English 853 Visual Communication
Spring 1999 Syllabus
(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.
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:
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.
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.