Weekly assignments

Week 2
Interpreting information

Objective: Interpret the reading from David Berman’s Do Good Design as a presentation for the class.

Description: For this project, students will work in groups of two. Take the sections from the book you are assigned and design some form of presentation of the material that best addresses the audience you are speaking to. This could be in the form of a powerpoint, a video, a performance, a workshop, a demonstration, etc. Consider what types of presentations of information you’ve experienced that are memorable and have been the most helpful in communicating complex information.

Devise a written project proposal and email it to me by the end of this class period; presentations are due next Thursday.

Guidelines: determined by proposed project. Presentations should be no more than 10 mins in length.

From ideation session in class


  • Slides are too wordy
  • Presenter reading from the presentation
  • Presenter who is not engaged with audience
  • Uninteresting presentation
  • Bad slides: poor images, noticeable mistakes or inconsistencies, images too small, generally visually uninteresting


  • Different media for portraying information
  • Doesn’t just tell, but asks audience to think about material
  • Personality to the presenter
  • Powerpoints of just images, no words, speaker talks through images and material
  • Performative
  • Activity/workshop
  • Visually designed well

Due date: Thursday, Sept 6

Week 3

Data Visualization: Mapping Lunch

Objective: Use data visualization to show how far ingredients travel before we as consumers buy them.

Description: For this project, students will compare two meals by mapping the origin of three ingredients from each. Use your research to find which ingredients are local (within a 100-200 mile radius from where you purchased it); national and international in origin. Choose three ingredients from each meal whose origin you’ve been able to determine. Using Adobe Illustrator, map out a comparison between the two sets of ingredients for each of your two meals. If there are multiple points on the distribution chain, how can you show them in your visualization? You are not allowed to use a traditional map in your final project.


  • Make an 11″ x 17″ poster-sized print. You can orient it either portrait or landscape.
  • Use three colors
  • Use two fonts
  • You may use graphics, graphs, photos and text
  • Include any information that will help the viewer understand the infographic (name of where you ate lunch, what the food item was, key for the map, etc.)

Examples on how to make an infographic are in this pdf: tactical tech infodesign brochure

Due date: Monday, Sept 10

Reading for Thursday, Sept 13: Design & Designing: Pt i; Dondis Pt 1-3 (pg 1-66)

In-class exercises:

  1. Review the image on this page. We will go through this image analysis as a group.
  2. Review the images on this page; see if you can identify all forms of propaganda shown. Write down your responses.
  3. Find an image in a magazine or newspaper (either print or online) and write a list of one-word or short-phrased responses you have to it in terms of its literal message as well as its underlying compositional meaning. Include the response to any symbols (language or other symbols) that are shown in it. After you have analyzed the photograph, write a paragraph (100-200 words) which could be used as a replacement for it.
  4. Find an example of bad visual design in graphics which, although intended to deliver a message, is difficult to read and understand. Analyze how much ambiguity has contributed to the failure of the visual statement. Re-sketch the design to (1) level the effect and (2) sharpen the effect.
  5. In a series of 4″ x 4″ squares, visualize the seven elements of visual communication defined in Ch. 2: line, color, shape, direction, texture, scale and motion. Use Adobe Illustrator to make eight art boards. You may use geometric forms, type, line, pattern, texture and color to help the viewer understand. Take into consideration the basic elements of visual communication defined in Ch. 3: dot, line, shape, direction, tone, color, texture, scale, dimension, movement.

Due date: Monday, Sept 17

Week 4

Reading for Thursday Sept 20: Design & Designing: Pt i; Dondis Pt 4-6 (pg 67-127)

In-class exercise materials:

  1. Find an example of perfect balance and an example of complete imbalance. Analyze each from the point of view of the basic compositional arrangement and its effects, particularly meaning. What compositional elements are used that reinforce the message you are reading from the image? Write out your answers.
  2. Using this  Dr. Zizmor ad, analyze how ambiguity has contributed to the failure of the visual statement. From what we know about syntactical guidelines (balance, stress, leveling/sharpening, attraction and grouping, positive/negative), how are each of these elements demonstrated or absent from the ad? What do you think is the intended message of this ad? How would you change the visual elements to make this message neutral or level? How would you change the visual elements to make stress or sharpen this message? Write out your answers and mark-up the ad to show what changes you would recommend.

Week 5

Reading for Monday, Sept 24: class cancelled

Assignment for Thursday, Sept 27:  The Design Process: Discovery and Interpretation

Week 6

Reading for Monday, Oct 1: Design & Designing: Pt iii

In-class assignment for Monday, Oct 1: 

Dr. Zizmor redesign resources:

Gothamist interview

His website

Imagine an empty shoe box and lid. Rather than try and come up with lots of uses for the box, make a list of open-ended questions (in other words, questions which require more than a yes-no answer) about the box. Non-open-ended questions are acceptable only if they are the precursor to an open-ended question, for example, “Is the shoe box happy?” followed by “Why or why not?” Aim for about 25 questions.

Do not be boring with your questions. You want to understand this shoe box, you want to know its deepest emotions. You want to know what drives it, what kind of history it has and its intimate secrets. As you do this, think about the possible answers. These will inspire new questions. For instance, if you are in America and the shoe box was made in Vietnam, you might ask how it feels about being in America and how it copes with the language difference.

Finally, I want you to come up with five really outrageous and crazy things you could do with the box you now know so well. No boring ideas. Please do not even think about them. If something boring, like “put shoes in it” comes to mind, reject the idea immediately.

Unless an idea is crazy, it is not worth consideration. Only crazy ideas are welcome. Moreover, you must limit yourself to five ideas. So, if an idea is not really outrageous, think about how you can make it more outrageous. Otherwise reject it and move on. We have not time for ordinary, conventional ideas here!

As you do this, think about what you have learned about the box while asking questions. Think about what the box might like to be doing. Move the box around in your mind. In your mind’s eye, take it to different places you know and think about the box in those places. 

Write down your 25 questions, and your 5 solutions. Assignment is due Thurs.

Thursday, Oct 4:  Class assignment: Research and Ideation for Project 1

Week 7

StoryHarvest project proposal

Week 8


Week 9

StoryHarvest Project in-class review: your projects will be evaluated on good visual, verbal and professional conventions. In addition to these criteria, consider the following questions while reviewing each project.

  • What is the objective of this design?
  • How does the design fulfill this/these objectives?
  • What would better fulfill this/these objectives?

Reading for Thursday, Oct 25: Design and Designing, Ch 9 & 10.

Research presentations for Veggie Mobile project due

Week 10

Reading for Monday, Oct 29:  Design & Designing: Ch 11 & 12; Dondis Pt 7-9 (pg 128-186)

Week 11

Reading for Monday, Nov 5:

Week 12

Reading for Monday, Nov 12: Design Acts Pt 3 (pg 156-276) 

Week 13


Week 14

No assignments due; Work-in-progress in-class presentation and critique


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