COMD 3504, Communication Design Theory
Section OL69, Spring 2022
Online, Asynchronous
3 Class hours, 3 credits
Prerequisites: ENG1121 & ARTH 3311
Writing Intensive

Professor Matthew C. Lange

Office Hours: Wednesdays 5:00-7:00, or by appointment
Via: Zoom Meeting Room

Course Description
This course will offer an in-depth introduction to communication design theory, examining theoretical perspectives of design practice within the larger discourse of design and visual culture. Communication models, the nature of representation, the dimensions of context and semiotics will be explored through critical readings from key documents written between the early decades of the twentieth century and the present.

Required Text
Armstrong, Helen. Graphic Design Theory: Readings From the Field, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central,

NOTE: This text is available online for free via City Tech Library’s off-campus access. You will need an active City Tech Library card to access this book.

Additional Texts and Media
Communication Design Theory OER:

This Open Educational Resource (OER) provides students interested in the field of communication design theory with a growing selection of contemporary and historical media to support their research. Students, faculty, and researchers may submit openly licensed media for inclusion. Except where otherwise noted, content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(See OER Bibliography for list supplementary texts)

We will rely primarily on this OpenLab Course site. It is critical that you to join this Course and visit this site on a regular basis. The URL for this Course Site is:

Communication and Collaboration Tools
This course will also use a combination of online communication tools to facilitate a supportive and effective learning environment. These will include Zoom, Google Docs, Hyposesis, City Tech Email, YouTube, etc.

Course Assignments
Weekly readings will serve as the central axis on which this course revolves. Completing every reading will be necessary in order to successfully complete the course. These readings will be accompanied by weekly written responses posted to our class website, two short papers, and classroom discussions. You will supplement these readings with independent research, culminating in a Research Poster Project. 

Weekly Responses
Each weekly reading post will include a set of questions or prompts intended to promote critical engagement with the assigned text. You will be expected to write 3-4 paragraphs reflecting on the text in question. Responses may be handwritten or typed on a separate page; in either case, they must be added to our OpenLab Course as a new Post. Posts must be submitted before the last day of the week in which they are due. 

Response Papers
Twice during the semester (Week 5 and Week 10), you will be required to submit papers, 2-3 pages (750-1000 words) in length, as your weekly response. These papers will be formally structured essays concerning assigned readings and your individual research. You must submit these papers as PDF’s, typed in double-spaced 12 pt Times New Roman, with all references and quotations properly cited according to MLA guidelines. These papers will be completed in lieu of typical weekly responses.

Independent Research
Independent research will supplement assigned texts, and offer opportunities to apply the critical discourse from our readings to individual concerns. You should be researching additional designers and critics, examining contemporary design, and exploring scholarly articles from the OER and the library’s holdings throughout the entire semester. As the semester progresses you will be asked to submit research-in-progress along with your weekly posts.

Presentation and Virtual Poster
The final three weeks of class will be conducted as “Virtual Poster Sessions” in which you and your peers will present independent research using visual aids. You will be expected to articulate a clearly-defined topic concerning contemporary design and theory, by way of a well-designed poster or slide deck. This endeavor should serve as an opportunity to connect one’s own design practice with professional research methodologies. In addition to completed presentations, you will be expected to submit an annotated bibliography and outline. Details will be distributed for Week 6 class session; potential topics will be discussed during Week 8.

Productivity and Participation
Discussions of assigned readings will play a critical role in this course. Class conversations, whether face to face or asynchronous, should not only provide a better understanding of the readings but should also make the course more engaging for everyone.

Grade Distribution
Weekly Responses: 35%
Response Papers: 20%
Research Presentation: 25%
Productivity and Participation: 20%

Assessment Methods
Weekly classroom discussion and writing/posting/commenting assignments allow the instructor to assess individual participation and enable the instructor to see how well students comprehend the material and accurately apply terminology, strategies, and concepts. Students will meet (online or in-person) with the instructor at least twice during the semester to review and assess their research journal and research poster. Students are encouraged to ask questions via the class OpenLab site regularly.

Teaching and Learning Methods
– Lectures and class discussions
– Research-based projects
– Peer to peer exercises and critiques
– Weekly use of online forums for reflective writing
– Site visits, supplemental lectures

Participation Criteria
– Posting and commenting on the shared class site by the set deadline, including contributing to discussions, or giving peer feedback.
– Actively engaging with presentations and discussions.
– Following best practices for online and face-to-face learning.
– Class preparedness; checking the class site for instructions, early in the week
– Timeliness; commenting early to build dialog throughout each week, submitting responses on or before due dates and arriving on time for scheduled meetings
– Asking questions, volunteering answers, offering feedback and support to fellow students
– Paying attention during demonstrations and presentations
– Following instructions and taking notes

Learning Outcomes and Assessment

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: For the successful completion of this course, students should be able to: ASSESSMENT METHOD:
Instructional activity and evaluation methods. Students will:
Develop a historical appreciation of communication design including designers, technologies, media, and processes, and creative expression, challenges, effects, and significance.ACTIVITY: View and analyze design projects in a variety of media including print, tv and radio, audio, video and film, illustration, signage, and other forms, in the classroom and at home. EVALUATION: Via weekly blog posts and journal entries, students submit critical analyses to design projects and readings chosen by the instructor.
Acquire an understanding of different forms, traditions, processes, and styles of communication design in different national and international contexts.ACTIVITY: View, read, and discuss the works of significant designers in the history of communication design. EVALUATION: During online and in-person discussions and critiques, students will articulate thoughtful responses to examples viewed in Class Lectures and outlined in textbook readings.

General Education Objectives and Assessment Methods

Demonstrate an ability to think critically, to distinguish between fact and opinion, in the analysis of different kinds of design. ACTIVITY: Exploring material from a variety of sources in the classroom, field trips, and readings, students will develop vocabulary and theoretical methods necessary to analyze relationships between formal elements (i.e., style, composition), processes, and concepts/approaches to communication design.  EVALUATION: Through writing assignments and class presentations, students will be able to compare and contrast the movements, styles, concepts, and important practitioners of design. Students will be asked to identify and cite primary and secondary sources in discussion and writing assignments.
Demonstrate the ability to evaluate critical and historical materials for the study of design and to construct a coherent and substantiated argument, written in clear and correct prose.ACTIVITY: Student research poster and journal will allow students to practice bibliographic skills; will require students to select an aspect of design theory, research its significance, propose a thesis, develop content and design an informational academic poster. ACTIVITY: Reflective writing in journal and blog will help students to develop effective writing skills. EVALUATION: Verbally and in writing, students are evaluated on their ability to communicate their understanding of design theory as it applies to design practice and history. 
Develop communication skills and demonstrate the ability to reflect critically on the learning process.ACTIVITY: Group discussions and peer critiques include review of readings, historical design examples, and research projects. EVALUATION: Students articulate their knowledge of design styles, movements, and significant works, and are able to present a critical opinion of their learning process using reflective writing after each exercise in their design journals.

Writing Intensive
This course is designated “Writing Intensive.” Students will be writing every week, in class and on the OpenLab via weekly blog posts, peer-to-peer comments, and journal entries. Part of this practice will be presenting thoughtful reflections on their learning process in order to demonstrate their comprehension of challenging theoretical concepts. The instructor will provide timely feedback and guide students as they develop their research proposals and final presentations. Students will also submit critical written analyses of historical design examples and readings leading to formal 2-3 page research or exploratory papers following standard citation guidelines.

(College) Attendance and (Departmental) Lateness Policies
Attendance is taken and is important to success in this class. Both absences and arrival more than 15 minutes after the start of class will be marked. If excessive, the instructor will alert the student that he or she may be in danger of not meeting the course objectives and participation expectations, which could lead to a lower grade.

If this course is being offered asynchronously, attendance and lateness are determined by timely participation in discussion, posting, and commenting deadlines set by the instructor.

Independent Work
In order to meet the coursework requirements set by the college, you are expected to work outside of class meeting time and schedule independent work time to complete your coursework.

If your course is held asynchronously, the work you would typically complete “in class” must be completed independently. This includes watching the lecture and/or slideshow, videos, readings, reading responses, research, posting, commenting, field trips, etc.

Setting aside a defined time to complete your course work is essential to the successful completion of a face-to-face or asynchronous course.

Academic Integrity Standards
Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion.

For further information, please refer to this website regarding Avoiding Plagiarism

Class Etiquette and Netiquette
This course aims to foster and support an inclusive learning environment where diverse perspectives are recognized, respected, and seen as a source of strength. Learning is a group activity. The actions of each person in class affect the overall learning environment. As a COMD student, you are expected to act in a professional manner; to be respectful of the learning process, your instructor, and your fellow students…and, if all goes well, have fun in the process.

Please also refer to the OpenLab Community Guidelines

And the CUNY School of Professional Studies’ Netiquette Guide 

racy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. 

***The following schedule is subject to change. Weekly Checklist & Assignment Posts on our OpenLab Course site will serve as updates.***

Week 1: January 31 – February 6:
Introduction, Course Overview || Why Theory?
Readings For Next Week: Helen Armstrong, “Introduction: Revisiting the Avant-Garde” from Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field. ||  Bruno Munari, Design as Art (excerpts)

Week 2: February 7 – February 11 (College is closed Feb 12-13)
Shapes of Communication
For next week: Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (excerpt) || Ellen Lupton & J. Abbott Miller, excerpts from Design Writing Research.

Week 3: February 14 – February 20
Language, Linguistics, Symbols, Signs
For Next Week: F.T. Marinetti, “Manifesto of Futurism” || Aleksandr Rodchenko, “Who We Are: Manifesto of the Constructivist Group” || El Lissitzky, “Our Book” 

Week 4: February 22 – February 27 (College is closed February 21)
Manifestos, Movements and the Avant-Garde
For Next Week: Walter Gropius, “The Theory and Organization of the Bauhaus” || Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, “Typophoto” || Herbert Bayer, “On Typography”

Week 5: February 28 – March 6
Bauhaus Function and Form
For Next Week: Beatrice Warde, “The Crystal Goblet, or Why Printing Should be Invisible” || György Kepes, Language of Vision (exc.)
*2-3 page paper due at end of Week 5: Design/Purpose

*Week 6: March 7 – March 13
Psychology, Advertising and Invisible Forms
For Next Week: Karl Gerstner, Designing Programmes (exc.) || Joseph Muller-Brockman, “Grid and Design Philosophy” || Jan Tschichold, “The Principles of the New Typography” 

Week 7: March 14 – March 20 
International Style Evolution || Mid-Term Assessment
For Next Week: Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (exc.)
Propose Topic for Research Poster

Week 8: March 21 – March 27
Media as Message
For Next Week: Stuart Hall, “The Whites of their Eyes” (exc.)

Week 9: March 28 – April 3
Context and Representation
For Next Week: Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image”

Week 10: April 4 – April 10
Visual Rhetoric
*2-3 page paper due at end of Week 10: Meaning/Rhetoric
For Next Week: Paul Rand, Good Design is Goodwill (exc.) || R. Venturi, D.S. Brown, S. Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas (exc.)

*Week 11: April 11 – April 14 (Spring Recess begins April 15)
For Next Week: Steven Heller, Underground Mainstream || “First Things First 2000”

**Spring Recess: April 15 – April 22**

Week 12: April 24 – May 1
Anti-Brands and Countercultures
For Next Week: Jessica Helfand, “Dematerialization of Screen Space” || Lev Manovich, “Import/Export or Design Workflow and Contemporary Aesthetics”
*Final Project*

*Week 13: May 2 – May 8
New Paradigms; Final Presentations, Part I

*Week 14: May 9 – May 15
Final Presentations, Part II

*Week 15: May 16 – May 23
Final Presentations, Part III

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