Principles of Visual Communication

TWC 5/411
Spring 2003

Arizona State University
East Campus

Course files have been archived offline except for readings and graduate student projects

Please feel free to e-mail me for other files or archives:
Tansey's Close Reading

Over the past two decades, digital technology has changed major aspects of our society. Many of these advances -- from computer-regulated automobiles to retail laser scanners -- impact our lives in significant ways, but do much of their work behind the scenes. 

In the realm of visual communications, new technology has completely altered our perceptual experience. Typography, images, and even the very nature of space in graphic and kinetic media have been profoundly reincarnated. (From the "Introduction" to Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces)

Mark Tansey, Close Reading, 1990
(A woman rock climber, climbing a wall of text  ...  click for larger view)

In this course we aspire to understanding historical and contemporary issues in Visual Communication -- and to practicing it as a craft. 

We begin by reading together Edward Tufte's Visual Explanations and discussing the values that seem to be placed on the concept of Visual Communication -- in professional, cultural, and in social contexts. The second half of the course we learn and practice various design and typographic conventions, including when to work within those conventions and when to break from them.

The course is rhetorically based so that you can determine how to design in any situation by analyzing the purpose, audience, and context; rhetorical aims will shape your intended effects, document preparation, and design.

At the end of the course, you will know:

How to explain principles of visual communication to various audiences
How to critically assess a visually oriented communication problem 
How to apply basic design and typographic principles
How to articulate an intended visual effect and the steps you took to
     achieve that effect
How to identify issues that may arise when communicating visually
     in multicultural environments
How to decide on appropriate technology platforms for the design and
     distribution of a visual communication project

Working Together Online, and at a Distance

This section of TWC 511/411 is an online, web-based course. We will explore, assess, and use a range of writing, communication, and design technologies in this course. Because working together online introduces a wide range of possibilities and constraints, we will take the time to reflect on the ways in which technologies shape, support, constrain, and otherwise affect our work and our interactions.

Please note on the course calendar that there are three entries for each week: readings, discussions, and production due dates. Plan your time such that you can give the readings the attention and reflection that they will need, including annotating, rereading, and developing your own personal responses. Each week I will post notes, direction, and supporting materials in the course's Monday Memo.

Always feel free to post comments, questions, concerns, and ideas to the class Discussion Forum, or to me via e-mail: