This course is an intensive exploration of the fundamental principles of graphic design through a series of studio assignments, critiques and readings— supplemented by lectures and the film screenings. The class focuses on developing the ability to skillfully manipulate core design elements such as type and image so as to transmit meaningful ideas and emotions. We will investigate the use of key communicative principles such as composition, color, hierarchy, scale, rhythm, movement and metaphor.

Through a series of interrelated, progressively complex assignments you will develop a working methodology intended to help you create a body of accomplished design work, as well as a vocabulary for critically engaging that work, laying a solid foundation for further study and/or appreciation. Like all the design disciplines, graphic design in particular is qualitative rather than quantitative – meaning there are no ‘correct’ solutions to problems but there will be solutions that feel more compelling and appropriate to you than others.

Graphic designers are primarily concerned with creating, editing and managing visual forms (usually combining text and images) that communicate a particular message, to a particular audience, in a hopefully meaningful and interesting way. Graphic Design is alternately used to identify, inspire, inform, persuade, entertain, or provoke, and designers work across a large variety of media, often working within a collaborative team.

The following is a non-definitive list of overlapping areas that fall under the rubric of graphic design:
  • branding; logo design, identity systems
  • interaction design; website, devices, apps
  • motion graphics; animations, title sequences, ads
  • print; books, magazines, posters, pamphlets
  • environmental graphics; exhibition, signage, wayfinding
  • information design; diagrams, tables, charts
  • packaging design; product and food packaging
  • type design; design of typefaces, custom lettering

  • obtain an understanding of foundational design principles and techniques (composition, hierarchy, structure).
  • ability to articulate the rationale and logic behind design decisions.
  • understand how to identify and communicate to a specific audience.
  • strengthen your ability to work independently and collaboratively.
  • apply a reflective, research based, critical and generative process.
  • develop an ability and vocabulary for self and group critique.
  • understanding of historical and contemporary graphic design practice.
  • develop an individual design process.

  • A developed capacity for critical, strategic and conceptual thinking.
  • The ability to identify and solve visual and conceptual problems.
  • The ability to present and communicate effectively, in oral and written form.
  • The development of personal visual language within the context of traditional and contemporary language of design.
  • Proficiency in core executional skills, including facility with range of relevant tools, media, technology and related practices.
  • Experience in various creative roles, from art direction and copyrighting to typography and TV commercials.
  • A professional level understanding of industry practices, standards and expectations, and career strategies.

Class sessions will be structured around group critiques, reading discussions, and informal presentations, with occasional guest critics.

Each student should be prepared to present visual progress to the class every week. You should also be ready to offer constructive criticism to peers, on both concept and form.

Readings will be required each week. Students are expected to come to classhaving read the material prior to class and be prepared to participate. A pair of students each week will be responsible for moderating the class discussion of the reading. The moderator should summarize the key
arguments of the text, and pose at least 3 questions to the entire class about the reading.

In addition, every week, students will write short post (at least 300 words) on the weekly readings. You may not use the first person in your writing.

In the beginning of each unit, we’ll do an online exercises on various design principles and prompts. Be prepared to work in Adobe or Figma during class. Occasionally, I’ll also give tutorials on software for more in-depth training specific to assignments. However, this class isnot predicated on learning software and you’ll be partly responsible for teaching yourselves.

At the completion of every project you will be required to submit 1-6 high res images of your final project. This documentation should consist of your project process and final outcomes. The images should be photographed
or digitally rendered. Consider your point of the view on the given project, along with background, compostion and lighting.

  1. Each week, students will be required to present there progress on the given assignment in a presentation format to the rest of the class.
    These presentations should be prepared in Google Slides and placed on the Google Drive prior to class time. You are not allowed to place text on or read off the slides.

  2. At the class final critique, you will also be evaluated for your presentation format. You may only present visual content (if you are presenting on screen, there can be no type slides). How you document, compile, and share your work with the class should be just as considered as the final design. What is the best format or tool? What is shown on screen and how do you verbally describe your work?

As we move into online classes, we will be hosting a series of 1:1 bi-weekly meetings to stay up to date with projects along with giving us time for us to stay connect and track your progress throughout the semester. You can
always sign up for a 1:1 meeting or request an office hour session with me if something comes up along the way or if you would like extra feedback on a given project.

The grades don’t matter as much as the work, but this course is not an easy A, B or C. If you do not take your work seriously, we will not take you seriously (we as a class). Students will be evaluated at the end of the semester based on two factors: energy and quality. These both lead to great work. The students who contribute the most, both in and out of class, will be rewarded with great work and a good grade.

Projects and participation are evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • ability to translate conceptual ideas into visual forms or outputs.
  • commitment to in-depth research and an iterative process.
  • receptiveness to feedback.
  • prolific output and inquisitiveness that expands beyond the assignment.
  • designing communications that consider and engage a specific audience.
  • ability to contextualize your work agains historical and contemporary design.
  • quality of craft and production, across media.

(Speaking, Writing, Presenting)
  • showing studio progress every week.
  • willingness to engage with new techniques and technologies.
  • speak criticality and knowledgeably about design, visual culture, and technology.
  • ability to analyze questions from multiple perspectives, in both verbal and written form.
  • thoughtfully and clearly present your work.

Letter-grades will reflect how well you meet the criteria:
A — exceed all of the criteria
B — meet all of the criteria
C — meet more than half of the criteria
D — meet less than half of the criteria
F — fail to meet any of the criteria

Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent or sick. Late assignments or failure to complete assignments before the beginning of class will jeopardize your evaluation in this course. Being unprepared for presentations, failure to do assigned readings, or missing deadlines for writing posts, will also effect your final grade. Assignments not completed by due date are automatically downgraded—this can include assignments turned in severely late.

There are no unexcused absences or cuts. Students are expected to attend all classes. Each unexcused absence thereafter results in a partial letter grade reduction of your final grade (e.g. A becomes B+). Three unexcused absences results in a failing grade.In addition to regular attendance, punctuality to all classes is expected. Three late arrivals equals one unexcused absence. An excused absence means that I have received notification of a legitimate excuse (such as illness or a personal or medical emergency) before class starts—preferably by the night before. To nullify an absence, you will need a Dean’s note. If you miss a class you are responsible for catching up.

Inside the virtual classroom, you are required to always have your camera on and be present for the full class period. Outside of the virtual classroom, the course will require a minimum of 10–15 hours of work. Outside the class every crucial aspect of maturing as a designer is to be able to speak about and present your own work, as well as react to and critique the work of others.

This class is not software-oriented and you will be partly responsible for teaching yourselves. Some light skill-oriented instruction—such as software training (Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Figma) and craft production—will be worked into the curriculum, depending on the needs of the class members. If you have not had Mac experience, and/or you are not familiar with page layout software, it is recommended that you obtain experience/instruction outside of class early in the semester.

Online classes are hard for everyone, especially in terms of communication across different time zones. What I need from all of you is transparent, clear and constant communication. By doing so we will keep the class on track and will limit the amount of assumptions or misunderstandings throughout the semester. To help guide this, I will be sharing a weekly email and class recording with all of you that outlines the following weeks assignments, readings and other material. Along with an email, our class will rely on the class website, Slack and Canvas application with all of the latest information and materials.

It is important to me that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives are well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs are addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity students bring to this class are viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit. I strive to present materials and activities that challenge accepted canons and are respectful and representative of diversity: gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture, perspective, and other background characteristics. Your suggestions about how to improve the value of diversity in this course are always encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know how I might improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

In order to receive academic accommodations due to a disability, a student must first register with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Students approved for accommodations will be given an ODS Accommodation Letter to submit to their instructors. If a student does not provide an ODS Accommodation Letter to their instructor, they will not be eligible to receive accommodations in that course. All instructors are required to adhere to SVA’s policies regarding accommodations for students with disabilities. Students who have a need for academic accommodations, or suspect they may have a disability, should contact the ODS via telephone: 212-592-2396, or visit the office: 340 East 24th Street, 1st Floor, New York, NY 10010,
or email:

The goal of this class is to experience the positivity of good design, to experiment with modes of thought, develop our ability to express those thoughts through design, and to constantly do so with joy and excitement. If we aren’t enjoying what we’re doing, what’s the point?

  • laptop or desktop computer
  • Wifi
  • Google Drive (docs, slides, etc.)
  • Slack (messaging app)
  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign and After Effects)
  • Figma
  • course website
  • file backup software (Google Drive), hard drive



686 325 0291
Basic Graphic Design I
School of Visual Arts
Fall 2020
Wednesdays, 6:45–9:55pm
Anthony Zukofsky,

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