Art 85 Syllabus

COURSE NUMBER:               ART 85                        

NUMBER OF CREDITS:                 3

COURSE TITLE:          History of Visual Communications

INSTRUCTOR:                      P. Aievoli

DATE SUBMITTED:              9/4/15



This course will expose students to the history of visual communications as it pertains to graphic design, photography, lithography, and the print/new media industry.



History of Graphic Design, Heller, Steven



The objectives of this course are:

  1. To learn the history, purpose, theories and practices of all components of interactive and print design and production.
  2. To enhance the student’s visual, written and oral communication skills.
  3. To participate in discussion, collaboration and critical dialogue.
  4. To develop an enriched understanding of image use and possibilities.
  5. To explore the aesthetics, uses and the social ramifications of interactive media technologies.


Lectures, demonstrations, and instruction.

Critiques and group discussions.

Class direction on projects and individual development.


Late projects will either not be accepted or will result in a lowered grade. In addition, there will be tutorial assignments worked on in class and a high probability of surprise quizzes. Finally, all students should maintain notes on class lectures, demonstrations and instruction.  Class attendance is essential (see below).



Final grade will be based on class participation, student progress, evaluations of prototype with the emphasis on the final prototype, and evaluation of student’s notebook. More than three absences will result in a failing grade.




1 Lecture = 3 total



The purpose of this course is to expose students to the use of diverse design environments and to familiarize them with interactive, web and print history.



Lectures and presentations.




A= Excellent Work

B+ = Above Average

B = Average

C+ = Minimal Average

C= Below Average

D+ = Well below average

D = Minimal Level

F = Failure to meet expectations


Final grade will be based on class participation, critiques and student progress, evaluation of MidTerm and Final exam, and 5 projects (emphasis on the final project) and evaluation of student’s notebook. More than three absences will result in a lower grade.


Typical Paper:

5 Papers of 3 pages each.

Paper structure

Title page – name, course and project number – 1 page

Abstract – 150 words – approx .5 pages

Discussion and argument – 2.5 pages                

Bibliography – 1 page

Assignment One

Read and review visual communications from antiquity – Book of Kells for example. Decide if it is truly art or design. Other examples from the text and within the prescribed timeline are acceptable. Read a synopsis of Hume and Kant’s theories of beauty and art. Using the formal historical text as a basis students are asked to present the example then reflect upon the example’s place as art or design based of the supplemental readings.

Assignment Two

Discuss the impact created globally, culturally and economically by the invention of the printing press versus the Internet. Reading will be Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”. Students will be asked to be strong in rhetoric and writing style. The papers must have an opinion and that opinion will not be judged as incorrect but more so on the facts presented. We then present in class and discuss the viewpoints of the students.


Assignment Three

Discuss the process and value (commodity or cultural wealth) of either, lithography, photography or printmaking as described by the formal historical text. Read Benjamin’s “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and use that as a basis for ascertaining the two views of value for the process and some examples – Ansel Adams photography, Durer litho’s, Warhol’s printmaking or silk-screening. We then present in class and discuss the viewpoints of the students.

Assignment Four

Select current an artist and designer and relate the process and design format for each. Compare and contrast the process and style to each other. We use distant historical references. Since this class is based on visual references particular attention is paid to composition and format. Students are asked to review and select these artists and designers from a modern style – 1930s to 1980s and from a post modernist style – 1980s to present. A supplemental reading is prescribed, typically one that deals with the concepts of “high” and “low” art. The student is asked to identify each selected work as “high” or “low” art and to contrast and compare the work as it pertains to its communicative ability within its historical context and its reach and interaction towards a combination of art or design. Students are then asked to critique the work from the prescribed design vocabulary and to write to that fact within their papers. A formal presentation is done to expose the class to a wider range of artists and designers. 

Assignment Five

Given the student’s new knowledge base in this assignment we progress from paper to pixels. Students are asked to select work from only a digital format. The examples given are the Whitney’s artport or commercial digital uses – Web pages, digital portfolios or more animated Flash websites. In the case of digital art the text of Lev Manovich is used to supplement the prescribed readings. In the case of digital design current periodicals are selected as supplemental readings. Students are brought full circle with this assignment to review each work based again on the viewpoints of Kant and Hume. The selected work is reviewed and the issue of craft and its importance in the process is focused on. Students present their findings and theories to the group.


Estimated number of unrevised pages of writing (15 minimum)

15 pages from journals and drafts


Estimated number of revised pages of writing (15 minimum)  

15 pages revised pages – 5 papers – 3 pages each.

Weekly Topics:


Week One

From Lascaux to the Digital Era

Week Two-Three

Origins of design and visual communications

Week Four-Five

Traditional Lithography

Week Five-Six

Traditional Photography

Week Seven

Traditional Print and Advertising

Week Eight

Birth of the Modern Designer

Week Nine-Ten

Birth of the Digital Age

Week Eleven

Birth of the Web

Week Twelve-Thirteen

New Technologies


Week Fourteen Course Critiques

The student’s progress in the course and the nature of the course will be critiqued in open discussion with students.



Each student is required to practice and work design theory 3 hours outside of class time.