College of Art University of Houston
course description

Fundamentals of Graphic Communication [download pdf]

ART 1330 SECTION 04059
Instructor: Kathy Kelley
Time: MW 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Location: 304 Fine Arts Building
Hours: By appointment


• To practice effective form analysis, methods of composition and visual organization.
• To begin to understand problem solving and methods of problem solving.
• To further develop methods of problem solving.
• To become proficient with the basic design tools, mediums and craft.
• To research and explore.


Aesthetic: Composition, form-making
and visual organization, color and media.
Conceptual: Meaning in words and images, how the piece communicates.
Structure: The underlying structure (visible
or invisible) that holds the piece together.
Technique: Learning the basic tools,
materials, and methods of image making.

Verbal Critiques/Critical Evaluation
Becoming familiar with the vocabulary of design, and developing a “critical eye” that enables you to evaluate the work of your peers, as well as that of professional designers.

Visual Language (communication) is the basis for design creation. The graphic designer uses type and symbols (imagery) to communicate ideas. Visual organization is initially defined by rules, principles and concepts. A designer must become aware of these in order to interpret the best way to organize visual information. This course is an introduction to visual analysis, where we will study the basis of form-making, composition and problem solving. As a problem solver, the graphic designer must find appropriate solutions for a given problem. There are any number of solutions which the designer, as a creative person, must strive to attain through unlimited research and effort. Finally with the given problem in hand the designer makes a decision, based on the previous experimentation, as to which solution is the most appropriate.

Design should be about exploration and experimentation. As a designer you should always strive to think and create in ways that you have not done before. Ideas, forms and solutions should be achieved through challenging yourself to approach a creative process with an open mind. In doing so you learn more about yourself, the process and the world around you. Design is everywhere. Become more aware of what is around you, and begin to look at it critically, asking yourself questions—do I like it/hate it? Why? What does it communicate? Is the problem solved in a new and creative way? How might I do it differently? etc.

This class is for exploration and experimentation of problems in search of appropriate solutions. Along with experimentation comes failure, but with failure comes new discoveries.
• Analyze the problem
• Make a list of solutions and produce sketches of all the possible ways in which the problem could be solved, challenging yourself to go beyond what is familiar, obvious or at times comfortable.
• Sketch at least 20 possible solutions.
• Continue to modify and improve at least five possible solutions.
• Work and rework chosen solution considering initials goals.
• Finalize the solution technically for presentation.


It is never too early to start reading about and looking at graphic design. To begin to understand the historical and contemporary movements in design can further your awareness of formal and stylistic methodologies.

ID, Eye, Print, Graphis, How, Communication Arts, Emigre, Design Issues, Cite, Metropolis, any Art and Architecture, and cultural magazines.

Sharon Poggenpohl, AIGA Press, Graphic Design: A Career Guide and Education Directory
Philip Meggs, The History of Graphic Design
Armin Hoffmin, Graphic Design Manual
Johannes Itten, The Elements of Color
Ryan McGinness, Flatnessisgood
Holtzschue + Noriega, Design Fundamentals for the Digital Age
John Bowers, Intro. to Two-Dimensional Design
Willi Kunz, Typography: Macro-MicroAesthetics

Design Organizations
AIGA, American Institute of Graphic Arts,
AIGA University of Houston Student Chapter
    faculty sponsor: Sibylle Hagmann,
    student representative: Caleb Joyce,
ADCH, Art Directors Club of Houston


Policies for classes in the University of Houston Graphic Communications Program apply to this class. Specifically, more than 3 absences, unless excused*, by a student during the semester will result in a reduction of their final course grade by one letter. More than 6 absences, will result in course failure. Each late arrival to class after 3 lates will be marked as an absence. If a student arrives late, they are responsible for notifying me of this at the end of class, otherwise they will be marked absent.

Students are expected to attend class, show process through sketches, participate in critiques and meet deadlines for assignments. Students are also responsible for finding out about, and making up any assignments missed due to absence or tardiness. All assignments should be completed for the date due. Late assignments will automatically be dropped one full letter grade. Failure to turn in even one assignment can be destructive when that zero is averaged in with your other grades. Failure to summit a portfolio at the end of the semester will result in a grade of F.

If, during the semester, a student misses class time due to a family emergency or severe illness (death, unforeseen hospitalizations or other traumatic life events), he or she must contact me as soon as possible to receive an *excused absence and to make arrangements for missed deadlines or late work. Please note, common illnesses such as the flu, colds, and stomach viruses do not warrant an excused absence.

Students who know they will miss class time due to religious holidays not recognized by the University should inform me one week in advance of the holiday to receive an *excused absence and to make arrangements for missed or late work.

Special Needs

In accordance with the guidelines of the American with Disabilities Act, I will make every effort to reasonably accommodate students who request and require assistance. Please notify me of how I may be of assistance privately after the first class or by email the first week of school.


Each project will be graded accordingly and averaged into one final grade per assignment

• Sketches: experimentation, progress and effort
• Composition/Creativity: how creatively is the project solved,
multiple ideas and solutions
• Craft/Technical skill: clean presentation boards,
well-drawn shapes and lines
• Class Participation: contribution to class discussions and critiques

Final grade is the average of all assignments and:
• Attendance
• Timely completion of design projects
• Problem solving
• Overall process:
how you approach projects
• Presentation of final portfolio and sketchbooks

Students are expected to complete all assignments and complete all sketches for assigned critiques on time. All assignments should be completed and turned in by the project due date.
There are no late projects. Failure to complete even one assignment can be destructive when that zero is averaged in with your other grades. Failure to summit a portfolio at the end of the semester will result in a grade of F.

Verbal Critiques/Critical Evaluation

Critiques will help you become familiar with the vocabulary of design, and develop a “critical eye” that will enable you to evaluate the work of your peers, as well as that of professional designers. Remember, participation in critiques is part of your grade.


19 x 24" Tracing paper
18–24" Metal ruler with non-slip back
90 degree triangle (metal or plastic)
X-acto knife/no. 11 blades
Utility knife (with a retractable blade)
Staedtler white Mars eraser for paper
Pencils + portable sharpener
Black markers: fine, med, and large
Technical Pens: 0, and 1 nibs OR
Very fine black markers
Black Gouache
Paint Brushes fine and med.
Plastic inking template with circles
Spray mount or rubber cement
Rubber cement pick-up
White artist tape
White Bristol board, smooth finish (drawing)
Black Letramax 2000 board (mounting)
8½" x 11" Envelopes
Large portfolio case (paper is OK)
Tool box for supplies
Gouache color set (Project 6) OR
Acrylic paint (Project 6)
Rubber cutting board or matt
Proportional Wheel


Art Supply
Michael’s Arts and Crafts
Office Max/Depot
Texas Art Supply
Utrecht Art Supplies

Copy Centers


Bookbinding Supplies

Bookbinding Thread, Awl, Bookbinding Needle,
Card Stock, Binder Clips

course projects portfolio requirements  
© Kathryn S Kelley, 2005.