336 Syllabus


Engl/DTC 336: Composition & Design

Instructor: Kristin Becker

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1:30-3:00pm, Avery 4th floor: Creativity Suite / Avery 479

Email: kristin.carlson@wsu.edu


Class Website:


Check class schedule updates on the class website each week.


Class Number 04545 • Section 01

Tues/Thurs, 1:25-2:40pm

AVERY 105 (lab) / 102 (lecture)



Composition & Design introduces the fundamental elements and principles of design for the two-dimensional surface at a beginning to intermediate level. Using hands-on design projects with both print and digital components, students become familiar with design elements such as shape, line, texture, color, and typography. Students are then challenged to manipulate and combine these elements to explore the more complex principles of design, such as balance, pattern, rhythm, and hierarchy, in the service of graphic design-inspired communications. A major goal of the course is the ability to see and to describe—and therefore to design—compositions in an abstract sense, using the visual design language we develop. The ability to see abstractly is crucial for a designer, making him or her better equipped to estimate how visual choices may affect comprehension of a specific message. All projects in the course involve both hands-on (material) components and processes, as well as digital (virtual) components and processes.

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Course-Specific Learning Outcomes

  • Ability to create clear, decisive, imaginative compositions demonstrating sensitivity to the elements and principles that make up the visual language of 2-D design
  • Ability to communicate using the vocabulary of 2-D design, verbally and in writing, during critiques and discussions, and for writing assignments
  • Effort to engage in and document an in-depth creative process, attempting sketches, drafts, and/or locating sources of inspiration before committing to a final design
  • Effort to engage in the design process in both digital and physical realms
  • Professional presentation and organization of projects and assignments
  • Proficiency in the digital tools and programs used for graphic design, including Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Familiarity with the history of graphic design, with focus on history of technology and cultural influences
  • Independent learning initiative: Ability to conduct research independently to improve outcomes of specific design problems, once a core foundation of knowledge has been established

DTC Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate competency with technology for designing and distributing digital works in various mediums.
  • Demonstrate competency with design principles through both the production and analysis of media objects.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history of technological development, from local to global perspectives, and its implications for a variety of mediums.
  • Effectively communicate through writing and speech why and how digital media texts make meaning.

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Coursework includes:

Projects (~50%)

Project 1. Textural Interpretation (100 pts): Engage and explore design elements and principles discussed in our reading through our own creations in Adobe Illustrator. This includes point, line, planescale; texture; and transparency: By engaging in a textural interpretation, you will manipulate elemental forms (points, lines, planes) so they present themselves as a more complex visual composition. You will begin to gain understanding of the visual complexity of typefaces (fonts), and to consider how different visual styles can be used in the service of visual illustration.

Project 2. Pattern Design (100 pts): Engage and explore design elements and principles discussed in our reading through our own creations in Adobe Illustrator. This includes patternfigure-ground; and color relationships: By designing your own original patterns, you will manipulate elemental forms so they present themselves as a more complex visual composition. Manipulating and changing color, value, and figure-ground relationships will play an important role in creating dynamic visual patterns.

Project 3. Type Design (200 pts): Custom-design a typeface, or font. Your design idea should come from a specific point of inspiration, which will be a text of your own choosing. Your typeface design should embody the spirit of that text, which could be a poem, a work of fiction, an essay, an instructional text, a screenplay, song lyrics (the sky’s the limit here as long as you are excited about the text!). Depending on the spirit of your text, you will choose either a modular design method or a design method based on a physical material or environment. Once you have designed the full alphabet—using Illustrator, Photoshop, or a combination of the two—you will design a large format poster that showcases all the letters of your alphabet in alphabetical order, as well as in a relevant sentence, phrase, or paragraph from or related to your source of inspiration.

Peer Critiques are conducted for each of the projects listed above and contribute to the total points that can be earned for each project. It is important to be present in class on the day peer critiques take place. Arrangements to make up these points can only be arranged if you notify your instructor of your absence 48 hours before critique takes place, or occasionally in the case of severe illness.

Class Blog (~30%)

You are required to post on the class blog on a regular basis (see schedule), usually when readings or projects are due. Your post should contribute written analysis using visual examples to demonstrate your understanding of relevant class concepts.

Make sure to use the vocabulary of design you are gaining from the class to explain how your visual example illustrates the concept(s) you address. Be descriptive but concise: usually no more than 500 words. Before a blog post is due, your instructor will post a prompt on this website (see Blog Prompts). You should use these prompts to inspire your response.

The class design blog is meant to enhance discussion and facilitate learning. Read posts by your classmates. Blog posts are due before class starts. Students will be called at random to share their examples during class discussions.

Like blog posts, in-class activities and presentations will give students the opportunity to practice analysis and discussion of design principles from our readings.

Blog posts and related presentations cannot be made up unless arrangements have been made in advance.


Attandance & Participation (~20%)

Participation and attendance are a crucial part of your success in this class. You will earn five points per class for attending class from start to finish, for giving your fellow students and your instructor your full attention, for participating in peer review, and for coming prepared on work days. Considering its impact on important class activities and lecture content that is only available during class, attendance and participation is estimated to contribute to 25% of your final grade. In the event class is cancelled due to instructor illness or childcare issues, participation points will be waived for the day, or will be earned via an extra blog contribution.

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Evaluations & Grades

A final grade will be determined through consideration of the following items:

  • Major Projects (~50%) described above will make up the bulk of your grade. Mastery of tools and techniques, in-progress work, final presentation, and engagement of creative concepts will all be evaluated.
  • Class Blog (~30%)
  • Attendance & Participation (~20%): Attendance and timeliness is required. You will have trouble succeeding in the course if you do not come to class and pay attention. See Attendance policy below for grade impact beyond four absences, as well as Attendance & Participation section above.

Grade Scale:

  • 100-93 = A
  • 92-90 = A-
  • 89-87 = B+
  • 86-84 = B
  • 83-80 = B-
  • 79-77 = C+
  • 76-74 = C
  • 73-70 = C-
  • 69-66 = D+
  • 65-60 = D
  • 59-0 = F

Grade information and schedule change announcements may be posted on Blackboard, but all other course-related information will be presented on this wordpress website.

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Required Materials

  • Book: Graphic Design: The New Basics by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips (Available for purchase at the Bookie, or online)
  • Additional readings will be provided electronically or as photocopies. See links on the class schedule. Some readings from the library may require your WSU ID and password.
  • Access to a digital camera: Phone camera is acceptable. 
  • Paper and pen/pencil for sketching and note-taking
  • Dropbox Account to backup your files for class, and to turn them in via a shared class folder at the end of each project. Go to dropbox.com and click “Get Dropbox Basic” to set up a free account for 2 gigs of free space. Your work should be backed-up in two different places at all times. Resave in both locations frequently. Lost files are not an acceptable excuse for missing class deadlines. Use your Dropbox account in conjunction with your home computer or laptop, or a portable external hard drive (formatted for Mac, or for both Mac and PC if you plan to use it in our computer lab).
  • Access to computers and design software necessary for completing projects. You must use our computer lab outside class if you do not have access at home or elsewhere. You may want to consider a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud at a student rate if you want to work on your own computer. Remember, files must always be accessible on class lab computers as well as on your personal computer, even if you bring your laptop to class.
  • Printing: You may be required to pay for high quality color printing at Cougar Copies for this course, and/or for one high quality large format print at BCU printing services. If required, this will cost around $20.
  • Headphones: These will be used for watching tutorials and editing sound or audio files. Bring them to class regularly in case we have time to work in the lab.

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Out of Class Workload

For each hour of lecture equivalent, students should expect to spend an average of two hours outside of class on work for this class.  Some of this work may require students to spend additional time in our computer lab’s open hours on the evenings or on weekends.

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Class Website and Blackboard

Information for this class will provided on the class website, and in hand-outs in class. Check this website weekly for the most up-to-date information. Blackboard will be used to assign grades, but not to assign or hand in projects. Projects will be handed in via a shared folder on WSU OneDrive. In the event pop quizzes become necessary (if students are coming to class unprepared), these may be administered through Blackboard.

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Late Work

Absolutely no late work will be accepted without explicit prior approval, with no exceptions. If your work is not submitted as instructed by the due date you will receive zero points.

That said, I am very understanding about how life works and tend to be forgiving when contacted ahead of time. If you are unable to complete an assignment in time, contact me in person or via email at least 48 hours before the due date and we can try to work something out. Contacting me after missing an assignment—without a university approved absence—will not alter a failing grade.

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Instructor Absence / Class Cancellations

In the event of instructor absence or class cancellation, you will receive a notification via email and there will be an announcement placed on Blackboard. If your teacher is absent or class is cancelled, please check your email carefully for a message from your instructor regarding what you should complete for the following class. As a rule, expect to complete readings and work that is due for that day, as assigned on the class schedule. An additional blog post or group critique may be assigned to make up participation points for the day. Just because your instructor is absent does not meet class is not meeting.

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Attendance Policy

You are permitted four absences for this class. Save them for when you are sick or have an emergency. Each additional absence beyond the fourth will result in the reduction of your final grade by one full letter. So, if your final grade is a B- and you have five total absences, your new final grade for the course is a C-.

Attendance is mandatory on critique and presentation days. Absence on a critique day will affect your grade for the project that is due that day. If you absolutely must miss class on a critique day, arrange to hand in your project early.

You are responsible for catching up on the information you miss due to absences. There is not usually time to do this during class. Plan to meet with fellow classmates or come to my office hours. If you know you will miss class ahead of time, it is always a good idea to let me know and to ask what you will be missing.

How to Succeed in This Class

  • Be Prepared to Work when you come to class. Save your files so you can open them on the lab computers. Always have your thumb drive with you!
  • Work Outside Class: Expect to spend at least five hours per week outside of class completing projects and readings.
  • Practice Digital Mindfulness: Give your full attention to your instructor and your classmates when they are speaking to the class, even in the computer lab.
  • Be On Time: Exciting and important content is covered in class that isn’t available anywhere else!
  • Read/Watch Carefully: Take notes during class demos and as you complete tutorials. Challenge yourself to learn new things.
  • Save Everything: Save/back-up your files as you work (at least two different places). Again, always have a way to back up your files!
  • Use Office Hours: If you miss a class, need help, or have questions, make an appointment or come to office hours. Use email sparingly. Excused absences and project extensions are granted rarely, but they will never be permitted if you do not provide advance notice.
  • Check your WSU email at least once a day for important notifications. Effective August 24, 2015, all official WSU email communication must be sent to your WSU email address, and I will not respond to emails sent from other addresses.

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Behavior to Avoid

  • No cell phones, unless they are approved for your project in some way.
  • No laptops in the non-lab classroom. Bring paper and pen for notes.
  • Avoid inappropriate computer use. Only use your lab computer for our current class project. No Facebook, work for other classes, etc.
  • No headphones when things are happening in the lab during class. It is important to be aware of what other people in the class are doing and saying. You might learn something.
  • Don’t be late or absent. Exciting and important content is covered in class that isn’t available anywhere else! Absences affect your final grade.

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Other Important Information

WSU Email Policy. Beginning Fall Semester 2015, university policy states that all email communication must be sent to student’s official WSU email address. I will no longer reply to any correspondence from a non-wsu.edu email address.

WSU Reasonable Accommodation Statement:

Reasonable accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities or chronic medical conditions. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Access Center website to follow published procedures to request accommodations: http://www.accesscenter.wsu.edu. Students may also either call or visit the Access Center in person to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. Location: Washington Building 217; Phone: 509-335-3417.

All disability related accommodations must be approved through the Access Center. Students with approved accommodations are strongly encouraged to visit with instructors early in the semester during office hours to discuss logistics.

Service/Emotional Support Animal Guidelines. Please review the campus policy on service/emotional support animals. Pets are not allowed on campus and service animals must be registered with the WSU Access Center. Please contact the Access Center at 509-335-3417 with any questions.

Student Records. Please review information about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) at the following website: http://www.ronet.wsu.edu/Main/Apps/FerpaInfo.ASP. Each department is responsible to maintain the confidentiality of student records in accordance with FERPA. Questions regarding the access to or release of student records may be referred to the Registrar’s Office at 509-335-5346.

Academic Freedom:

WSU supports the faculty’s academic freedom, right to freedom of expression, and responsibility to fulfill course objectives that are approved by the Faculty Senate. This is fundamental to who we are as an institution. Along with these rights comes the responsibility to protect the freedom of expression of all members of our community, including students. The same is stated clearly in our own policies and procedures, including the Faculty Responsibilities section of the WSU Faculty Manual:

As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly standards of their disciplines. They demonstrate respect for the student as an individual and adhere to their proper role as intellectual guides and counselors…They protect students’ academic freedom.

We also want to emphasize the importance of protecting freedom of expression in the classroom. Section IIB of the Faculty Manual (page 14) covers freedom of expression and accompanying responsibilities:

Freedom of expression is recognized as one of the essential elements of academic freedom. On a healthy campus, there is respect for the dignity and worth of all members of the campus community and a concern for the rights of others. …It is the policy of Washington State University to support and promote the rights of all individuals to express their view and opinions for or against actions or ideas in which they have an interest… The above rights exist in equal measure for each member of the University community.

We recognize that faculty have a strong interest in promoting respectful dialogue in the classroom. Speech and conduct that disrupts the educational process and creates a hostile environment, as that term is defined in WSU’s non-discrimination policy (Executive Policy 15), is not protected. If concerns arise, faculty should consult the WSU’s Office for Equal Opportunity at 509-335-8288 or oeo@wsu.edu.

We must aim to protect the freedoms and rights of every member of the WSU community, and to promote learning about diverse perspectives while ensuring that students experience a safe, constructive learning environment.

Academic Integrity Policy:

Washington State University, a community dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, expects all students to behave in a manner consistent with its high standards of scholarship and conduct. Students are expected to uphold these standards both on and off campus and acknowledge the university’s authority to take disciplinary action. The purpose of these standards and processes is to educate students and protect the welfare of the community.

University instructors have the authority to intervene in all situations where students are suspected of academic dishonesty. In such instances, responsible instructors retain the authority to assign grades to students considering, from an academic standpoint, the nature of the student action. More information regarding responding to academic integrity violations can be found at: http://conduct.wsu.edu.

In this course, students who violate WSU’s Academic Integrity Policy will receive a failing grade on the assignment and, depending on the infraction, a failing grade in the course.  Additionally, the student will not have the option to withdraw from the course pending an appeal, and will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.

Cheating includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration as defined in the Standards of Conduct for Students, WAC 504-26-010(3). You need to read and understand all of the definitions of cheating: app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=504-26-010.  If you have any questions about what is and is not allowed in this course, please ask the instructor for clarification before proceeding.

Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (Faculty Manual, p. 31). This policy expresses WSU’s commitment to maintaining an environment free from discrimination, including sexual harassment. This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, or others having an association with the University.

Policy on Faculty-Student Relationships (Faculty Manual, p.35). As a matter of sound judgment, faculty, graduate teaching and research assistants, residence hall officers, and other supervisory employees in the University community accept responsibility to avoid any apparent or actual conflict of interest between their professional responsibilities and their personal relationships with students or those whom they supervise, evaluate, or exercise other relationships of power or authority. To ensure that the advising, mentoring, evaluation and supervision of students or subordinates is conducted fairly, romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and students, and supervisors and subordinates is prohibited as set forth in this policy.

Academic Policy Reminders Pertaining to Courses:

The following are reminders about academic policies intended to create clear communication between faculty and students, and fair and equitable conditions of teaching and learning. The full text of all academic rules is available at:

Absences (Academic Regulation 72)

A. University Sponsored: Any student who is required to participate in off-campus, university-sponsored activities such as field trips, musical performances, judging teams, intercollegiate athletic events, etc., should obtain an official Class Absence Request form from the faculty or staff member supervising the off-campus activity. The form must contain specific information concerning the activity and date, be signed by the supervising faculty or staff member, and be submitted by the student at least one week in advance to the individual instructors of the student’s classes. It is recommended but not required that a student not be penalized for absence from class provided a properly signed Class Absence Request form has been filed with the instructor prior to the absence. These university sponsored absences are subject to an instructor’s attendance policy and are not intended to imply additional acceptable absences. In all instances, it is the student’s responsibility to make up all work missed. Problem cases should follow the Academic Complaint Procedures, Rule 104.

B. Military Service Members: Students who are members of the National Guard or a reserve branch of a military service are occasionally required to miss class for weekend drills, active duty, and related responsibilities. In such a case, instructors should not penalize students for the absences and should allow them to make up the missed work. In each instance, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor of the duty before the absence and complete the missed work as soon as reasonably possible.

C. Other Absences: Students must sometimes miss class meetings, examinations, or other academic obligations affecting their grades due to personal circumstances. It is the responsibility of the student to provide a written explanation for the absence to the instructor as soon as it is reasonable to do so. When possible, students should provide appropriate documentation for their absence but instructors cannot require written excuses from health care professionals.

Students who attempt to gain advantage through abuse of this policy (e.g., by providing an instructor with false information) may be referred to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability for disciplinary action.

Attendance Policy. Regular attendance in this class is paramount to student success.  While attendance is not a factor in a student’s final grade, active class participation is a part of each student’s grade in this course.  Please refer to the breakdown of final grades for more information on how class participation is measured in this course.

Religious Holidays (Academic Regulation 82). Washington State University requires that reasonable accommodations be made in regard to religious holidays.

Correction of Grade Errors (Academic Regulation 98). An instructor may not change a grade after it has been filed with the Registrar, except in the case of clerical error, which the instructor may correct by so certifying to the Registrar. Such change must be approved (signature required) by the chairperson of the department in which the course was offered. Grade corrections must be processed within one year of the end of the term for which the original grade was given. In extenuating circumstances, or when prompted by an academic integrity violation, exceptions to the one-year limit for correction of grade errors may be considered by petition to the Registrar’s Office.

Final Examinations. The final examination schedule provides for the orderly administration of two or three-hour final examinations outside the regular class period.

Closed Week (Academic Regulation 78). No examinations or quizzes (other than laboratory examinations, make-up examinations and make-up quizzes) may be given during the last week of instruction.

Three or more in one day (Academic Regulation 77). During final examination week, if the scheduled arrangement results in students having three or more examinations scheduled for any one day, any one of their instructors is authorized to excuse the students from the regularly scheduled examination and give a final examination to the students during the special exams time blocks. In cases of difficulty in arriving at a solution, students shall refer the matter to the chairpersons of their departments or to their academic advisors.

No Early Examinations (Academic Regulation 79):

A student will not be granted special examinations for the purpose of leaving the institution before the close of the semester. Any departure from rule 78 or 79 should have the prior written approval of the area dean and should be reported in writing to the Office of Provost before closed week. Departures from rule 78 or 79 that are not so approved are serious violations of the academic regulations.

No regulation requires a final examination and no policy prevents the introduction of new material during closed week.

Retention of Final Examinations, Final Projects, and Final Papers (Academic Regulation 93). Final examinations, final projects, and final papers are university records which must be maintained for one year after the end of the term, unless they are returned directly to the student. Department chairs or directors are responsible for identifying appropriate storage location, which may include the instructor’s campus office. Both the chair or the director or their designees and the instructor shall have ready access to these final examinations, final projects, and final papers.

Academic Complaint Procedures (Academic Rule 104):

Instructional faculty, chairs, deans and students should be thoroughly familiar with academic complaint procedures.

A student having complaints about instruction or grading should attempt to resolve those issues directly with the instructor. If that fails, the student should send an email to the instructor using his or her official WSU email account no later than 20 business days following the end of the semester. This email should briefly outline the complaint and be copied to the chairperson of the academic department.

If the complaint is not resolved with the instructor within 20 business days of sending the email, then the student may work directly with the chairperson of the academic department in which the course is offered. The chair’s decision shall be rendered within 20 additional business days.

After the chair’s decision, the student or the instructor may appeal to the academic college Dean’s Office. Complaints must be presented in writing to the college dean within 20 business days of the chair’s decision. The written statement should describe the complaint, indicate how it affects the individual or unit, and include the remedy sought from the college dean. The decision of the college dean is the final step and shall be made within 20 business days. At the campuses other than Pullman, the procedure is identical except that the program leader shall substitute for the department chair, and the campus chancellor or his or her designee shall substitute for the college dean, if the department chair and/or the college dean is not located on that campus.

The University Ombudsman is available at any stage for advice or assistance in resolving academic complaints.

Note: Though chairs and deans (and academic area coordinators and campus chancellors) may resolve complaints about instruction and grading, they may not change a final grade without the consent of the instructor, except as provided by Rule 105.

AWARE Network. The AWARE network is a resource for faculty, TAs, and others who are concerned about a student’s well-being, behavior, or health. If you are worried about a student’s academic performance, or behavior in or out of class, you may send an AWARE Network report at http://aware.wsu.edu/. You may also contact the Dean of Students directly at 509-335-5757.

Disruptive Student Behavior. Occasionally faculty or teaching assistants will experience disruptive or threatening student behavior. The Dean of Students has compiled a handbook to assist with responding to students who behave in unusual or unpredictable ways and to help with protocol and referral procedures. With adequate preparation beforehand, the chances of disruption may be lessened. Everyone who teaches should be familiar with this document:

Safety and Emergency Notification. Washington State University is committed to enhancing the safety of the students, faculty, staff, and visitors. It is highly recommended that you review the Campus Safety Plan (safetyplan.wsu.edu) and visit the Office of Emergency Management web site (oem.wsu.edu) for a comprehensive listing of university policies, procedures, statistics, and information related to campus safety, emergency management, and the health and welfare of the campus community.