Casey Reas

Teaching Fellows
Natasha Sopieva & Rajesh Dahiya


Theories of design will be introduced including definitions of design, design methodology, and the designer's role in society. Topics covered include composition, color, perception, visual communication, typography, abstraction, and visual systems.


Students will gain practical experience working with the tools and elements of visual design. Students will enhance their ability to scrutinize the visual environment and will develop vocabulary for speaking about aspects of visual design. Hand-eye coordination and presentation skills will develop and students will be given the opportunity to use a number of digital production tools.


The principle activities for the class are a series of design exercises and critiques. The exercises are augmented by a series of presentations and readings which will be discussed in class. Exercises are reinforced by a final project. Learning will be additionally augmented by a series of discussions on different aspects of design theory.

Criteria for success

This course will be successful if students increase their capacity for future learning in the domain of visual design. They should enhance their ability to think critically about design and be able to intelligently critique designed objects and systems. Upon completion of the course, students should be familiar with different aspects of visual design and have an awareness of how to manipulate visual form for the purposes of communication.


Projects will be evaluated on their originality, aesthetic qualities, and conceptual sophistication. Feedback will be primarily qualitative but numeric scores will also be given for each exercise. Students will either pass or not pass the class and a score of 70% or higher out of 100% is considered passing. The numeric breakdown follows:

10% Participation
60% Exercises 1-6
30% Exercise 7

If you will not be in class, it is your responsibility to inform the professor. Failure to complete all exercises will result in not passing the course. Students may continually resubmit their exercises before the end of the course in order to raise their score.


During the course of the class you will need to have access to the following materials:
. assorted drawing pencils (9H —
. drawing paper
. black untextured paper
. white untextured paper

. gray board
. metal ruler
. white or clear tacks

. x-acto knife and extra blades

Optional materials include
. black ink
. black paint
. brushes
. black and white tape
. black felt-tip markers


Learning to design
It is not possible to learn design through reading books
or listening to lectures. Design is learned through the process of creation and making discoveries and mistakes.

Readings and Discussions

Be prepared to discuss all readings in class. For each reading, write down what you feel is the author's key point and defend your choice with several supporting examples.

Never cut on a surface other than a cutting mat and never use spraymount anywhere other than the vented hood in the basement. These rules are important for the safety of yourselves and the furniture.


Alexander, Christopher. Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA. 1964

Coyne, R. D et al. Knowledge-Based Design Systems. Addison Wesley. Reading, MA. 1990

Dondis, Donis. A Primer of Visual Literacy. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1973

Hofmann, Armin. Graphic Design Manual, Principles and Practices. Van Nostrand Reinhold. New York, NY. 1965

Itten, Johannes. The Art of Color. John Wiley & Sons. New York, NY. 1961

Kepes, Gyorgy. Language of Vision. Paul Theobald. Chicago, IL. 1944

Kunz, Willi. Typography: Macro + Micro Aesthetics. Niggli. Sulgen, Switzerland. 1998

Lupton, Ellen and J. Abbott Miller. Design Writing Research. Princeton Architectural Press. New York, NY. 1996

Margolin, Victor and Richard Buchanan. The Idea of Design. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1995

McCullough, Malcolm. Abstracting Craft, The Practiced Digital Hand. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. 1996

Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. Van Nostrand Reinhold. New York, NY. 1983

Mullet, Kevin and Darrell Sano. Designing Visual Interfaces, Communication Oriented Techniques. SunSoft Press. Mountainview, CA. 1995

Papanek, Victor. Design for the Real World. Thames & Hudson. London, UK. 1984

Papanek, Victor. The Green Imperative, Natural Design for the Real World. Thames & Hudson. New York, NY. 1995

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Anchor Books (Doubleday). New York, NY. 1977

Weingart, Wolfgang. Typography. Lars Muller Publishers. Baden, Switzerland. 2000

Winograd, Terry ed. Bringing Design to Software. ACM Press. New York, NY. 1996

  © 2002 Interaction Design Institute Ivrea