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MMEDIA 3EE3 GraphicDesign

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Tina Matei


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course examines the language and techniques of visual problem solving with a focus on and communicating with typography and 2D image composition. Students will be expected to demonstrate an aesthetic understanding of relationships between content and material, and how these impact form and communication. Students will use digital tools and traditional methods to explore compositional and typographic principles as they develop their design assignments. These assignments, along with readings, class discussions and critique, are intended to provide students with the formal, conceptual and technical skills needed to produce well-considered and resolved work actuated in 2D vector graphics software.


Course Delivery
The course will be delivered using lectures, in-class discussions, demonstrations, software tutorials and peer and instructor critique. Image and type-based drawing and conceptual assignments will foster the skills and techniques required for meaningful image development.


In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn to post course information, assignment briefs and additional resources. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.


Course Objectives

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Develop design thinking skills to solve communications problems

  • Use self-directed and peer-assisted learning techniques to solve design and technical problems.

  • Identify and apply the language of 2D visual communication media, and typography and work consciously with these concepts to solve design problems.

  • Define the hierarchy of information through the ordering of elements into a comprehensive visual unity.

  • Develop proficiency in Adobe Illustrator both as production tool and for further future application in 2D and motion graphics software.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Software Used and Hardware Required

•Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop (CS5,6, Adobe CC)

•Portable external drive or USB stick, access to a digital camera and scanner


Additional Required Course Expenses

•Required storage media (as above), exacto knife, tracing paper, cutting matte

•Print output costs and any other project-related materials. Estimate: less than $100.


Required Text:

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type, Second, Revised, Expanded Edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. (available at the bookstore)


Optional Readings:

Samara, Timothy. Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual. Rockport Publishers, 2007. (excerpts will be provided digitally through Avenue to Learn.)

Equipment Access and Multimedia Facilities

Students are required to have access key for the Mac Lab. You can do this in TSH 205A. The link for the online equipment booking system is:

Please familiarize yourself with the department equipment policies. Privileges may be withheld for improper use. Lateness or incomplete work due to the loss or suspension of privileges is not an acceptable reason for missing deadlines. Students under suspension of privileges must find alternative means to complete projects.


Method of Assessment:

Assignments & Evaluation % of final grade

Due Date

Participation 15% Weekly
Design Blog Posts 15% Weekly
Project 1 20% February 1st
Type Quiz 5% February 15th
Project 2 20% March 1st
Project 3 25% April 5th

Project 1—Typographic Poster

This project is designed to further your knowledge of typographic visual communication, and increase your proficiency with Adobe Illustrator. We will be incorporating several in-class exercises into a final poster.


Project 2—Design Sprints Booklet

Creating effective and unique design solutions often requires rigorous idea generation before the final, refined product is launched. This project is made up of several design exercises done quickly—or ‘sprints’—in which  you will generate multiple ideas quickly, without becoming too attached to a particular one. Your exercises will be compiled into a booklet that you can keep for reference, as a kind of toolbox for future projects.


Project 3—Theatre Festival Poster

The success of theatre has been influenced by captivating visuals, which is used to draw audiences into the experience of the performance. In this project you will further refine your typographic and layout skills by creating a poster to advertise one of the plays featured at the Fringe Theatre Festival.


Design Process Blog

As part of your ongoing development as graphic designers, you will create and maintain an online blog that documents both your tutorial exercises and process work (photos, sketches, etc.) from major projects. This online blog will be a presentable way to update and keep track of your ongoing development throughout the term. Ideally, it will function as your sketchbook for this course.



The participation mark will be based primarily on engagement in-class but also online through Avenue to Learn. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class and will be considered during the grading of the participation mark.


There is no final exam for this class, meaning that term work may seem more intense than in courses with a final exam. Students taking more than a full course load, or whose outside work commitments exceed 15 hours/week find the work for this course difficult to keep up with.


Detailed project and exercise briefs (descriptions) will be distributed once in class and then posted on Avenue to Learn. You are responsible for making sure you understand the project parameters and are encouraged to begin working on projects and exercises well in advance of the due date. You are responsible for material covered in class including those classes for which you are absent.


  • Important course information is sent by email: please ensure I have your correct contact information.


The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.


Project Briefs will outline project-specific evaluation criteria. Overall, you will be graded on the following:


1. Concept and Ideas—their originality and relevance to the problem: analysis of project requirements, understanding of the problem and its parameters, goals & objectives.


2. Refinement of the Concept—the ability to take the original idea(s) and develop/improve and apply them throughout the assignment duration: critical evaluation of ideas, response to feedback & solutions.


3. Skills—the technical abilities (understanding & execution) as demonstrated throughout the problem from concept to finished state, translation of ideas to visually, aurally & technically refined forms.


4. Presentation and Professionalism—the ability to communicate in written form the systematic direction your problem solving process has taken and appropriateness of the final visual resolution of the project/exercise. Demonstrated level of engagement with project; active participation during critiques, project related in-class activities and peer-reviews. Meeting project deadlines.


Professional conduct

Professional conduct is required during class time: cell phones and laptops must be turned off. The definition of work habits includes attending class, being on time and being prepared for workshops, critiques and discussions. An attendance sign-in sheet will be circulated once at the beginning of class. You are expected to participate actively and productively and show respect for your peers and guest lecturers. Unprofessional conduct will result in the deduction of participation marks (to a maximum of your participation grade).


How to Succeed in this Class


  1. Come to class—When you miss class, you miss important course content, changes in and advice on assignments, and more generally you can lose sight of the course’s trajectory. This is especially crucial in a studio class. You are responsible for keeping up to date on class material even if you are not in class. Most students who fail a class, mentally “drop out” without telling the instructor or the registrar’s office.


  1. Tell me if you are in trouble—If you are feeling lost, troubled or if something bad happens (death/break-ups/health issues/depression/etc.) talk to me. Many students try to “tough it out” only to discover that at the end of term they are unprepared to complete course material and finish the course. By that time, it may be difficult to convince administration that your situation warrants an extension. If you have a learning disability, please talk to and register with the CSD. You must do this by Class 3.


  1. Don’t Plagiarize—Familiarize yourself with the University’s policies on plagiarism. Most cases of plagiarism are committed out of ignorance or panic. In either case, plagiarism is easy to avoid, but doing it can get you kicked out of university. Talk to me if you are unsure of what is plagiarism and what is not.


  1. Keep track of your own performance—Keep all of your work graded by an instructor at least until the end of the summer. In the event that you need to appeal a grade, you need evidence.


  1. LEARN—Especially from your mistakes. YOU MUST SHOW WORK DURING CRITIQUES. Use critique to improve your work. Listen carefully to peer and instructor critique as objectively as you can, and consider which criticism applies to your work so that you can find creative, technical and aesthetic solutions that will make your projects stronger. Engage with the course, even (and especially) when you do not like the project parameters. There is an opportunity for you to learn something useful in every assignment even if you may have to search for it. Use the resources provided in the course (lectures, screenings, workshops, guest lectures, external learning opportunities) to your advantage.


Description of Course Grading System


Thorough knowledge of concepts and techniques and exceptional skill and/or great originality in the use of those concepts/techniques in satisfying the requirements of an assignment/course.


Thorough knowledge of concepts and techniques together with a high degree of skill and/or some elements of originality.


Thorough knowledge of concepts and techniques together with a fairly high degree of skill in the use of those concepts /techniques.


Good level of knowledge of concepts and techniques together with considerable skill.



Acceptable level of knowledge of concepts and techniques together with considerable skill


Acceptable level of knowledge of concepts and techniques together with some skill.

Slightly better than minimal knowledge of required concepts and techniques together with limited skill.


Representing a lack of effort or minimum knowledge of concepts and techniques, despite completion of required exercises.





Equivalent Grade Point

Equivalent Percentages







































0-49 - Failure


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignment Policy

Late assignments will be penalized at the rate of 5% per business day. Please speak to me before handing in a late assignment and be prepared to discuss the nature of the delay. Any component (exercises, projects, and tests) of the course that does not meet the specified time deadline will be penalized with a late deduction. You are expected to keep back-ups of your work. Lost data is not an acceptable excuse for late submissions. Late assignments will be graded and returned before the end of term.


All work is to be turned in personally to me at the beginning of class during the officially scheduled class times. If you are absent the day an evaluation is returned, please contact me by email in order to set up a time to pick up your evaluation. A grade will be returned 2 weeks after a project or exercise is due unless otherwise specified by me.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Required Readings from Thinking With Type, 2nd Edition, by Ellen Lupton:

January 11th: Letter (p. 7—58),

January 18th: Text Part i (p. 87-107)

January 25th:Text Part ii (p. 108-143)

February 8th: Grid (p. 151-201)


Optional Readings from Design Elements by Timothy Samara:

February 15th: Positive / Negative Space and Breaking Space (p. 37-38, 62-66)

March 1st: Compositional Contrast (p.71-74)