Studies in Art and Design
Graphic design students need to know that visual principles
are fundamental to the design process. Principles are referred
to by some as the language of design. Language is expressed
through vocabulary, and this is the terminology associated
with design principles. Terminology is essential because it
provides the means for critical analysis, developing concepts
and communicating with teachers and colleagues.
The importance of what happens to students in their first
year of design studies cannot be overstated. What and how
students are taught, and what is expected of them shapes their
entire education. It might be the talent of the teacher to
evaluate and communicate with students rather than the talent
of students that determines the quality of the educational
experience. Teachers at advanced levels must be familiar with
what students have done in basic design, and they need to
capitalize on, and to reinforce the earlier visual studies.
Otherwise, students lose the benefits from previous courses.
A successful program at the introductory level requires the
coordination of the total faculty, and this cooperative effort
is rare within most art or design departments.
looking at announcements from recent months concerning Graphic
Design lectures, symposiums or conferences, subjects invariably
deal with new technologies or the rapid expansion and importance
of information. It strikes me as being somewhat ironic that
there is so much concern for the challenges of the future
when the shortcomings of the present underlie anything we
might do in the future. The majority of graphic design programs
have yet to master instruction in basic theoretical design,
typography, drawing and color.
stands to reason that students with the best visual education,
highest values and the necessary hand and eye skills will
do the most distinctive work with computers. Only by improving
the quality of introductory studies in Graphic Design can
we lay a proper foundation for the computer age. No matter
how sophisticated the mechanics, visual fundamentals remain
essential to successful application of the tools.
all areas of education within visual arts, the introductory
or basic design courses are the least understood and most
ineptly taught. The significance of a weak foundation should
be self-evident, but far too often it is ignored.
objective is to explain basic design, define content for a
first-year program, and to illustrate how exercises might
be more effectively presented and evaluated.
purpose of the paper is to hopefully provide direction and
understanding for young teachers who are inexperienced, who
have a not been exposed to good role models or those who are
victims of their own education and want to become more effective
as teachers and better designers themselves. I am convinced
that with the right goals and constant effort, it is possible
for a poorly prepared teacher to develop into an effective
was fortunate in my graduate studies to have exemplary role
models and to be exposed to effective teaching. When I graduated,
I knew what my objectives were but did not have a clue as
to how to reach those goals. It is similar to giving directions
and pointing out a landmark and saying, "Do you see that
big tree over there? I can't tell you how to get there, but
that is where you want to go." If young teachers have
the right goals, and never cease to achieve them, they have
a good chance of eventually reaching them.
Studies in Art and Design
Foundations or Core Programs usually refer to introductory
courses for students from crafts, photography, fine arts and
design. They generally are a combination of courses including
drawing, color, design and art history. Because of the spectrum
of programs, there is a corresponding increase in enrollment.
At most state universities, there might be as many as ten
to fifteen sections for each class. Most of these classes
will be taught by graduate students.
Design is more often associated with the Sophomore year in
graphic or industrial design. The course is taught by one
or two full-time instructors, class sizes are generally restricted,
and only majors are permitted to enroll.
falls into two categories Ð theoretical and applied. Basic
design is theoretical and directed toward developing perceptual
awareness. Theoretical design is taught through exercises
that are without solutions, only options. Exploration of options
is the foundation for basic design. Images are abstract, based
on visual judgments and objectives are internal to the work
itself. The process is of greater significance than the product.
Applied design is professional practice, it is functional,
user-oriented and concepts become a significant factor at
this level. Applied design has external objectives, values,
content, and function. Applied design is product based.
understanding of nomenclature for Basic Design is that there
are three broad Primaries Ð color, form and space. Each of
these can be expressed through Elements such as point, line,
shape, pattern, texture, plane, value, etc. Interaction, manipulation
and activation of the elements is guided by a series of Principles.
These apply to interval, scale, tension, rhythm, figure ground,
dynamics or contrast, etc. Principles are used in the abstract
and they become the platform for individual exploration. The
same principles apply to color, form or space, and most have
several interpretations. The great advantage of theoretical
education is that it prepares students for the unknown as
it pertains to new technologies, i.e. computers, shifting
social values, or other changes. User-based education tends
to limit graduates to existing demands and conditions. When
individuals recognize, understand and apply the principles,
they are referred to as being visually sensitive or visually
literate. The principles are often identified as visual, or
formal values or fundamentals. To see or seeing refers to
both in the optical sense and also as meaning to comprehend.
of art and design are in a constant state of flux, some times
returning to the past, and other times moving into novel modes
of expression. Often change is triggered by new tools or materials.
Sometimes it is the works of an individual that are emulated
by others creating a style. Shifting societal values and events
often influence imagery. New technology can shape styles.
However, no matter how much or why styles change, the underlying
visual fundamentals or principles remain constant. Therefore,
it is the responsibility for visual educators to teach fundamentals
and not styles.