Mini Course in
sequence of problems to indoctrinate students in the concept
of graphic design as communication
I began constructing this course at the Minneapolis School
of Art in 1958. I have taught the course off-and-on ever since.
It is most effective taught as a two-semester course. The
origins for the course grew out of my education at Yale where
Alvin Lustig emphasized Graphic Design as visual communications.
underlying premise for this course is built on the rationale
that poets and writers communicate with words, musicians with
sounds and designers with color, shape, and line.
theoretical concept is based on direct, as opposed to indirect
communications. For example, to communicate cold, you would
use colors, shapes and line qualities that reflect the meaning
of the word. The image generally is abstract. Indirect communication
of cold might be representation of an ice cube or a human
figure with wavy lines around it. To read the communication,
you first would have to know what an ice cube was, or that
wavy lines are a symbol for shivering which suggests cold.
Students quickly discover that a dictionary is a valuable
tool for doing visual communication problems.
Although this is a form of illustration, it should be stressed
to students as communication. Reaction to this course by students
has always been good. It is an excellent counterpoint to basic
design as it is fast paced, varied in content, challenging
and tends to create competition among students to come up
with the best solutions.
Communications always worked well with other first-year courses.
There was carry-over from basic design, drawing and color.
Where other theoretical courses dealt mainly with perceptual
qualities, Visual Communications stressed conceptual development.
I always thought this course provided a good balance between
the two. There is strong evidence that what students do in
Visual Communications applies to upper level problems and
work following graduation.
Communication through visual images. Graphic Designers should
always ask themselves:
What am I trying to communicate?
I communicating that message?
Can I communicate more directly and simply?
The main emphasis in this course is learning how to develop,
explore and evaluate concepts and present them visually.
values connected with composition, shapes and color. Formal
values should be strongly emphasized in this work.
Developing good hand-skills working with cut and torn paper.
Learning design process, how to make refinements.
and torn colored paper. Do not used colored construction paper!
Rubber cement, spray mount, scissors, x-acto knife, colored
paper similar to Color Aid, and railroad board are the principal
tools and materials.
and torn paper were chosen as the medium because it prevents
students from tickling the image; it forces them to work more
abstractly and it is a working process that encourages a great
deal of decision-making as they lay down and pick up elements
before doing the final design. Also, it is a relatively fast
way of making images.