Visual Communication 1: Assignments

Class assignments are listed below, numbered by the week in which they are given. This is a provisional list, subject to change based on the needs of your particular class. They are offered with this caveat: Each assignment is based on the information discussed in class, and so the description below will only be fully understood if you have followed that discussion. Come to class. Pay attention.
Working With the Elements
I believe you know more than you think you do about how visual elements affect your sense of space and emotion. The first assignment is to complete a series of compositions that use only the basic elements of design--value, color, line, and form--to express graphically:
A sense of spaciousnous and light;
Confusion, alarm, and danger;
A sense of well-being;

Work with sketches—paper and pencil—this week as you are thinking. We'll put you to work with Illustrator next week.

Mechanics: Using Illustrator, set your document up for 8.5 x 11 inches, rgb color mode, with Raster Effects set for High.

Goal: The goal of this assignment is to give you a chance to put energy into listening to your good sense and acting on it in a way that gives you practice using the tools on your desk--defining colors, shapes, line and value.
#1    1/17
Due  1/24
Another Meaning of Design
This week we‘ll be thinking on paper and putting into practice in an abstract way what we learned last week. Working again with simple shapes, lines, and elements, this week you‘ll be working on paper. Have your drawings in class Monday, ready to deliver to the person who will execute your design.

Your graphic will be used to accompany text describing the beginning of winter, and the change of seasons ahead. It will be any shape you want, but must not occupy more than a third of the page.

Subject: The Beginning of Winter

“Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare upreaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run. And what it did to Northern forests can hardly be described, considering that it iced the branches of the sycamores on Chrystie Street and swept them back and forth until they rang like ranks of bells.”
― Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale

I got this quote here, where there are lots of other interesting quotes about the coming of winter.

Mechanics: Paper, pencil. We'll work from these drawings next week.

Goal: To understand the difference between designers and creators; To imagine a solution to a problem without seeing it; To communicate your solution to a creator; To interpret the instructions of a designer.
#2    1/24
Due  1/31
Letters, Fonts, Typefaces
We are moving toward an introduction to typography this week. But first, we need to stop and take a look at the elements. Your assignment will come in two installments. The first is a research assignment, working through the introduction that Ellen Lupton has created at (Any other reading you do will be helpful, but at a minimum, work your way through the pages and links in the Letter section of her primer.

Next week, be prepared to work with the letters of your name to create an abstract composition. There will be some restrictions on what typefaces you will be permitted to use, but give some thought ahead of time about what you would like to say with the type you choose.

Goal: I'm hoping to start you on the road to awareness and sensitivity to typography, as well as to introduce you to some of its most common tools.
#3    1/31
Due  2/7
Words, Sentences, Paragraphs
Start by reading the Text section of Ellen Lupton's Thinking With Type web site. Pay particular attention to the sections on Hierarchy. If at all possible, read the corresponding section in her book, which I have reserved at the library.

We will be composing in class next week, and you will need some relevant text to work with. Bring to class a paper or project that interests you.

Goal: To convince you that you are not just processing words. You are setting type.
#4    2/7
Due  2/14
Refine, Edit, and Look Carefully
Last week we started a piece that incorporated your own text as a way to produce a legible, typographically refined document that was modeled on reference material chosen from examples I brought to class. This week I'm hoping you will finish it, with the feedback from seeing it printed, comparing it to your reference source, and taking note of the comments you get in class. We will look at your final work next week, along with the work you used as a reference. Bring a print, as well as the information that can lead us to your reference for comparison.

Goal: Aside from the typographic purpose mentioned last week, the purpose of this week’s effort is to make the revision process familiar. It is not just something you do because you have made a mistake; it is part of the process of feedback and response.
#5    2/14
Due  2/21
Meaning, Emphasis, and Hierarchies /Quiz 1
The assignment this week takes advantage of what you have worked on this past week, as well as what you learn about typographic systems for organizing information from your reading. Like other things, it may seem simple, but to do it well is very hard.

Find an event to publicize with a small poster that provides a reader all the information needed to find and attend the event. You may find your event in the newspaper or online—Alfred Today has several good examples, or you may look elsewhere. Your job is to select an event with enough detail for this assignment, or you must discover the information on your own. At the very least you should know the title of the event, where and when it will take place, who is sponsoring it, and how to find more information.

You will have the obstruction of using what you have learned about typography as your only tool—no photos, illustrations, or other graphics. What you do have at your disposal is a rich selection of type and an unlimited means of organizing it.

Goal: The goal of this assignment is to get you to think with type, on multiple levels. We have used it as pure decoration; we have wrestled with it to make it readable. This week we are putting it together to do what type really does—convey meaning.

Resources: The Thinking With Type book and website noted earlier; Typographic Systems, on reserve at Scholes Library; This very brief (and because of the background noise, difficult to read) primer on type and type systems; Other examples of effective typography that you can find.
#6    2/21
Due  2/28
Midterm Cleanup
We'll be looking at your typographic posters this week, and starting to talk about photographic and other bitmapped images. Have your assignment ready to show.
#7    2/28
Due  3/13
This week we will be starting to work with photography. Start by reading this primer on digital imaging. Pay particular attention to the first six pages, but the rest is important if you plan to continue with any kind of digital archive.

Next, using a high quality reference photo as a guide, do your very best at composing and exposing to get the best results you can. Bring your un-edited efforts to class on Monday.

Mechanics: Camera operation, file management. Be sure to take advantage of any feedback your camera will provide you, and throw out the failed experiments unless they are really interesting.

Goal: This is not a photography class, but no introduction to visual communication is complete without an effort to explain photography's special role in communication. This is an introduction to the aesthetics and mechanics of photography.

Resources: A camera; reference photographs.
#8    3/13
Due  3/20/2012
Selling and Explaining Process
Your assignment this week is to develop a printed piece that explains the assembly and operation of a paper airplane. Do it in a way that is appealing and fun and will make people want to pay for the paper airplane kit, download, booklet, or other printed piece that you are offering. You will need to define the justification for this product's existence. You'll be working in the groups that you chose in class, and should meet to decide what course of action you'll take during work period next week. You will also need to divide up the tasks that will need to be accomplished. We're looking for no more than four pages, and not bigger than a letter sized sheet. We'll take a look at progress on Tuesday, and then you'll have another week to polish and revise.

Mechanics: Sketching, writing, and building prototypes for evaluation; coordinating the tasks of team members. Possibly printing, folding, cutting.

Goal: Harness the skills you have been working on to be articulate and persuasive in promoting a new product.
#9    3/20
Due  3/27
Super Planes
Your super planes are due next week. Take this week to get a head start on them. You'll have Monday's class to polish them up, to present to the class on Wednesday
#10    3/27
Due  4/3
Final Project: Humane Society Pet Cemetery
Your final project of the semester will be to develop system for helping the Hornell Area Humane Society organize the assorted data it has on its pet cemetery, the oldest in the country. You will be working on a prototype for a display system of your design and choosing. Your choice should be informed by both practical matters and overall function.

The overall goal is to enable someone interested in finding the gravesite of a pet to be able to actually locate that site. Although you do not need to do the final production of your project, your prototype must prove the usability and practicality of your idea.

Mechanics: You will be evaluated on several criteria, which will include the thoroughness of your planned solution, the extent to which you divide the tasks up to group members for completion, how well each member carries out their part or task, and the effectiveness of the presentation used to explain the plan.

Goal: The goal of this project is to use what you have learned this semester to explain a plan of your group's creation. Use the most appropriate medium for the job.

Resources: The cemetery is here.

You can download both the list of pets buried at the cemetery, as well as schematics for each section as a zipped folder of jpeg images.
#12    4/10/2012
Due  4/17/2012
Work Week
Please take seriously the concern I expressed in class last week that your solution for this project treats the data visually. The title of this course is Visual Communications, and we have spent the past twelve weeks working on the basics of two dimensional design, graphic elements and color, hierarchy and typography. I am looking for a solution that takes advantage of these skills in addressing the concerns of project. Please take this opportunity to show me what you have learned.
#13    4/17/2012
Due  4/24/2012
Work Week
Ideas should be honed into presentations this week.
#14    4/24/2012
Due  4/30/2012
Final Presentations

#15    4/30/2012