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COM 202 | Digital Aesthetics | Fall 2018 | Aimée Knight, PhD  

 Merion 174 | T, TH 2:00 – 3:15| Office hours: 12:30 – 2: 00 T, TH | Bronstein Annex 203 |

Course Description

An important direction for design and digital media studies is inquiry into the aesthetic as a mode of sensory experience.
This course takes a human-centered, design-based approach to examining aesthetic experience. You will wear many hats
as you try on various creative roles pertaining to the aesthetic production and consumption of media. Throughout the
course, we will examine elements of design employed by individuals, institutions, and locales that are increasingly
connected in a global society.

Themes of the Course

- How are we to understand the aesthetic as communication – as a mode of meaning-making?
- How do audiences create meaning through direct sensory perception as well as through mediated experience?
- How do current interfaces, design tools, and choices in form + content work to shape the audience’s (or user’s)
aesthetic experience?
- How does design function rhetorically, persuading an audience through multimodal elements?
- How can designers create an engaging aesthetic experience while delivering a message to an audience?

Course goals and objectives

Effective Communication Human Centered Design

In this course students gain experience in Students give extensive attention to each
the aesthetic production and stage of the design process as they critique
consumption of media. Students gain skills and create sensory-based digital projects.
in photography, video, sound, editing, Students will learn how to successfully
writing, public speaking, and design. ideate, create content and execute creative
design solutions.
Required Texts

Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. (2015). Graphic design: the new basics (2nd edition, revised and expanded). New York, NY :

Princeton Architectural Press. See below for full PDF listing. PFS’s on Canvas.

Course Materials

•  Adobe Creative Cloud Our classroom computers have this installed already, but you may also subscribe to CC
month-to-month.). In this course, we will primarily be using Photoshop. The library computers also have Adobe
software. .In a pinch, you can use this open source method editor or this one for some of the more simple design
• Headphones Bring headphones class, as we will sometimes be watching videos and self-directed tutorials.

Weekly Schedule

Weekly Readings Tuesday Thursday Friday

Week 1 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 8/28 8/30
(2015). Graphic design: the Introductory Teaching to
Introduction new basics. Formstorming activities See
to Digital pages 6 – 31
Manovich, L. Aesthetics,
Formalism and Media

Week 2 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 9/4 9/6 9/7
(2015). Graphic design: the
Point, Line, new basics. “Point, Line Reading Design Design
Plane.” Pages 33-47 response due Activity 1 Activity Due
in class.
Excerpt: Edwards, B. (2012). Discussion.
Drawing on the right side of
the brain Chapter 2: Pages
10-25 Swanstrom, E. (2016).

Excerpt: Papanek, V. (1971)
“What is Design?” In

Design for the Real World:
Human Ecology and Social

Weekly Readings Tuesday Thursday Friday

Week 3 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 9/11 9/13 9/14
(2015). Graphic design: the
Texture new basics. Texture pages 69 Reading Design Design

– 79 response Activity 2 Activity 2 Due
Excerpt. Dillard, A. (2008). Pil due.
grim at Tinker Creek Seeing Discussion.

McQuade, J., & Hall, M.

(2015). L Looking and
Seeing: Nalanda Miksang
contemplative photography.

Excerpt. Gross, P. L., & Shapiro,
S. I. (2001a). The Tao of
photography: seeing beyond
seeing. Taoist Seeing

Week 4 9/18 9/20 9/21
Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C.
Rhythm, (2015). Graphic design: the Reading Design Design
Balance, new basics. Rhythm and response 3 Activity 3 Activity 3
Harmony Balance pages 49-59 due in class. Due
Excerpt. Dow, A. W. (2007).
Composition: understanding

line, notan and color.Pages
7-15 and 25-39.  

Excerpt. Koren, L. (2008).
Wabi-sabi for artists,
designers, poets &

Weekly Readings Tuesday Thursday Friday

Week 5 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 9/25 9/27 9/28
(2015). Graphic design: the
Color new basics. Color pages Reading Design Design

80-97 response 4 Activity 4 Activity 4
due in class. Due
Excerpt. Edwards, B. (2004). Discussion.
Color: a course in mastering
the art of mixing
colors. Pages 84-95 and


Excerpt. McQuade, J., &
Hall, M. (2015). Looking
and seeing: Nalanda
Miksang contemplative
photography. Color and
Flash of Perception

Week 6 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 10/2 10/4 10/5
(2015). Graphic design: the
Gestalt new basics. Figure/Ground. Reading
response 5 Design Design
due in class. Activity 5 Activity 5
Discussion. Due
Excerpt. Arnheim, R. Art and
Visual Perception. Pages

Week 7 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 10/9 10/11
(2015). Graphic design: the
Midterm new basics. Midterm Part Midterm Part

1 2

Week 8 10/16 10/18

Fall Break on Fall Break Design Film

Weekly Readings Tuesday Thursday Friday

Week 9 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 10/23 10/25 10/26
Framing (2015). Graphic design: the
new basics. Framing pages Reading Design Design
116-127 response 6 Activity 6 Activity 6 Due
due in class.
Excerpt. Koren, L. (2010). Discussion.
Which “aesthetics” do you
mean?: ten definitions.

Week 10 Excerpt. Millman, D. (2009). 10/30 11/1 11/2
Look both ways: illustrated
Form essays on the intersection of Reading Design Design
life and design “Debutante.” response 7 Activity 7 Activity 7 Due
due in class.


Chimero, F. “What Screens

Sloan, R. “Fish: A Tap Essay.”

Week 11 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 11/6 11/8 11/9
(2015). Graphic design: the
Modularity new basics. Modularity pages Reading Design Design

167-185 response 8 Activity 8 Activity 8 Due
due in class.
Excerpt. Koren, L., & Pasquier,
N. du. (2003). Arranging
things a rhetoric of object

Weekly Readings Tuesday Thursday Friday

Week 12 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 11/13 11/15 11/16
(2015). Graphic design: the
Grid new basics. Grid pages Reading Design Design

187-199 response 9 Activity 9 Activity
due in class. 9 Due
G. H. (Director).
(2007). Helvetica [Motion Helvetica
picture]. United States: Swiss excerpt.

Week 13 Lupton, E., & Phillips, J. C. 11/20 11/22
(2015). Graphic design: the
Pattern new basics. Pattern Pages Reading Thanksgiving

201-213 response 9
due in class.
Excerpt. Doczi, G. (2005). The Discussion
power of limits: proportional
harmonies in nature, art, and
architecture. "Dinergy in

Week 14 11/27 11/29 11/30

Pattern Design Design Design
(Continued) Activity Part Activity Part 2 Activity 10
1 Due

Week 15 12/4 12/6

Video Essay Video Essay Video Essay
Review Due

Week 16 TBA
Finals Week

Other Course Readings - Links and PDFs

Arnheim, R. (2009). Art and visual perception: a psychology of the creative eye ; the new version (Expanded and rev. ed.

(50th anniversary printing). Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

Dillard, A. (2008). Pilgrim at Tinker Creek . (New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Doczi, G. (2005). The power of limits: proportional harmonies in nature, art, and architecture. Boston: Shambhala.

Dow, A. W. (2007). Composition: understanding line, notan and color. Mineola, N.Y: Dover.

Edwards, B. (2004). Color: a course in mastering the art of mixing colors. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.

Edwards, B., & Edwards, B. (2012). Drawing on the right side of the brain (Definitive, 4th ed). New York: Tarcher/Penguin.

G. H. (Director). (2007). Helvetica [Motion picture]. United States: Swiss Dots.

Gross, P. L., & Shapiro, S. I. (2001a). The Tao of photography: seeing beyond seeing. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Karr, A., & Wood, M. (2011). The practice of contemplative photography: seeing the world with fresh eyes (1st ed). Boston:


Koren, L. (2008). Wabi-sabi for artists, designers, poets & philosophers. Point Reyes, Calif: Imperfect Publ.

Koren, L. (2010). Which “aesthetics” do you mean?: ten definitions. Point Reyes, Calif.: Imperfect Pub.

Koren, L., & Pasquier, N. du. (2003). Arranging things a rhetoric of object placement. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press.

Millman, D. (2009). Look both ways: illustrated essays on the intersection of life and design (1st ed). Cincinnati, Ohio: HO


McQuade, J., & Hall, M. (2015). Looking and seeing: Nalanda Miksang contemplative photography. Madison, WI: Drala

Publishing.Swanstrom, E. (2016)

Animal, vegetable, digital: experiments in new media aesthetics and environmental poetics. Tuscaloosa: The University of

Alabama Press.

Course Assignments and Evaluation

Assignments Due Date Evaluation

Reading Responses Weeks 2 - 13 30%

Design Activities Week 2 - 13 30%

Discussion Week 2 - 15 15%

Midterm Week 8 10%

Video Essay Week 16 15%

Reading Responses 

Reading responses are in-class writing activities which demonstrate your engagement with the ideas in the assigned
weekly course material. Your papers will contain observable signs of notable effort, thinking, and involvement with
the texts. An effective response demonstrates that you have thoroughly read and understood the material (or that you ask
and attempt to answer compelling questions that reveal careful reading). The responses will develop connections between
the material and the themes of the course and demonstrate that you have considered the implications of the materials.
Although these are not formal academic papers, they should be carefully written and cited nevertheless. Include direct
quotes from the readings that support your integration of the material. Be specific about the works you’re discussing, give
details to back up any assertions you may make, include references, page numbers, and in-text MLA citations when
appropriate. Finally, pay attention to grammar and mechanics. Reading responses are short answers (typically 500 words
of less). The responses entail a focused response within a limited scope. The grading system (A, B, C, D, F) is designed to
evaluate responses based on a narrow range of criteria:1) How thoroughly did you address the question/s in your
response? 2) Did you provide concrete and substantive evidence from the reading material to make your claims? 3) Is the
writing clear and concise? 4) Did you use appropriate citations using MLA guidelines? *In the case of tardiness, you will
have less time to complete the work.*In the case of an absence, you may submit the work on Canvas before you return to

Design Activities 

To promote the integration of theory and practice,  we will embark on a new design activity each week. After this hands-on
activity, a discussion post will be due. This post will include: 1) 3-5 + clear and engaging photographs or a video of your
work from the week’s design-related activities. 2) a 100-200 word write-up, video, screen recording, or sound file (think
short podcast or video blog) of what you achieved (or what you were working toward) from a digital aesthetics
perspective. You will be evaluated on how effectively you use vocabulary, concepts, and ideas from the week’s reading
material and any additional course material to link theory with practice. Make it a habit to thoroughly relate your design

work with the readings. (This includes material from your Integration Papers). Assessment of the documentation of the
design activities is ongoing throughout the semester. Late work is deducted 20% per day.


This class requires engaged listening and engaged speaking. Each member of our learning community needs to be
actively engaged in the learning process. Each student is here to contribute to the exchange of ideas. Ask questions. Be
curious. As a student in this course, you will create your own communal context for learning by engaging in conversations
with others. As such, being prepared to participate in discussions and activities is paramount. This entails having read,
annotated, and thought about the required materials carefully before class starts.  

• Do the readings ahead of time

• Have the readings accessible during discussion

• Highlight passages that you believe are worthy of discussion

• Think of the major points or problems in the text

• What questions do you have about the readings?

• Use relevant examples/cases in the text to illustrate your points

• Make a list of questions you think would be interesting discussion prompts

In this class, students help one another understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in a text through a group
discussion format. Students are responsible for facilitating group discussion around the ideas in the text; they shouldn’t
use the discussion to assert their opinions or prove an argument. Through this method, students talk with each other.
Through this type of discussion, students practice how to listen to one another, make meaning, and find common ground
while participating in a conversation. During discussions, each student aims for one to one- two substantive comments or
questions for every five minutes of discussion.


This midterm is an examination of your critical thinking about themes in the course. This 2-part exam focuses on theory
and practice.

Video Essay on Digital Aesthetics

During the last weeks of the semester we will look over your portfolio of work from this course. Think about the design
goals for each project (Form, Color, Texture, etc). Answer one or more of the guiding questions of the course in a 3 minute
narrative. Incorporate your own visual work from the semester into the video essay. Incorporate ideas from course
materials as well as outside sources if you wish (include at least five sources).


Come to class fully prepared to engage in the exchange of ideas. It is your responsibility to bring the necessary materials
to class each week. You will also need to access (and use) Canvas and email. Save and backup all work at all times. It is also
a good idea to bring headphones to class, as we will sometimes be interacting with media-rich content.


Be here, on time. You are expected to attend class each week and be well prepared. We will often work on projects, watch
videos, conduct group work, and other activities during class time. There is no substitute for your presence during class.
Significant absences will hurt your grade because you will not be in class to participate and collaborate. I take attendance.
You are allowed two absences (for T, TH schedule classes). If you are absent more than two times you will automatically
lose 10% of your final grade. If you miss 5 or more classes, you will not pass the course. Lateness or leaving early is
considered unprofessional and will affect your daily participation grade by 10%.

Late Work

Late work is deducted 20% for each late day. If an assignment or project is posted after a deadline, it will be deducted 20%.

Office Hours and After Hours

I hope you will take advantage of my office hours. I am available to offer extended feedback on your projects (beyond the
written feedback you formally receive). You don’t need to have a problem to come visit, but if you do find yourself having
some difficulty or questions, then I certainly want to see you sooner rather than later. If you cannot make scheduled office
hours, arrange to see me at another time.

Equipment to check out

The COM Studies department has most of the equipment what you will need to complete course assignments. Everyone in
the department, including faculty, use the gear for their work, so it’s important that we all treat it kindly and return it on
time. More details here.

Writing Center

The Saint Joseph’s University Writing Center is free to all members of the SJU community. The undergraduate and
graduate student writers who make up the staff can assist you in any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to
organizing and developing your ideas, to citing sources to proofreading. They work with students from across the
university on a variety of assignments and projects: lab reports, business policy papers, poems, essays, research papers,
dissertations, resumes, and personal statements for graduate school applications, among many others. You name it;
they’ve helped writers write it. Both appointments and drop-in sessions are available. The main Writing Center is located in
162 Merion Hall. The Center also has a satellite location in the Post Learning Commons (room 128). For more information,
including hours of operation and instructions on how to make an appointment, please visit the SJU Writing Center
website at

Academic honesty

If you use ideas or information that are not common knowledge, you must cite a source. This rule applies to all the course
activities and projects including reading responses, multimedia projects, and essays. How to cite a source will be discussed
in class. St. Joseph’s University’s academic honesty policy can be found here.

The penalty for plagiarism is an automatic Fail for this class and a letter of notification to the Committee on Discipline. If
you are suspected of plagiarism or an act of dishonesty, action will be taken. In all courses, each student has the
responsibility to submit work that is uniquely his or her own. All of this work must be done in accordance with established
principles of academic integrity. Specific violations of this responsibility include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Cheating, copying, or the offering or receiving of unauthorized assistance or information in examinations, tests, quizzes,
reports, assigned papers, or special assignments, as in computer programming, studio work, and the like.

• The fabrication or falsification of data, results, or sources for papers or reports

• Any action which destroys or alters the work of another student;The multiple submission of the same paper or report for
assignments more than one course without the prior written permission of each instructor;

• Plagiarism, the appropriation of information, ideas, or the language of other persons or writers and the submission of
them as one’s own to satisfy the requirements of a course.

Plagiarism thus constitutes both theft and deceit. Compositions, term papers, or computer programs acquired, either in
part or in whole, from commercial sources or from other students and submitted as one’s own original work shall be
considered plagiarism. All students are directed to the standard manuals of style or reference guides for discussions of
plagiarism and the means by which sources are legitimately acknowledged, cited, quoted, paraphrased, and footnoted—
whether presented in an oral report or in writing.

Rules regarding the use of information in this course

1) If you use the language of your source, you must quote it exactly, enclose it in quotation marks, and cite the source. If
you use the language of your source, quote the wording exactly. This is called a direct quotation. A direct quotation is
either enclosed in quotation marks or indented on the page. If you omit part of the wording, use an ellipsis (three periods,
four if necessary for punctuation to indicate the omission).

2) A paraphrase employs source material by restating an idea in an entirely new form that is original in both sentence
structure and word choice. Taking the basic structure from a source and substituting a few words is an unacceptable
paraphrase and may be construed as plagiarism. Creating a new sentence by merging the wording of two or more sources
is also plagiarism.

Services for students with disabilities

Reasonable academic accommodations may be provided to students who submit appropriate documentation of their
disability. Students are encouraged to contact Dr. Christine Mecke in the Office of Student Disability Services, Bellarmine,
B-10, at; or at 610.660.1774 for assistance with this issue. The university also provides an appeal/
grievance procedure regarding requested or offered reasonable accommodations through Dr. Mecke's office. More
information can be found at: