Principles of Composition & Design

Course Description

This is a foundation course wherein students investigate the fundamental creative design principles and theories that underlie creative industry work, focusing on various forms of print. This course is project-based with assignments introducing branding, Web layouts, packaging templates, integration of programs and hand-done elements. Students are introduced to image editing software as it pertains to editing, with illustration software being the main focus. This course provides a foundation to any higher-level course in the degree program.

Current Semester Projects

Below are the projects you will be working on this semester. Each project will have an accompanying handout with specific outcome goals and a detailed schedule. As we finalize the project and you submit the design files, each project will be displayed so everyone will have the opportunity to look at what each student had developed. Previous student projects will also be available after the third class. This will allow enough time to help progress your own solutions without having other similar projects influence those decisions.

Project One : Glyph Manipulation

This project will familiarize yourself in how type can be used. Type is an important element in every design, often the most important. The size, weight and style you choose can make your design work or fail. But type can be used in other ways besides being seen as a block of text. Letters and lines of text can be used as design elements that are taken out of a readable format. Still legible and read as type but no longer in a sentence form or paragraph reading.

Project Two : Poster Design

How can you arrange information into a balanced and intriguing design fitting together the words and structure like a puzzle. This is a two step problem. One, is it interesting enough to make someone stop and look at it? And two, can it be read easily enough once you have that person’s attention? How do they take in the information and process it and what keeps their attention?

Poster project by Chengjie : Autumn 2010

Project Three : Cube Type Specimen

This project is to create a type specimen block paying homage to one particular typographer by you and developing a 5 x 5 x 5 cube. One typographer, one of his/her typeface while utilizing styles. Each panel will be developed using the typeface you choose. You must look at the typeface, find a unique glyph that makes this particular face unique and emphasize that character.

Poster project by Kyrie : Autumn 2012


You will be required to have a sketch book [no less than 9 x 12] designated solely for this class. Whether you prefer to sketch out your ideas or jot down notes for each project, that is entirely up to you. In this class, simply getting to the end result is not good enough. The process of conceptualizing is as important as the final piece. The first ideas are seldom the best in design and it’s best to have a track record you may view during this process. You will hand in your sketch book at the end of the semester and will account for 10% of your grade.

Course Objectives

Upon satisfactory completion of this course, a student should have the ability to:

  • Identify and apply fundamental compositional principles
  • Demonstrate sound research techniques
  • Apply creative visualization techniques to design problem solving
  • Produce multiple design pieces to add to their sophomore portfolio
  • Be proficient in Adobe Illustrator and further their knowledge of Adobe Photoshop
  • Refine traditional media into a digital format using the appropriate software

Required Text(s) & Materials

Graphic Design Basics, 6th Edition Amy E. Arntson
ISBN-10: 0495912077
ISBN-13: 9780495912071

evaluative criteria

  • the design itself and aesthetic appeal of the project
  • the uniqueness of the solution for the project
  • craftsmanship and finished presentation of the project
  • research of the project
  • class participation

campus-specific student policies

All students are required to read, understand, and abide by the provisions of the Catalog and Student Handbook applicable to their campus, which can be found at

In particular, students should be aware of the following university policies:
General Information and Policies
Prohibited Discrimination and Harassment
University Holds
Food & Beverages
Dress and Manners/Communication Devices

system of record for academic grades

Official academic grades can be accessed via jwuLink. Grades maintained in the ULearn course management system are for tracking purposes only and may not reflect all of the criteria considered when calculating a student’s final grade.

content outline

  • Visual research habits for digital media
  • Further develop your knowledge of Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop
  • Investigating contemporary approaches to digital & print design
  • Introduction to branding, templates & layout for digital and print
  • Ethics, intellectual property and fair use in the digital age
  • Converting original ideas, including hand sketches and concepts into digital format
  • Understanding how to design for target audiences & develop brand strategies

attendance policy

Design department attendance policy

  • Students are expected to attend class as important course related material is covered in each meeting.
  • Attendance will be taken.
  • Students are responsible for delivery of work on posted deadlines; late work will not be accepted.
  • After 3 absences, the student’s grade will drop one letter grade. Subsequent absences will result in further letter grade penalties.
  • Leaving early or arriving late to class will result in an ABSENCE.
  • Treat projects seriously as they have great weight in determining the final grade.
  • Projects handed in by the due date that meet the requirements for that assignment will receive full marks. (See evaluation sheet and attendance policy)
  • If late for a critique, you will be deducted -5 points for presentation grade and -5 for the deadline portion of grade. This is -10 points off the grade. Student’s who are late for a crit, according to the Departmental attendance policy will be marked absent in addition to the above crit penalty. Based on Professor discretion, student may not be able to present, which will result in a zero for presentation grade in addition to above penalties.
  • Late submissions are NOT accepted and will result in a zero. (see Attendance policy)
  • The majority of the grade for this course is based on project work. Students are required to hand in all project work in person and on time AND attend all project critiques. Missing a critique and/or failing to hand in a project file before the start of class on the due date will result in a ZERO.
  • Students are responsible for work that was assigned or due even if absent.
  • Leniency for absences may be considered if the student provides the professor with a written description of an illness or family emergency that is approved through Student Academic Services. False writing will be treated as fraud, resulting in disciplinary action.

The following procedure must be followed for lateness and/or attendance:

  • An e-mail to the professor must be made prior to class.
  • Students who are absent from class on a due date for an assignment/homework AND HAVE FOLLOWED THE ABOVE PROCEDURE FOR ABSENCES may email their material for credit by 5:00p.m. on the due date unless it is a project due date. This is a ‘limited occurrence’ policy to accommodate emergency/unplanned events, and may be revoked at the instructor’s discretion.

Campus specific information for explanations and copies are available in the following documents using the key search words attendance and tardiness (catalog) attendance (student handbook): Providence Campus: Catalogs and Student Handbook

academic integrity

Each DME student should have attended the Copyright Workshop in DME1020. As far as the specific academic integrity issues that relate to the Department of Design, our policy is clear. We support original art and illustration ONLY for use in your project work within the department. The terms are not different than in any other academic work. You are required to prove use of visual content. Live tracing an illustration and using it in your designs is not is support of our policy. If you doubt if something can be used in your design, it probably needs a credit or you need to create an original of the work yourself. In addition, to support your design work for assessment, each individual student is required to submit tangible evidence of research, inspiration, sketches, mood/inspiration board, phases of design, concept strategy, and final product including native files for review. In addition, attendance in class and the professor’s one on one meetings with students witnessing these phases of design is essential to the validity of the student’s work. Hence, the Graphic Design & Digital Media attendance policy. This set of tangible evidence of the phases of design AND class attendance validates individual student work. We reserve the right, as faculty, to refuse a student project if the work was not worked on in process during the course time. If you have any questions please ask your professor. *Note: With permission of instructor: If borrowing someone’s art, you MUST give credit, just as you do in a written research paper. If you using stock photography, it must be purchased and again, proper credit given.

Campus specific information for explanations and copies are available in the following documents using the key search words Academic Misconduct (Student Handbook): Providence Campus: Catalogs and Student Handbook

Student Affairs:
Student Code of Conduct

Student Services:
Center for Academic Support/Services/Students With Disabilities