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

 Merion 174 | M, W, F 10:10 – 11: 00 | Office hours: 1:10 – 2: 30 M, W | Bronstein Annex 203 |aknight@sju.edu

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.

Course Assignments

Course Goals and Objectives

Effective Communication: This course enables students to gain experience in sensory 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.

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 Readings

  • Graphic Design: The New Basics, 2nd Edition. Ellen Lupton and Jennifer C. Phillips. 2015.
  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards, PDF
  • Color, Betty Edwards, PDF
  • Seeing (from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), Annie Dillard PDF 
  • The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle,Steven Pressfield PDF
  • Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and ColorArthur Wesley Dow PDF
  • 50 Design Terms

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 this open source method editor or this one for some of the more simple design activities.
  • Notebook and colored pencils or pens. 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.

Blog List

Course Assignments and Evaluation

20%      10 2-page Integration Papers due in class

10%      10 Design Activities for Portfolio + reflections

20%      Discussion/Engaged speaking and listening

10%    5 Writing Workshop projects

10%      Midterm

10%      Final Presentation

20%      Final Video Essay


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. All readings for the week should be completed on Monday. You will also need to access (and use) Canvas 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. Significant absences will hurt your grade because you will not be in class to participate and collaborate. I take attendance. You are allowed three absences at your discretion. Save these absences for when you really need them, such as illness. If you are absent more than three times without a doctor’s note you will 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 automatically affect your daily participation grade by 20%.


If you are ill, stay home. If you become ill (fever, chills, cough, sore throat) while on campus, go straight home or to the doctor. Exposing others to a virus can potentially result in serious complications in high-risk individuals. While on campus, use hand sanitizer. Notify me if you have any concerns or you are sick or have a sick family member you must care for. I am committed to finding mutually acceptable ways for you to complete your coursework.

Late work

Late work is deducted 20% for each late day. If a project is posted after a deadline, it will be deducted 20%. For example, if the project is due at 10:00 AM and you post it at 10:01 AM, it will indeed be marked late. Please plan accordingly.

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 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 a variety of gear (cameras, DSLR’s, tripods, audio recorders) that 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.

Gender pronouns

This course affirms people of all gender expressions and gender identities. Please let me know the appropriate gender pronoun to use for you. Also, if you would like to be called a name other than what is on the class roster, please let me know. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.


*Fair warning: I always grade on a straight scale, with no rounding. 

A  4.0 Distinguished; exceptional performance in all aspects of the course

A- 3.7 Exceptional performance, but somewhat less than that rated as A

B+ 3.3 Very good; meritorious work; exceptional performance in several aspects of the course; notably above average expected of students

B 3.0 Good; sound performance in all aspects of a course; completely fulfilling and satisfying the requirements of the course

B- 2.7 Good; sound performance in all aspects of a course; completely fulfilling and satisfying the requirements of the course, but somewhat less than that rated as B

C 2.0 Passing; marginal work, acceptable, sound performance in some aspects of the course, but below the level of expected competence in other areas

F 0.0 Failure; not evidencing significant grasp of subject matter or techniques; failure remains on record even if the course is repeated and the original grade still affects the cumulative average.

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). Read more here. 

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 cmecke@sju.edu; 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. cmecke@sju.edu