Tasks Due Today

  • Bauhaus Form and Function Review
  • Discussion: Bauhaus & Universality
  • Research Paper
  • Week 5 Agenda Checklist

This Week’s Topics

At the end of this session, students should have an understanding of the following:

  • How to define your Research Project Topic / Question
  • The Research Project & Presentation guidelines and due date
  • Guidelines and due date for the Week 6 Discussion

Research Project Meetings

It was great to meet with many of you this week to discuss some initial Research Project ideas.

If you didn’t schedule a meeting last week or if you’d like to follow up, contact me to schedule a time this week to discuss your Research Project ideas one-on-one: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu


If you’ve turned in your Research Paper by the deadline, you will have the opportunity to improve your grade by submitting another version with edits.

Don’t forget to submit your Weekly Agenda Checklist, indicating the tasks you’ve completed.

Your grades for the fourth week’s assignments will be posted to the OpenLab Course Gradebook on Monday evening. Check your post by viewing it in the browser (not in the Dashboard) to see the comment, grade, and some inline feedback via Hypothesis. If you’ve made updates to past Reading Response posts, be sure to let me know in the post replies. If you have any questions or concerns, contact jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu.

You will see a check if you contributed to the class discussion posts, per the guidelines. You can always go back and add your ideas to past discussions for credit.


Below find the information covered in this session. Complete all of the following activities, videos, and assignments.

1. Finding Your Research Topic (30 min)

“Our identity is abstract and ever-changing. The ways in which we’re shaped by our world can evolve as the world around us changes and we encounter new experiences… With diverse representation comes a wealth of experiences and perspectives that elevate the design industry.”

KALEENA SALES from Extra Bold, Princeton Architectural Press, 2021.

Who are you? What do you care about?

This week we will take a look at the Research Project guidelines and begin in earnest to define our project topic and proposal. Use your Research Project to bring awareness to the issues that matter to you as an individual, as a global citizen, as a designer. In our recent Discussion, you shared your own manifesto to define what today’s designer should be thinking about, rebelling against, and acting on. Take another look at what you wrote. In your Research Journal, you should be collecting your influences, the “stuff” that informs your design aesthetic, and what you believe in. As communication designers, we are always collecting and sampling from the world in which we live.

Nothing is truly original. This video below uses music as its subject to show that we are constantly “sampling” from and influenced by past and present cultures. If you were to collect all your visual, musical, and cultural, “samples” what would your collection look like? Use your influences to help direct your research project topic ideas.

Kirby Ferguson – How Sampling Altered The Universe

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Abstract: The Art of Design > Paula Scher to learn how a designer’s 40-year career was influenced by her life, her culture, her city, her passion.

Abstract: The Art of Design > Paula Scher

Defining Your Research Topic

Your research should explore the relationship between specific theories that we cover in class and a specific contemporary design project, aesthetic, or approach within the last 40 years that puts these theories into practice. Begin with a particular writing, concept, or design project that you find compelling and draw connections between it and the theories we’ve discussed.

Start broad and then focus in. 

You might start broadly with a general area of interest.

  • Design + Gender
  • Design + Diversity
  • Design + Protest
  • Design + Gaming
  • Design + Health
  • Design + Politics
  • Design + Identity
  • Design + Technology
  • Design + Music
  • Design + Social Justice
  • Design + Film
  • Design + ?

Check out AIGA’s Eye On Design for numerous examples that would make interesting design theory research topics. You will need to define your own topic, but these should give you some ideas.

Embracing the past

It’s difficult to look at our current time to clearly see what will be influential to the next generation (which styles or trends or political or cultural influences will have a lasting impact), but we can look to the past to see what, how, and why those influences are visible today, whether as reaction/rebellion or as influence/nostalgia. We are always asking WHY?

Here are two examples where a designer, design movement, or graphic style was influenced by the past (pop culture, politics, technologies, social conflicts). When exploring these types of topics, historical sources should play a big role.

Rejecting the past

We can also look at current social-political movements to look deeply at our design field and our culture to consider how these events are influencing the present design field. In these examples, current social-political changes are informing/changing our approach to language, communication, design, and how we relate to each other. When exploring these topics the theories of communication, meaning, psychology, signs & symbols, etc. play a big role.

Again we are always asking WHY?

Defining Your Research Question

Once you have narrowed down your research topic. Start to ask some questions in order to define your research question or thesis statement. Here are some tips.

Developing a Research Question – City Tech Library

2. Research Project & Presentation Guidelines (30 min)

Review the Research Project and Presentation guidelines and start to define your research topic following the suggestions. The Research Project is designed to facilitate independent research in contemporary design and design theory. Your goal will be to consider the ideas and theories we discuss in this course, and the contexts in which they emerged, and identify a design project, designer, or style that puts these ideas into practice. Your findings from this research will be shared with the class through a 10-15 minute audio-visual presentation (ie: a video slideshow with narration) at the end of the semester.

3. Discussion: Your Research Topic Ideas (30 min)

In our Discussion post this week we will share our Research Topic ideas and get feedback.

Add your comment in the Discussion post by Friday, October 8th at 6 pm to allow time for responses. Add at least 5 follow-up responses to your classmates’ comments by Sunday, October 10th, at 11:59 pm.

4. Assignment: Reading Response 5 (2+ Hours)

Follow the assignment guidelines and prompts: Reading Response 5 – DUE Sunday, October 10th, at 6pm

You will be reading and annotating three texts written by Jan Tschichold, Karl Gerstner, and Joseph Muller-Brockman. The focus of these texts is the evolution of the International Style from the New Typography movement and the Bauhaus of the 1920-1940s to Swiss Typography and the embrace of European modernism of the 1950’s.

Read Jan Tschichold, “The Principles of the New Typography” pg35-38, Karl Gerstner, Designing Programmes pg55-61, Joseph Muller-Brockman, “Grid and Design Philosophy” pg62-63 with your classmates in our Hypothesis group  COMD3504_OL08. These are found in our main text Graphic Design Theory: Readings From the Field by Helen Armstrong.

As before, after annotating the text, create a rough draft of your response in your Research Journal. Your response should be about 200 words and checked for spelling and grammar errors. Publish your finished response on the class site, using the guidelines provided.


Week 6 Agenda Checklist

Below are all of the tasks, big and small, for this week. The deadline is Sunday, October 10th, at 6pm. Successful and timely completion of these tasks will contribute to your grade.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out: jspevack@citytech.cuny.edu

Tasks from the Week 6 Agenda - Due this week 10/10 at 6pm

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