History of Graphic Design

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Alchemy is based on the inexplicable and mysterious. It is defined as the ancient science that attempts to turn base metals into gold. Simply, it is the power to transform something common into something special. Design Thinking will introduce the student to the inexplicable and sometimes, mysterious history of design innovation through a survey of 5 select (golden) time periods highlighting design thinking and their impact on the wider world.

“We should note the force, effect, and the consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than those three unknown to the ancients: printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these have changed the appearance, and the state of the whole world.”
—Francis Bacon.

The continued evolution of design, built on innovation, exemplifies the far-reaching effects of design thinking. Exploring the interconnectedness between such moments of inspiration and the context in which it became a reality will have the greatest impact on the student’s class experience. Design works will be analyzed formally with reference to their particular cultural, technological, social, political and religious contexts—the Zeitgeist—of the time. We will see how designers have practiced the art of visual communication by manipulating the tools of art to influence and inform a specific audience. It will include lectures, and videos, assigned reading, writing, discussion and studio projects exploring a select survey of the diversity of design.

“Design is always changing. It continually transforms how we engage with each other and our world in new and exciting ways. New processes, strategies and technologies are invented. Historical precedents are reevaluated and critiqued. Innovative storytelling and narrative techniques are formed. Who are those driving this constant process of change? Designers, educators, curators, and authors are among those who are actively reshaping the creative process, directing currents in contemporary culture, and redefining the meaning of design.”
—AIGA, Chicago

 Designers Thinking is meant to provide an awareness of style, a close scrutiny of exemplary work, and an appreciation of the long tradition of visual communication. Students will apply design thinking methodology as a means of analyzing examples of historical design. Students will gain a perspective on human development as represented by examples of visual communication presented within the wider contexts of changing technologies, expanding geographical regions, and cultural vernacular. All will develop an ability to critically analyze visual material and cultivate informed judgments about their meaning. A major theme which will direct the student’s study in the second half of the course will be to identify examples of major paradigm shifts in design thinking which, because of their importance had an impact on, or was a leader in, thinking in other areas beyond the world of design.

This is a challenging class, which requires thinking, reading, talking, research, design, work and fun—involvement—Design Thinking, please be prepared!

Survey of GDH poster

Course Goals:

  • Students will develop an understanding of the specific history related to visual communication.
  • Students will develop critical thinking and the ability to analyze information.
  • Students will develop their ability to make oral presentations.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to identify specific characteristics of type and image development as it relates chronologically, thematically, culturally, and technologically.
  • Students will demonstrate through completion of a final project, the ability to make current decisions based upon research and analysis of historical information.

Course Objectives: (Copies of student work may be retained to assess how the learning objectives of the course are being met.)

Upon completion of this course the student should be able to:

    1. Students will have the opportunity to develop a working design vocabulary.
    2. Students will have the opportunity to develop a broad understanding of world history.
    3. Students will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of the relationship between visual communication and the other areas of human development
    4. Students will have the opportunity to develop critical thinking and the ability to analysis design.

    The objectives will be achieved by:

    1. Assigned readings from required text, A History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs
    2. Application of Design Thinking methodology
    3. Successful submission of comparative study papers.
    4. Presentation to the class select topics from chapter readings supported by supplemental research
    5. Class discussion
    6. Quizzes and final exam.

Design Thinking Methodology is the application of a specific form of inquiry. Its purpose is to analyze products or styles of design according to an understanding of relevant contextual information. Conclusions can then be formed about the impact those design products have had on the design community as well as the wider world in which we all live.


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