear disclaimer explaining what happened.  I will give you credit and keep such correspondence private, but I expect it not to happen too often. Since this is a 15 week semester, there will be a required 15 minimum posts to VisCom, spaced out over the semester, on either assigned topics or open topics.

Tentative Class Schedule

Note:  Please stay on top of class activities, since this is only a rough guide of what we will be doing and when.  I like to make adjustments as student needs and interests (or computer glitches) dictate.
Unit 1:  Visual Tools for Print and Pre-Press
Week 1 
Tues. Jan 12
Basic Design Principles
Project Assignment: Geometric Abstract Design and Logo Contest. 
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.1&2. Handouts:
Week 2 
Tues. Jan 19
Design Sophistication and Layout
Crit: Logo Contest. Project Assignment: Form Redesign.
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.3. Sheep, whole book.
Week 3 
Tues. Jan 26
Typographic Principles
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.4. Sheep, whole book. Handouts: Bring photos next week for scanning and editing.
Week 4 
Tues. Feb. 2
Image Editing and Photoshop
Crit: Form Redesign. Project Assignment: Photo Montage Poster.
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.5. Handouts: To next class bring a graphic illustration problem to be solved.
Week 5
Tues. Feb. 9
Color and Graphics
Crit: Photo Montage Poster. Project Assignment: Graphic Illustration Problem.
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.6-10. Handouts:
Week 6 
Tues. Feb. 16
Printing Technologies for Publications
Crit: Graphic Illustration Problem.Project Assignment: Begin work on Project #1
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.6-10, 12, 13, &15.
Week 7 
Tues. Feb. 23

Publication Genres and Processes
Project Assignment: Complete work on Project #1
Reading Assignment for next week: Graphics Chap.11, 14, 16. 

Unit 2:  Visual Tools for Linear and Interactive Media
Week 8 
Tues. Mar. 2
Contrasts Between Print and Electronic Output
Crit: Project #1. Project Assignment: Online Exercise
Reading Assignment for next week: Interactivity Part 1. Handouts:
Week 9 
Tues. Mar. 9
Digital Media Survival Kit
Project Assignment: Home Page and Online Résumé.
Reading Assignment for next week: Interactivity Part 3. Handouts: To next class bring material for a Community/Special Interest Web Site (can work in teams).
Week 10 
Tues. Mar. 16
Spring Break
Week 12
Tues. Mar. 23
Information Design
Online Exercise Home Page and Online Résumé. Project Assignment: Home Page and Online Résumé.
Reading Assignment for next week: Interactivity Part 1. Handouts:
Week 13 
Tues. Mar. 30
Interaction Design
Crit: Community/Special Interest Site. Project Assignment: Begin Project #2.
Reading Assignment for next week: Interactivity Part 2. Handouts:
Week 14 
Tues. April 6
Research in Visual Communication
Project Assignment: Complete Project #2
Reading Assignment for next week: Handouts
Week 15 
Tues. April 13
Visual Rhetoric: Ethics and Issues of Persuasion
Crit: Project 2. Project Assignment: Research Project Conferences. Prepare Presentations.
Reading Assignment for next week: Handouts.
Week 16 
Tues. April 20
Research Presentation Symposium
Research Presentations.
April 27 Final Exam 6:30-9:30 pm