Visual Rhetorics | Fall 2016 | Aimée Knight, PhD


Class Time: 3:30 PM-4:45 PM T, TH in Merion 174

Office hours: 9:15 AM-10:45  T, TH in the Bronstein Annex, second floor


We will take a design thinking approach to visual form making. We will wear many hats as we try on various creative roles pertaining to artistic production. In other words, we will make things. A lot of thingsThroughout the course, we will examine the elements of a visual language whose forms are employed by individuals, institutions, and locales that are increasingly connected in a global society.

Goals and Objectives

Effective Communication: This course enables students to gain experience in visual communication, including the development of skills in color theory, form making, photography, video and design.

Human Centered Design: Students will give extensive attention to each stage of the design process as they create their projects. Students will learn how to successfully ideate, create content and execute creative design solutions.

Course readings

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. In a pinch, you can use the open source method editor for some of the more simple design activities.
  • Notebook and colored pencils. Bring this sketchbook with you every day to document your ideas and your creative process.
  • Headphones Bring headphones or earbuds to class, as we will often be watching videos and self-directed tutorials.

Required Reading Schedule

Blog List

Course Assignments and Evaluation 

20% Quizzes

20% Design Activities

20% Participation

20% Midterm: Design problem and analysis

20% Final: Design Thinking video essay

 Course Schedule

Week 1 – Introduction

  • August 30 – Course overview.
  • September 1 Required reading: Introduction – Formstorming pages 6 – 31; Discuss blog/portfolio requirements, set up blog/portfolio

Week 2 – Point, Line Plane

  • September 6 Reading: Point, Line Plane pages 33-47 Reading Presentation; Quiz #1; Discussion; Discuss photography for blogs
  • September 8 Design Activity

Week 3 Rhythm and Balance

  • September 13  Rhythm and Balance pages 49-59; Reading Presentation; Quiz #2; Discussion
  • September 15 Design Activity #2

Week 4 Texture

  • September 20 Texture pages 69 – 79; Reading Presentation; Quiz #3; Discussion
  • September 22 Design Activity #3

Week 5 Color

  • September 27 Color pages 80-97; Reading Presentation; Quiz #4; Discussion
  • September 29 Design Activity #4

Week 6 Gestalt Principles

  • October 4 Gestalt Principles pages 99-115; Reading Presentation; Discussion; Midterm discussion
  • October 6 Midterm: Design Activity + Essay

Week 7 Midway Point

  • October 11 Happy Fall Break
  • October 13 Midterm discussion; Blog discussion

 Week 8 Framing

  • October 18 No class today (exchanged for attending Oct. 4th evening speaker series) 
  • October 20 Framing pages 116-127; Reading Presentation; Quiz #5; Discussion; Design Activity #5

Week 9 Hierarchy

  • October 25 Reading on Hierarchy pages 129-139; Reading Presentation; Quiz #6; Discussion
  • October 27 Design Activity #6

Week 10 Transparency

  • November 1 Transparency pages 155-165; Reading Presentation; Quiz #7; Discussion
  • November 3  Design Activity #7; Portrait studio/With black screen or white screen, DSLRs

Week 11 Modularity

  • November 8 Modularity pages 167-185; Reading Presentation; Quiz #8; Discussion
  • November 10 Design Activity #8

Week 12 Grid

  • November 15 Grid pages 187-199; Reading Presentation; Quiz #9; Discussion
  • November 17 Design Activity #9

Week 13 Pattern

  • November 22 Pattern Pages 201-213; Reading Presentation; Quiz #10; Discussion
  • November 24 Happy Thanksgiving

Week 14 Pattern

  • November 29 Design Activity #10 Block Printing
  • December 1 Review for Final Exam; Evaluations Site ID: SJU

Week 15 Final Reflections


Come to class on time, fully prepared to engage in the exchange of ideas. It is your responsibility to bring the necessary materials to class each week. A USB drive is required (to save your work and transport it as needed). You will also need to access (and use) Blackboard and email. Save and backup all work at all times.


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. It is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet during each class. Please do not contact me later to say you forgot to sign in. Significant absences will hurt your grade because you will not be in class to participate and collaborate.  You are allowed two “free” absences. Thereafter, you will lose this 10% of your final grade. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will not pass the course. Chronic lateness or leaving early is considered unprofessional and will also affect your grade; three late appearances = 1 absence. Please show respect by being on time.

Late work

Late work is deducted one letter grade for each late day. *Blog posts are not accepted after the Sunday night deadline.

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 feedback you formally receive). You don’t need to have a problem to come visit, but if you do find yourself having some difficulty, 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. In addition to my office hours, feel free to visit the Digital Media Zone in the library for technical assistance. 

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. Available gear is listed here.

  • Where is the gear?

The department equipment room is located on the second floor of Bronstein Hall. It is opened during limited hours during the semester, so be sure to plan ahead. During Fall 2016, the room is open from Monday- Thursday 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. A list of equipment will be available on the website.

  • Check-out

Equipment is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Equipment can be checked out for blocks of time. If you check something out on Mon.-Wednesday, it’s due on Thursday. If you check something out on Thursday, it’s due Monday. Check-outs are renewable if no one is waiting for it.

  • Loss and damage

You are responsible for the item that you check out. If you lose it or damage it, you are responsible for repairs or replacement.

  • Overdue gear

Overdue equipment will result in the suspension of borrowing privileges and could result in a hold placed on the borrower’s university account.

  • Charging

Please recharge the batteries before returning the item and make sure you remove your SD card (SD cards are not provided by the department).

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The fabrication or falsification of data, results, or sources for papers or reports
  3. Any action which destroys or alters the work of another student;
  4. The multiple submission of the same paper or report for assignments in more than one course without the prior written permission of each instructor;
  5. 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.
  6. Unauthorized Collaboration.

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 (voice), or 610.660.1620 (TTY), for assistance with this issue.  The university also provides an appeal/grievance procedure regarding requested or offered reasonable accommodations through Dr. Mecke’s office.

FERPA: Once eligibility is determined, the student must sign a release of Information form (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – FERPA) in order for the University to release the Accommodation Plan to the student’s professors. This form must be signed annually in order for accommodations to continue.  If the FERPA form expires, the student will need to sign a new form before the Accommodation Plan is sent out to the student’s professors.  Therefore, it is recommended that the student contact the Office of Student Disability Services as early in the semester as possible in order to ensure continuity of their accommodations.

Reasonable Academic Accommodations:  If it is determined that the student does qualify for accommodations, a plan will be developed that addresses the student’s individual needs.  This Accommodation Plan, which specifies what academic adjustments have been granted to the student by the University, will be sent to the student’s professors.

In the event that a student does not qualify for services under Section 504 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, other support services open to all University students will be discussed with the student.

Grievance Procedures for Students with Disabilities

Appeal Process: The Office of Student Disability Services will seek to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. However, there may be times when a disagreement as to what is considered a reasonable accommodation will occur between the student and the University.  The student has a right to file a grievance for complaints regarding a requested or offered reasonable accommodation on the basis of a disability under Section 504 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and University policies.

If you have any questions regarding the appeals process, please contact Dr. Christine Mecke, Director of Student Disability Services – Bellarmine – Room G10 –