COMD1100  Graphic Design Principles I

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

Section : Days : Time : Location
D108 : 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 interaction. Her current work merges her varied titles through projects and practices that support resilience in the shifting natural and social-political landscapes ( Prior to teaching at City Tech, she was an animator and illustrator in Sesame Workshop’s Interactive Department.

Course Description
This basic 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 disciplines such as advertising, graphic design, web design, illustration, broadcast design, photography, and game design.

Course Goals
Through hands-on experiments, collaborative learning and individual projects, students will learn the language and process for design thinking, gain a solid foundation in design principles and practices, and demonstrate:

  • visual literacy and understanding of design principles and elements, such as Figure/Ground, Rhythm, Balance, Dominance/Emphasis, and Scale/Proportion, using appropriate design elements, such as Point, Line, Plane, Texture, Pattern, Grid, Value, and Color.
  • appropriate use of vocabulary to articulate ideas and concepts in a critique setting.
  • tangible realizations of their ideas using appropriate tools, applications and techniques, such as drawing, painting, collage, photography, and digital imaging.
  • a personal creative process that leads to life-long learning and a successful, inspired practice.

Teaching/Learning Methods

  • Lecture and presentation of new material.
  • Use of visual and tactile examples and hands-on projects
  • In-class critique sessions where students collaborate in teams and critically discuss the work of their peers.
  • Individual assessment/documentation activities
  • Field trips / Museum visits
  • Sketch book
  • Writing and Blogging
  • OpenLab & ePortfolio

Grading Policy and Procedure
Grades will be awarded using the standard grading scale, but will be judged based upon a rubric that takes into consideration effort applied, technical understanding & creative use of resources for the completion of various projects.

Grades will be based upon:

  • 20% Participation & Dedication
  • 70% Projects & Experiments
  • 10% Research & Documentation

Participation & Dedication is worth 20% of total grade.
Students are asked to consider this class and others like 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.

Respect for your education, fellow students, and the professor 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
  • Following project instructions and taking notes
  • Participating in critiques, presentations, and discussions – both in class and online

If during class you are repeatedly observed taking phone calls, texting, checking email, social media, working on other projects, or talking, the full 20% will be deducted from your grade.

Each student will present his/her work for critique for weekly review using design vocabulary.  The critique is a neutral dialog. Students will present their work and discuss the strengths and weaknesses, expressing what works and what doesn’t work in relation to the assignment guidelines. Peer responses will be given. Personal likes or dislikes should be discussed with specific reference to design terminology.

Peer Presentations:
Students in groups of three may present an assigned and researched principle or element. For example: one group may research and present Balance. In preparation, students will use library resources, books, magazines, online references and write and present a formal lecture on the topic to the class.

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

Each student will document their work on the class blog and should demonstrate:

The Design Process:

Phase 1: Discover: Exploration and Experimentation
Phase 2: Define: Iteration and Feedback
Phase 3: Develop: Refine and Execute
Phase 4: Deliver: Professional verbal, written, and visual presentation; critical reflection

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

The blog posts will:

  • Help you to develop and sustain your own creative process through careful observation, documentation, presentation and assessment of each project.
  • Organize all the information from the class.
  • Display your individual projects in a clear, appropriate manner
  • Serve as a record of your learning achievements from which to expand and develop in future courses.
  • Interact with your peers in a relaxed, but professional manner.
  • Gain experience using standard design vocabulary terms to express your ideas
  • Develop online communication and information literacy skills using WordPress and OpenLab.


Research & Documentation is worth 10% of  your grade.

Ways of Seeing Research Project, A Glossument: This semester-long, cross-disciplinary student project will be a graphic representation of a student-created glossary, developed on the class’s shared OpenLab course site. Based on artist Tom Phillips’s altered text “A Humument,” it will allow students to create a personal portfolio of words to highlight different ways of seeing design and writing concepts in the two First-Year Learning Community courses: COMD1100 & ENG1101

Using a found hardcover book you will create an entirely new written and visual document that encompasses your exploration of the ways we see, read, hear, speak, touch, and understand the world. You will use multiple techniques to communicate: painting, drawing, and cut-up,  as well as writing forms such as collage and concrete poetry, to create a unique altered book.

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.

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.

Academic Integrity and Expectations (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 learning outcomes of others. You are a college student and are expected to act in a mature manner; to be respectful of the learning process, your instructor and your fellow students.

“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 tolerated. Such behaviors include, but are not limited to, the following: talking or otherwise making excessive noise or 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.” – based on Goucher College guidelines

Here are some links to expected classroom behavior in a college learning environment:

Online Resources:

Course Website
Students will 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 2018 ] 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:

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

Recommended Books and Articles

  1. Graphic Design: The New Basics, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008, ISBN-10: 1568987706
  2. Design Basics, Lauer, David and Stephen Pentak. Thomson Wadsworth, 2008.
  3. Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice, Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone, and Clayton. McGraw Hill, 2002
  4. Green Guide for Artists: Nontoxic Recipes, Green Art Ideas, & Resources for the Eco-Conscious Artist, Karen Michel, Quarry Books 2009, ISBN-10: 1592535186
  5. Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell, Holden & Butler, Rockport Publishers, 2003, 1-59253-007-9
  6. Designer & the Grid by Julia Thrift and Lucienne Roberts, RotoVision (February 1, 2005), ISBN-10: 2880468140
  7. Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual, Timothy Samara, Rockport Publishers (April 1, 2007), ISBN-10: 1592532616
  8. Type, Image, Message: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop, Nancy Skolos, Tom Wedell, Rockport Publishers, 2006
  9. Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students, Ellen Lupton, Princeton Architectural Press, (September 9, 2004), ISBN-10: 1568984480Sensation and Perception, Jeremy M. Wolfe, Sinauer Associates Incorporated, 2005
  10. Digital Imaging: Essential Skills, Third Edition, Mark Galer, Les Horvat, Focal Press; 3 edition, 2005
  11. Design Thinking (Harvard Business Review) by Tim Brown. June 2008, Reprint: R0806E
  12. Visual Images: Culture and Meaning of Images, Terence Wright, Berg Publishers (October 16, 2007), ISBN-10: 1859734731, ISBN-13: 978-1859734735
  13. Principles of Design, Joshua David McClurg-Genevese, Digital Web, 2005,
  14. Elements of Design, Joshua David McClurg-Genevese, Digital Web, 2006,
  15. Principles and Elements of Design, Joshua David McClurg-Genevese, Digital Web, 2006,
  16. Color: An Investigation, Joshua David McClurg-Genevese, Digital Web, 2006,