Indesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop: Curriculum and Approach

January 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

Challenges // Curriculum: humble beginnings / Part Two

Rethinking curriculum for a program structured around applications.

My last post introduced the current GD curriculum at Curry. The Graphic Design Major at Curry currently has some applications-based courses, allowing courses to be cross-registered amongst several other majors—for specifically, Applied Computing (AC), and Communications (COM).

In a liberal arts college it makes perfect sense to have this cross-pollination of courses across curriculum. However, specific to a GD major, it’s a less than ideal fit for developing good design pedagogy.

Beyond teaching courses listed as applications, the second challenge is teaching to a room of students with mixed goals for the course. For instance, most AC and COM students enroll in these courses to master the programs, and fulfill a requirement. While the GD students seem hungry for the concepts and theory beyond the technical. (That’s not imply the AC and COM students don’t appreciate deeper concepts and theory attached to design thinking, it’s simply not expected in a course titled “Photoshop.”)

The issue here is setting the expectations of the course for all majors—and trying to inspire and engage the students beyond the technical know-how.

Again, the department agreed to informally subtitle the courses…

Illustrator: Icons, Symbols + Information Design
InDesign:
Principles for Organizing Typography
Photoshop:
Meaning, Sequence, and Sense

…which serve as a temporary solution until courses can be re-named and re-shaped.

However, in subtitling the courses, still lies the task of the wider appeal to the college. Having courses cross-registered ensures that courses run, which is a win-win for everyone. (faculty and students). These courses fulfill requirements in other departments… so changes our department makes will affect them too…

What happens here will reveal itself at a later date.

– – – – – – – – – –

Inspiring and engaging a varied body of students beyond the technical know-how.

As mentioned before, subtitling the courses allowed the course to be project-based, versus simply focused on teaching the tools. Additionally, each course has two sets of goals and objectives; one for “Design” and another for  “Technology.” Here’s a breakdown for each course:

Illustrator: Icons, Symbols + Information Design
Intermediate course involving the development and understanding for the visualization of icons, symbols, and information design—in context to the technological aspects of using Adobe Illustrator. It challenges students’ abilities to develop a sensitivity to relationships of form and content for complex systems of information. Through assignment, lecture, and discourse, this course addresses the issues of research and content analysis, selecting and editing, organization, and thus the visual representation content for vector-based media. Illustrator software will be emphasized in this course.

1. DESIGN OBJECTIVES
Focus on the conceptual and formal (visual) aesthetic presentation of work.

  • sketching and drawing for icon development
semiotics, understanding of symbols and their meaning
  • student-driven authorship of content
  • mapping and diagramming
  • management of complexity

2. TECHNOLOGY OBJECTIVES
Focus on the “how to” for working with Illustrator, and utilization of best practices for industry standards.

  • understanding vectors versus bitmaps
  • tool palette
  • brushes and shapes
  • working with paths / pen tool basics
  • working with layers
  • color and patterns
  • importing graphics
  • masking
  • outline mode
  • blend tool
  • saving conventions: ai, eps

InDesign: Principles for Organizing Typography
Intermediate course involving typographic form and communication, in context to the
technological aspects of using Adobe InDesign. This course emphasizes the use of typography as information, applying the principals of hierarchy, organization, contrast and how to use grids effectively. Students work extensively and methodically on the production of various typographic projects in order to refine typographic techniques and build an understanding of legibility and readability.

1. DESIGN OBJECTIVES
The purpose of this course is to learn how to work with large amounts of text, respecting both the content and the structure of the page, while refining the art of “setting” type.

  • classifications and history
  • grid systems / typographic systems
  • typographic hierarchy
  • relationship of type and image
  • type as meaning and as image
  • creation and use of experimental type
  • implement finer points of typography
  • refine color skills

2. TECHNOLOGY OBJECTIVES
The purpose of this course is to learn how to work with InDesign and utilize best practices for industry standards.

  • tool palette
  • pages, master pages, pagination (folios)
  • layout and margins
  • setting type, importing type
  • importing graphics
  • setting up paragraph and character styles
  • working with multiple page documents, content flow
  • use of invisibles to check work
  • working with tabular data

Photoshop: Meaning, Sequence, and Sense
Intermediate course aimed towards the understanding for the use of images and how they create meaning. It challenges students’ abilities to develop a sensitivity to relationships of form and content for image making and interface design. Through assignment, lecture, and discourse, this course addresses the issues of research and content analysis, selecting and editing, organization, and thus the visual representation of text and image for static and dynamic media. Photoshop software will be emphasized in this course.

1. DESIGN OBJECTIVES
Focus on the conceptual and formal (visual) aesthetic presentation of work.

  • connotation / denotation
  • literal / metaphor
  • montage theory and narrative
  • color theory
  • student-driven authorship of content
  • interface design: usability, conventions, and best practices
  • interface storyboarding
  • interactive prototyping

2. TECHNOLOGY OBJECTIVES
Focus on the “how to” for working with Photoshop, and utilization of best practices for industry standards.

  • understanding bitmaps versus vectors
  • tool palette
  • brushes and shapes
  • creating outlines / paths / pen tool basics
  • working with layers
  • color part 1: cmyk, rgb, hex
  • color part 2: histograms, levels, curves, brightness/contrast
  • filters: appropriate uses
  • feathering
  • importing graphics
  • masking
  • file saving conventions
  • automation and batching

Hindsight is always 20/20. About halfway into the semester I realized the Photoshop design goals were too ambitious—particularly the last three bullets. The GD curriculum currently has little to offer in terms of interface design and interactive. The students’ only option currently is to take a basic HTML/CSS courses through Applied Computing. Several (if not most) GD majors do not opt to enroll in this elective, the resultant a lack of knowledge of web usability, testing, or conventions…

In response, the department decided to propose a new course: “Intro to Dynamic Media” which covers motion literacy and interactivity. Short-term,  it’s a “catch all” to infuse the GD major with more web development and interactive. (this is a very over-simplified description).

Long-term, keeping the the title broad will allow the curriculum for this course to shift and flex as we overhaul the GD major. Additionally, the titling alone begins to set expectations for the shift in pedagogy, and expectations of the students.

Nine students are currently registered, so the course is running this semester… More on that to come in a later post…

Next post: student examples and outcomes from teaching InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop

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Entry filed under: BA Design Program Progress, Design education.

The New Graphic Design Major @ Curry College For every season kern, kern, kern…

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