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DESIGN 250 A: Visualizing Ideas

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Meeting Time: 
MW 9:30am - 10:50am
* *
Annabelle Gould
Annabelle Gould

Syllabus Description:


Annabelle Gould
Professor, Visual Communication Design
Division of Design
School of Art + Art History + Design
Office Hours: Tuesdays 10:00–11:00am (sign up here), no critiques through email


Senior Tutors

Clarence Leung and Emma Brennan
Drop In: Mondays 12:00–1:00pm (sign up here)



Companies across all industries are in search of people who can address complex issues and solve problems in new and innovative ways. But it’s not enough to have a great idea. That idea must be communicated to a broad audience, often in visual form. This might mean creating a screen presentation, a website for a new product or a personal resume. In all cases, presentation matters and the audience and users know (and appreciate) good design when they see it. 

Visualizing Ideas will provide non-design majors, from freshman to senior level, with information about visual communication design—what is and isn’t considered good design and the process that goes into thinking creatively and communicating ideas in visual form. By grounding course concepts in engaging examples and demonstrations, you will be exposed to the appropriate terminology, tools and insights for shaping behavior and engaging users. Visualizing Ideas will also introduce the profession of visual communication design and briefly touch on some key historical contributions and contributors to the discipline.


Course Structure

Visualizing Ideas introduces principles inherent to the discipline of visual communication design including the fundamentals of composition, typography, semiotics, color theory, storytelling and image-making. Members of this class will engage in creative thinking and designing to build more professional and polished resumes, posters and digital presentations. You will also learn about the value of critique—giving and receiving feedback on class assignments. 

This course consists of a series of lectures and weekly assignments that reinforce course content. Short class activities will be given throughout the quarter and a written exam will be given at the end of the term. One assignment will involve team presentations. Guest speakers and industry professionals will also visit to share their work and discuss their relationship with the discipline of design.


Learning Goals

—Develop an appreciation for the basics of visual composition in order to make more informed design choices on future projects or when working with designers 
—Gain insight into the steps involved in the design process
—Understand how to evaluate and critique visual design using appropriate terminology
—Appreciate the differences between effective and ineffective typography
—Understand the basic principles of color theory
—Understand how the Gestalt Principles of Perception affect how we see and relate to information
—Understand how images convey denotative and connotative messages
—Gain awareness and appreciation for the graphic design profession


Grade Breakdown

Weekly Assignments (7) 70%  
In-Class Exercises 10%
Final Exam 10%
Participation + Process 10%



The following criteria is used when determining grades:

A 3.8–4.0 is given to a student who has exhibited the highest possible performance in all aspects of the course—all projects, process and participation are excellent. This student independently seeks out additional information and is highly committed/passionate about their work.

A 3.4–3.7 is given to a student who exhibits superior performance in all aspects of the course—the final projects, process, and participation are uniformly of high quality. This student has a thorough understanding of all concepts presented, and is motivated to improve and succeed.

A 2.9–3.3 is given to a student who has good performance in most aspects of the course. This student follows a thorough working process, has good work, and consistent participation that reflects a clear understanding of almost all concepts being presented.

A 2.5–2.8 is given to a student who has fair performance in the course. The final work is adequate, with a working process that reflects the minimum needed to complete assignments. Participation and motivation are moderate.

A 0.0–2.4 is given to a student with poor performance in the course. Projects are incorrectly prepared, incomplete or missing. This student does not understand the majority of concepts presented and rarely participates in class. 


Division + School Policies

Google Document


Schedule (with Zoom recordings links)

Course Introduction

Lecture: the Discipline of Design, the Creative Process (class intro begins about 9:30 in — middle is brainstorming so fast forward through that part)
In-class exercise: Brainstorming
Please complete this brief survey

Lecture: Basics of Visual Composition, What is Critique
In-class exercise: Understanding Unity + Variety
Assignment 1: Visual Compositions


Assignment 1 critique, class review



Assignment 1 due

Lecture: Gestalt Principles of Perception
In-class exercise: Gestalt Principles

Martin Luther King Day, no class


Lecture: Basics of Color Theory
In-class exercise: Hue, Value + Saturation
Assignment 2: Color Palette

Assignment 2 critique, class review


Assignment 2 due
Lecture: Basics of Typography
In-class exercise: Type Classification
Assignment 3: Type Contrast

Assignment 3 critique, class review


Assignment 3 due

Lecture: Type Hierarchy / Resume Best Practices
Assignment 4: Personal Resume

Assignment 4 critique, class review



Assignment 4 due
Lecture: Images + Meaning 
Assignment 5: Image Making

Presidents Day, no class



Assignment 5 due
Lecture: Digital Presentation Best Practices / Combining Type + Image 
Assignment 6: Team Project

Assignment 6 critique, team reviews

Professional designers visit to share work + process

Assignment 6 due, team presentations 

Assignment 6 due, team presentations

Lecture: Organizing Information / Poster Best Practices
In-class exercise: LATCH
Assignment 7: Organizing a Collection

Review of course material



03.17 (8:30–10:20am)
Final exam, Assignment 7 due


Catalog Description: 
Principles inherent in the discipline of visual communication design, including fundamentals of composition, typography, semiotics, color theory, storytelling, and image-making. Students engage in creative thinking, seeing, and making to create more professional work, including resumes, posters, and digital presentations. Offered: W.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
November 6, 2020 - 4:00am