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Principles of Visual Communication
VISC 204 Studio | Project 1 | Project 2 | Project 3 | Project 4 | Resources

Welcome! This is a “studio” class that involves investigation into graphic design methods and the practice of graphic design as a tool for visual communication.

In order to prepare you for the professional designer’s need to create visual solutions that are engaging, meaningful, purposeful and appropriate to specific audiences and contexts, the purpose of this course is to teach you how to translate verbal ideas and concepts into visual images. This course focuses attention on the process of defining problems, gathering information, and formulating clear, powerful, and persuasive visual statements. Introduction to technological & craft concerns of contemporary graphic design practice, research & design methods, idea generation & prototyping and professionalism are an integral part of this course and be the primary lens in which your design faculty will evaluate you this semester and sophomore year.

This semester you will solve challenging visual communication problems:

• by formulating a meaningful process of ideation that is based on
   research and understanding of content/communication goals.

• by visualizing proposed solutions and creating a variety of prototypes
  for evaluation and refinement.

• by participating each class in the pursuit of the best work we all can make.

This course will provide opportunities for students to gain design knowledge and abilities through studio projects and critique presentations. Additionally, lectures, readings, demonstrations, slide presentations, class and group discussions, and personal student meetings will be used.


The projects assigned in this course are intended to teach you to think critically about the visual world around you while building on the visual vocabulary you developed in BDS. Beginning exercises explore the characteristics of individual design elements and principles, and later exercises explore the communicative power of using these elements and principles in combination.

The activities in this course will center around 3-4 projects.
And will introduce you to different ways graphic designers represent ideas, make meaning, visualize messages and create systems of communication.

Project schedules will be fast, but realistic. Timelines will demand that you are always prepared, effective and efficient. If you miss your weekly deadlines, you may not be able to catch up.

Generally the projects will take four weeks and will broken down into the following weekly activity:

Week 1: Generating: Getting things started/Defining or Finding the Problem
Week 2: Conceptualizing: Putting ideas together
Week 3: Optimizing: Turning abstract ideas into solutions
Week 4: Implementing: Getting things done

Additionally you will document and reflect on the process of how you arrived at each solution by creating process books or presentations and posting your work to your portfolio website.

Projects are designed to expose you to the many roles of a graphic designer and you will be challenged to be design thinkers and makers:

The Four Projects for the semester will be:

1. Representation (Logos and Mark Making)
You will choose a business category and explore a range of visual strategies for representing that business. Final deliverables will be a logo for a new business concept and applying a identity system to a biz card, bumper sticker and a food truck.

2. Visual Rhetoric (Advocacy Posters)
You will choose a campus organization or student group and using visual rhetoric tropes and techniques you will design a series of promotional or advocacy poster for the group.

3. Information Design (TBD—Might not have time)
You will visualize a complex process (or game, or phenomenon) in order to help a beginner understand it or how to “play” or how it works. 

4. Brand Identity
Joint project with VISC 202 designing a brand identity/promotional campaign for a conference or event concept.

Upon successful completion of the course the student will be able to:

To be able to analyze images for meaning, particularly emotional content and subtext (connotation and denotation).

To be able to organize a given area of two-dimensional space with respect to some specific, clearly stated aesthetic and/or communicative purpose.

To be able to select, employ and alter images with respect to some specific, clearly stated aesthetic and/or communicative purpose.

To be able to synthesize and deploy introductory technical/production methods used in the creation of imagery, both static and motion, when appropriate.

To demonstrate image sensitivity: the control of variables specifically: color, composition, cropping, pov and mark making in achieving legible and expressive visual meaning.

To demonstrate time and motion sensitivity: the control of variables specifically: pacing, sequence, duration, montage and kinesthetics in achieving legible and expressive visual meaning.

To have an working understanding of the creative problem solving process(es). To develop an awareness to communication issues relevant to graphic design, specifically, audience and context.

This course is required under the majors studies section on your degree check sheet you must receive a grade of C (2.0) or better to continue on to the next course in the sequence. Projects will be graded in the following 3 categories. These categories will together make up your final grade each project.

35% Process & Professionalism: includes demonstrated process of idea development, research, type/image studies, concept development, quantity and quality of sketches. More than just one idea explored, prepared for class and critique participation. I will keep track of your process.

PROCESS will be handed in with each project. It contains ALL your sketches, refinements, notes... from the project. Directions will be given specifically for each project. It should be organized, neat and professional.

50% Visual Concept: comprehension of problem, originality of solution, appropriateness of solution, typography, visual invention, visual aesthetic, application/translation of concept, followed the assignment sheet or directives given in class.

15% Craftsmanship: presentation of final, neatness, precision, technical proficiency, appropriate materials. Poor craft can reduce a project grade by 1 full grade. You are learning to be professional and craft is a large part of being professional. 

The final semester grade will wieghted:
_ Blitz 10%
_ Representation 20%
_ Visual Rhetoric 20%
_ Information Design 20%
_ Conference 30%

Levels of Performance
A superior / exceeds expectations
B good
C satisfactory / work was done up to expectations but not beyond
D weak
F unacceptable

PLEASE NOTE: The grade “C” is considered the average for evaluations given in this course. It a submitted project meets the stated requirements for the project – concept, preparatory work, homework, design exploration, variations in design exploration, final product – a grade “C” will be given. Work that exceeds expectations will earn a higher points in the “B” range, work that is exceptional earns an “A”. Conversely, work that does not meet the requirements for the project will earn a lower grade then “C”.

All projects and assignments are due on the date set by the instructor. Late projects will be penalized by lowering the project grade by one full letter grade for each day that it is late. Late projects will not be accepted beyond three days after the original due date. Projects are due at the start of class. Instructors may elect not to accept late work, but must note their policy regarding late work in the syllabus for each class.

Throughout the semester you are required to work a minimum of 3 hours of homework per 1 credit hour. A 3 credit hour studio will have a minimum of 9 hours of homework per week.

Many will find the need to spend even more time per week. Studio course projects require a great deal of time in order to develop and complete. Please be aware that not all project work can be done at home or at your convenience. If you are expecting to work a full-time or near full-time job (over 20 hrs. per week) it will most likely have a negative impact on your performance and grade. It is very difficult to try and balance both a full-time job and a full load of studio classes.

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All projects should be retained for Portfolio Review in May 2019. KEEP ALL YOUR PROJECTS AND PROCESS BOOKS SAFE. More information about Review will be given throughout the semester. To pass the Fall semester part of the review you must have a final grade of C or higher.
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Design is a collaborative profession. Clear verbal skills are all important in communicating your ideas to clients and Design team members, and professional conduct can have a significant impact on the ability of a Designer to succeed. Because of the importance of professionalism in communication and conduct, students should maintain themselves according to the following guidelines:

— Attend each session of class in its entirety.
— Come prepared to present their concepts, discuss how the form of their design supports their concept, and describe how they arrived at their ideas.
— Participate in critiques and discussions with a spirit of mutual respect. Providing comments to one's peers is a privilege. Students will benefit from both giving and receiving feedback - one does not have to “like” another’s work, but must provide insightful commentary in a courteous and productive manner.
— Maintain a positive and open-minded attitude.
— Demonstrate self-discipline and eagerness to participate.
— Consistently strive for the highest standards of quality in work and conduct.

Please note:
Failure to abide by the guidelines and policy notes stated in this policy can lower a student's grade by one full letter grade or more, and can result in administrative withdrawal from one or more classes.

Note regarding cell phones:
Students are required to turn their cell phones off or on silent and refrain from browsing the web, using social media, checking email, text messaging, etc. during class, lectures, and demonstrations. Students may use these devices only during designated break times.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - THE PURPOSE OF CRITIQUE
Critique is one of the most valuable parts of a formal design education. It is also one of the most difficult aspects of the design school experience. It is a collaborative activity that takes quite a bit of time to learn — both in terms of how to give feedback, and how to accept feedback. READ:
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All work you hand in for this class must be made by you, over the course of this semester, exclusively for this class. All necessary and appropriate sanctions will be issued to all parties involved with plagiarizing any course work. Plagiarism and any other form of academic misconduct that is in violation with the University Senate Rules and Regulations will not be tolerated, and may result in failing the course, suspension from the department, or expulsion from the university.

The School of Architecture and Design Policy on Misconduct
Academic misconduct by a student shall include, but not be limited to, disruption of classes; threatening an instructor or fellow student in an academic setting; giving or receiving of unauthorized aid on examinations or in the preparation of notebooks, themes, reports, or other assignments; knowingly misrepresenting the source of any academic work; unauthorized changing of grades; unauthorized use of university approvals or forging of signatures; falsification of research results; plagiarizing of another’s work; violation of regulations or ethical codes for the treatment of human and animal subjects; or otherwise acting dishonestly in research. The full policy of the School of Architecture & Design and the procedures of the Department of Design for processing allegations of academic misconduct are outlined at

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The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, retaliation, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. Please contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator at the office of Institutional Opportunity & Access<> with any inquiries. To report discrimination or if you need guidance on discrimination concerns, please call the office at 785.864.6414. There, you will find an easy Complaint of Discrimination form for reporting discrimination. If you need guidance on discrimination concerns or wish to report discrimination please call or email the office. The Department Chair is also always available to speak with you and assist you through this process. [Call 911 for emergencies or the Public Safety Office for non-emergencies at 785.864.5900. KU Crime Stoppers is also available at 785.864.8888.

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Each class is a significant financial investment by each student, is based on sequential information and projects, and requires the full participation of each student. Each session of class missed or coasted through is a wasteful and impedes the student’s ability to succeed in that class. For those reasons, students are required to attend classes in which they are enrolled and/or intend to enroll, must be on time for each session of class, and must remain in attendance for each entire session of class. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each session of class.

In the event of any absence, students are responsible for obtaining all missed information, materials, and assignments from the class period(s) during which they were absent. Students who are absent must complete all assignments by the due date originally assigned for the work.

Three absences will be allowed in a class for any reason within the first six weeks of a given semester. A fourth absence within the first six weeks of a given semester will result in administrative withdrawal of the truant student. To request that a student be retroactively withdrawn from their class, an instructor must submit an Absence Warning Form with the appropriate note.

Beginning with the 7th week of a given semester, each absence beyond two for a given class that meets once a semester will result in a penalty of one letter grade in that class.

Three "late" marks will be equivalent to one absence with respect to the attendance policy of the department. Instructors may implement amended versions of this policy at their discretion. Regardless, the attendance policy used for a class must be documented in the syllabus for that class.

In order to ensure that students are duly reminded of the possible consequences of continued truancy, instructors must submit an Absence Warning Form after two absences for a class that meets twice per week or after one absence for a class that meets once per week.

Roll will be taken at the beginning of each class period. You will be considered late if you are not present at the time roll has been called. If you are not prepared for class, leave to go make copies, go to your locker or go to the print lab you will be counted as late. Being late demonstrates a lack of respect and responsibility to both your peers and your instructor so BE ON TIME. A combination of three late marks and/or three left-early marks will equal one absence. Attendance is vital for achievement and the acquisition of good work habits. As followed by University policy no absence is excused. (one exception is religious holidays). So choose your absences wisely.

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If you have special needs as addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please notify me immediately so that appropriate accommodations can be provided.

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Because of the fast-paced, project-based nature of studio curricula, absences as the result of a medical condition will count in the same way as non-medical absences. Excessive absence for any reason, as outlined in this policy, are irreparably detrimental to a student’s ability to succeed in our studio curriculum.

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If any scheduled course meeting conflicts with mandated religious observance, the student must notify the instructor prior the day of the observance that the student will be absent.

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Individuals who choose to carry concealed handguns are solely responsible to do so in a safe and secure manner in strict conformity with state and federal laws and KU weapons policy. Safety measures outlined in the KU weapons policy specify that a concealed handgun:
— Must be under the constant control of the carrier.
— Must be out of view, concealed either on the body of the carrier, or backpack, purse, or bag that remains under the constant control of the carrier.
— Must be in a holster that covers the trigger area and secures any external hammer in an un-cocked position
— Must have the safety on, and have no round in the chamber.

Studio classes
These courses take place in spaces that will require students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended for the duration of class time. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun in a purse, backpack, or bag must review and plan each day accordingly, and are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary. The university KU School of Architecture & Design’s lockers are not does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

Labs, Shops and Workshops
Coursework in labs, shops and design-build courses takes place in spaces that will require students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended. Course-related activities require use of equipment and physical movements that may reveal the presence of a concealed handgun.

Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun must review and plan each day accordingly, and if they cannot adequately conceal a handgun on their body, are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary before arriving to the workspace. The KU School of Architecture & Design’s lockers are not appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

*For more information on the law, safety, resources and FAQs the Provost’s Office and KU General Counsel have prepared

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Students will be expected to present their work in a professional manner. Quality tools and materials should be considered as an investment in one’s future.

— Dropbox OR GoogleDocs
— notebook for class notes and assignments (bring to every class)
— box of binder clips (medium size)
— tracing paper (pad or roll min.12 inches wide)
— self-healing mat to cut on in class (not too big not too small)
— push pins (always bring to class)
— fine and thick nibbed markers for sketching
— transparent tape (NO glue sticks!)
— white paper tape or masking tape
— steel ruler with cork back (18 inches) AND a heavy ruler at least 24 inches
— x-acto knife with #11 blades
— scissors

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You will also be posting your final projects, sketches, project overview to a Behance page. Behance is a social networking portfolio site., sign up in the upper left / ask for your invitation to join. It is free, there is a pro site but you do not need that at this time.