Course Description

COMD1100 Graphic Design Principles I
This foundation design and color theory course explores graphic communication through the understanding of the elements and principles of design, as well as the design process, including idea development through final execution. Students develop basic skills in two-dimensional design, color, and content creation while employing the design process of research, sketching, and experimentation. Communication designers use the concepts explored in this course in careers such as advertising, graphic design, web design, illustration, broadcast design, photography, and game design.

Course Information

Credits, Hours
3 Credits, 6 hours (1 lecture, 5 lab)

Section : Days : Time : Location
LC108 : M/TH : 2:30 – 5:00 PM : N1122

Professor Jenna Spevack
Jenna is an artist, designer, and educator focusing on issues of sustainable ecology and human connections to nature. View her current creative work at Prior to teaching at City Tech, she was an animator and illustrator in Sesame Workshop’s Interactive Department.

Course Goals
Through hands-on experiments, collaborative learning, and individual projects, students will demonstrate:

  • visual literacy using basic design elements and principles to understand and create visual media
  • design process and practice utilizing effective time management and project organization
  • accurate use of design vocabulary to articulate ideas and concepts in written and verbal peer critique
  • an inspired personal vision to enable curiosity, creative problem-solving, and design thinking.

Learning Community: Ways of Seeing: Adventures with Image & Text
This course, part of a First Year Learning Community for COMD students taking COMD1100 & ENG1101, will include field trips, hands-on projects, multimedia composing, and cross-sensory experiences to help you discover, express, and refine your creative vision.

First Year Learning Communities (FYLC) are two or more courses with the same students enrolled, linked with an interdisciplinary theme, providing an innovative way for students to learn and form bonds with the college. FYLC faculty work together and with peer mentors to highlight connections between disciplines, in addition to creating a more caring, consistent, and supportive environment.

Teaching/Learning Methods

  • Presentation and discussion
  • Visual and tactile examples
  • Hands-on projects
  • In-class and online peer critique sessions
  • Team collaboration
  • Design thinking exercises
  • Individual reflection/documentation
  • Field trips / Museum visits
  • Sketch book
  • Writing and Blogging on OpenLab & ePortfolio

Grading Policy

Grades will be awarded using the standard grading scale, but will be judged based on a rubric that takes into consideration effort applied, technical understanding, and creative use of resources.

Grades will be based upon:

  • 10% Participation & Dedication
  • 70% Projects & Experiments
  • 10% Research & Documentation
  • 10% Quizzes

Participation & Dedication is worth 10% of total grade.
Students are asked to consider this class as an audition, interview, or internship. Assume that your professor and especially your peers will be in a position to offer you a job or recommend you for an internship in the not too distant future. How you present yourself in class and your dedication to your work will help you achieve your career goals. If during class you are observed taking phone calls, texting, checking email or social media, working on other projects, or talking during presentations, points will be deducted from your grade.

Participation and dedication to the class is demonstrated by:

  • Class preparedness (completing projects on time, bringing materials to class, checking class site for instructions)
  • Volunteering answers, asking questions, and helping other students
  • Paying attention during class demonstrations and presentations
  • Following project instructions and taking notes
  • Posting and commenting on the shared class site
  • Participating in critiques, presentations, and discussions – both in class and online
  • Turning your phone off during class

Each student will present their work for critique using design vocabulary.  The critique is a neutral, supportive dialog with members of the class. Students will present their work and discuss the strengths and weaknesses with regard to the project guidelines.

Peer Presentations:
Students individually or in groups of 2-3 may present a design principle or element to the class. In preparation, students will use the student-created Visual Library, found media, library resources, books, magazines, and/or online references and present the topic to the class.

Projects & Experiments are worth 70% of the total grade.
There will be between 5-6 major Projects, plus weekly in-class and take-home experiments. Only projects that adhere to documented project guidelines and are presented in a clean, professional manner will be accepted for credit. Projects will be collected or critiqued each class.

Student blog posts and comments will be used for documenting and sharing your creative process throughout the course. Posts documenting your research, inspirations, experiments, field trips, final work, and peer critiques will serve as a record of the effort and dedication you demonstrate throughout the semester.


Research & Documentation is worth 10% of  your grade.
Students will complete a semester-long, cross-disciplinary student project as part of their participation in the First Year Learning Community.

Ways of Seeing Research Project
This semester-long, cross-disciplinary student project will be a collection of words and images that support your personal creative vision. It will communicate your visual aesthetic, your inspirations, and what you care about most.

Drawing from a shared, student-created glossary of words and library of images, developed on the Ways of Seeing Learning Community OpenLab course site, you will choose words that inspire you and pair them with images, colors, patterns, lines, shapes, and illustrations that capture your unique voice and vision.

Quizzes are worth 10% of your grade. Quizzes will be used to test student’s knowledge of design principles and elements after the completion of each project.


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 or failing grade.

  • If a student misses a class session, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the professor or a peer and make up any work missed PRIOR to the next class meeting.

Make-ups / Late Submission
If a student finds they will not be able to present or hand in a project on the scheduled day, it is their responsibility to notify the instructor PRIOR to the due date and request alternate arrangements.

Points will be deducted for late projects and missed critiques. Your grade will drop a letter grade for each day it is late. It’s better to turn in incomplete projects than late projects. If you turn in your work on time, you will have the opportunity to rework to improve grade.

Academic Integrity (Cheating/Plagiarism)
All students are responsible for reading, understanding and abiding by the NYC College of Technology Student Handbook, “Student Rights & Responsibilities,” section “Academic Integrity Standards.” Academic dishonesty of any type, including cheating and plagiarism is unacceptable. “Cheating” is misrepresenting another student’s efforts/work as your own. “Plagiarism” is the representation of another person’s work, words or concepts as your own.

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,

Learning is a group activity. The behavior of each person in class affects the overall learning environment. As a college student you are expected to act in a mature manner; to be respectful of the learning process, your instructor, and your fellow students.

Cell phone and mobile device policy. Cell phones will be turned off during class time and stored in your bag or at the class charging station. If you choose to store your phone at the chargings station, you will receive extra credit toward your final grade. That means you could boost your final grade up a half a letter grade.

“To maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning and the free exchange of ideas, it is important that students and faculty treat one another with courtesy and mutual respect. Behaviors that interfere with the classroom academic atmosphere will not be permitted. Such behaviors include, but are not limited to, the following: talking or otherwise making excessive noise, using a mobile device during class, showing disrespect when a teacher or another student is speaking, repeatedly interrupting other students or the professor, refusing to interact with the members of the class when group work is required, coming to class under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.”

adapted from Goucher College guidelines


Course Website
Students may refer to this website [] for all course content and projects. It is the student’s responsibility to check the site before each class meeting for instructions.

The OpenLab
We will be using an OpenLab Course [ Ways of Seeing – FYLC Fall 2019 ] for online discussions and design process documentation. If you have not used the OpenLab before, please make sure you create an account and sign on at least once during the first week of class to familiarize yourself. If you have questions, please ask!

Computer labs and workspace are available to complete your work outside of class. Hours are subject to change. Check the City Tech website for details.

  • G608 lab
  • V217 lab
  • COMD Computer Labs (check posted schedule)
  • P117 Makerspace (use this space when faculty member is present)

Recommended Books and Articles

  1. Graphic Design Thinking : Beyond Brainstorming, edited by Ellen Lupton, Princeton Architectural Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central [City Tech Library Card Required]
  2. Lupton, Ellen, and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design : The New Basics, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. ProQuest Ebook Central [City Tech Library Card Required]
  3. Leborg, Christian. Visual Grammar, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. ProQuest Ebook Central [City Tech Library Card Required]
  4. Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type : A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central [City Tech Library Card Required]
  5. Vit, Armin, et al. Graphic Design, Referenced : A Visual Guide to the Language, Applications, and History of Graphic Design, Quarto Publishing Group USA, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central [City Tech Library Card Required]
  6. Norman, Don. Emotional Design : Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, Basic Books, 2007. ProQuest Ebook Central. [City Tech Library Card Required]