ARH 346 Syllabus (still under construction)



Instructor: Alfredo Triff Ph.D.
Textbook: Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide, by Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish.

ARH 346 is an introductory survey of Graphic Design from its origins to the present day. In addition, I’d like to emphasize 20th Century and early 21st Century developments in the field.


At the end of the semester, the student is supposed to be acquainted with the main languages of graphic design, as well as the cultural and socio-political contexts from which they originate. As one becomes acquainted with the history of the discipline, one we can better understand the formal principles and techniques behind each style of design.

Course content and grades:

1- We have two exams: A midterm (30%) and a final (30%); each test has a written and a visual component. 2- There is a weekly 150-word comment assignment for each of my weekly posts. Comments must show a bit of research and the ability to discuss novelty on the topic at hand. Generally, I will close the comment-window of our blog 6 days after posting. Post comments amount to 25% of the final grade. Attendance and participation are 15% of the final grade.
3- I ask you to refrain from using your personal laptops during my lectures. We don't need more audio-visual overload than the one we already have in class.

Schedule of classes

Introduction: Evolutionary foundations of communication, language and design, early graphic forms, communicating ideas and beliefs, the invention of proto-writing.

Chapter 1: Early Writing: Mark-making, Notation Systems, and Scripts 3000—500 bce
Mark-making, notation, varieties of early writing, the spread of writing as idea and script, the alphabet, literate culture.

Chapter 2: Classical Literacy 700 bce—400 ce
Variations of literacy and the alphabet, the function of graphic codes, models of writing: gestural and constructed, writing at the end of the Classical age.

Chapter 3: Medieval Letterforms and Book Formats 400—1450
Medieval culture and graphic communication, graphic media and contexts, the codex book letterforms, manuscript hands, and pattern books; Graphic forms of knowledge, publishing communities and graphic arts.

Chapter 4: Renaissance Design: Standardization and Modularization in Print 1450—1660
Early print design, graphic communication in Renaissance culture, print technology and type design, graphic forms of knowledge.

Chapter 5: Modern Typography and the Creation of the Public Sphere 1660—1800
Printed matter and the public sphere, news books, broadsheets, and newspapers, politics and the press, graphic arts and design, modern type design. On the edge of industrialization

Chapter 6: The Graphic Effects of Industrial Production 1800—1850
Industrialization and visual culture, illustrated papers, book design for mass production, printing images, advertising design and typography, fine art and graphic art; critical issues

Chapter 7: Mass Mediation 1850—1900s
Printed mass media, changes in print technology, changing patterns in the use of graphic media, media networks, graphic design and advertising, posters and public space.

Chapter 8: Formations of the Modern Movement 1880s—1910s
Responses to industrialism, Arts and Crafts publications, Arts and Crafts dissemination, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Viennese design, Decadence and Aestheticism, the private press movement and modern design, integration of design and industry.

Chapter 9: Innovation and Persuasion 1910—1930
Visual culture and avant-garde design, the graphic impact of Futurism and Dada, from experiment to principles, propaganda and mass communication studies, graphic persuasion and its effects, institutionalizing graphic design.

Chapter 10: The Culture of Consumption 1920s—1930s
Designing the modern lifestyle, modern style in graphic design, consumer culture, the profession.

Chapter 11: Public Interest Campaigns and Information Design 1930s—1950s
Public interest and education, photojournalism and documentary, wartime propaganda, wartime information, commercial and technical uses of information design, information analysis and design process.

Chapter 12: Corporate Identities and International Style 1950s—1970s
Image and identity systems, International style: Style, systems, and graphic design concepts; technology, the profession.

Chapter 13: Pop and Protest 1960s—1970s
Pop culture and style, self-conscious graphic design, slick surfaces and high production values, counterculture and the alternative press, revolutionary culture and protest, changes in the profession, critical vocabulary.

Chapter 14: Postmodernism in Design 1970s—1980s and Beyond
Postmodern styles, postmodern consumption and conservatism, critical theory and postmodern sensibility, postmodernism and activism.

Chapter 15: Digital Design After the 1970s
Digital technology: from punch cards and plotters to desktop computing, Media transitions: type design and publications: Fluidity and functionality. The myth of immateriality and challenges of digital design.

Today's Graphic Design

Ad Busters
Majid Abassi
Chris Dixon
Dave Eggers
Experimental Jetset (Amsterdam)
Sarah Fanelli
Isidro Ferrer (Spain)
Field Study
Lizzie Finn (London)
Tom Gauld (London)
Julia Hasting (NY)
Yuri Gutilov (Moscow)
Fons Hickmann (Berlin/Vienna)
Kim Hirth√ły (Oslo)
Keiko Hirano (Tokyo)
Inkahoots (Brisbane, Australia)
Siobhan Keaney (London)
Ji Lee (NY)
Ken-Tsai Lee (Taipei)
Anette Lenz (Paris)
Kei Matsushita (Tokyo)
Ung Vai Meng (Macao, China)
Mooren & van der Velden (Amsterdam) Torturers of modern design
Peter Moser (Switzerland) Design as Theater

Final Exam Prep



Additional Bibliography:

David Abrams, The Spell of the Sensuous, NY Pantheon Books, 1996; Rudolph Arnheim, Visual Thinking. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1969; Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. Boston, Beacon Press, 1969; Kevin Barnhurst, Seeing the Newspaper. NY Harper and Row, 1972; John Berger, Ways of Seeing, NY Penguin Books, 1972; Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Tyopographic Style. Point Roberts, WA Hartley & Marks, 1992; Anne Carson, Eros, the Bittersweet, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1986; Sebastian Carter, Twentieth Century Type Designers, NY, Taplinger, 1987; Florian Coulmas, The Writing Systems of the World, Cambridge, MA Blackwell, 1991; Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination. San Francisco, North Point, 1981; Guy Davenport, The Hunter Gracchus, Washingoton, DC, Counterpoint, 1996; Donis A Dondis, A Primer of Visual Literacy. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1973; Geoffrey Dowding, The Finer Points in the Spacing and Arranging of Type, Vancouver, Hartley & Marks, 1995; Magdalena Droste, Bauhaus, Berlin, Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1990; Johanna Drucker, A Century of Artists Books, NY, Granary Books, 1995;Johanna Drucker, The Alphabetic Labyrinth: Letters in History and Imagination, NY Thames & Hudson, 1995; Harry Duncan, Doors of Perception; Essays in Book Typography, Austin, W. Thomas Taylor, 1987; Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols; NY, Cambridge Univ Press, 1979; Dan Friedman, Radical Modernism, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1994; Albertine Gaur, A History of Writing. NY, Cross River Press, 1992; Jost Hochuli, Designing Books, practice and theory, London, Hyphen, 1996; Lewis Hyde, The Gift, Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, NY, Vintage Books, 1983; Richard Hendel, On Book Design, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998; Ivan Illich and Barry Sanders, ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind. North Point, 1988; Gerald Janecek, The Look of Russian Literature: Avant-garde Visual Experiments, 1900-30, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984; Willi Kunz, Typography: Macro and Micro Aesthetics, New York, Willi Kunz Books, 2000; Ellen Lupton, Graphic Design In the Mechanical Age, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998; Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics; The Invisible Art. Northampton, MA, Kitchen sink Press, 1993; Ruari McLean, Jan Tschichold, Typographer, Boston, Godine, 1975; Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1962; Douglas McMurtrie, The Book: The Story of Printing and Bookmaking, NY, Dorset Press, 1971; Paul Messaris, Visual Literacy: Image, Mind & Reality. Boulder, CO Westview Press, 1994; Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, NY Vintage Books, 1992; Fred Smeijers, Counterpunch, Making Type in the 16th Century, designing Typfaces Now, London, Hyphen 1996; Buzz Spector, The Book Maker’s Desire: Writings on the Art of the Book. Pasadena, Umbrella Editions, 1995.
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