The highly mediated society we live in is often referred to as culture of images, due to their ubiquitous presence in contemporary culture. In order to develop a critical understanding of the mechanisms of visual communication and processes of design for our creative needs, artists and designers need to be able to read the images and understand how they interrelate with each other to generate meaning.

The act of looking is a highly dynamic process, we never gaze at simply one thing: we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves.
In this class we will learn how "what we know" and "what we believe in" affect the way we see. We will also learn how the interplay of visual and spoken language creates mutable forms of communication that not only actively mold the society in which we live but also contribute to our perception of reality.

We will explore the history of communication design, learn about theory and psychology of perception and introduce and apply ideas from theories of visual culture, particularly visual semiotics. Many examples will be shown and discussed, ranging from the work produced by today’s most innovative designers, to advertising, film, multimedia, and the web.
  UCLA Department of Design | Media Arts
Silvia Rigon E-mail:
DESMA 103 / Introduction to Visual Communication /
Summer 2003
Class meeting:
Mond. and Wed. from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm at Heine, room 220.
There is a midterm assignment and a final assignment. The midterm and the final assignment will be explained in class. The final assignment will be presented to the class during the last class (Wednesday, July the 30th).
The grading is based on the midterm assignment (30%) and the final assignment (60%). (10%) Active participation in the class meetings will be considered. More than one absence (without the teacher's permission) will automatically lower the overall grade by one step. There will be a roll call in the beginning of each meeting

A reader will be available for purchase upon at the second week's meeting (Wednesday, June the 25th ).
A copy of the reader will be on reserve at The Arts Library. Reference to the class web site is also recommended for additional material and links relate to the issues discussed in class.


Recommended Texts:
The following books are suggested as additional reading. Copies will be on reserve at the Arts Library.

—Berger, John: Ways of Seeing. London: BBC and Penguin Books, 1972.

—Chandler, Daniel: Semiotics: the Basic. New York: Routledge, 2001.

—Lupton, Ellen and Miller, J. Abbott: Design Writing Research. Writing on Graphic Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

—Sturken, Marita and Cartwright, Lisa: Practices of Looking. An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.


Week One
Monday, June 23, 2003
Outline of the course.
What is it Visual Communication?
Nature of the Image.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Historic overview of graphic design and typography.
Introduction to the notions of modernism and postmodernism.

Week Two
Monday, June 30, 2003
Teaching at Bauhaus: Ideas and Methods.
Design Vocabulary: terminology and elements.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Theory and psychology of Perception.

Week Three
Monday, July 07, 2003

Field trip

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Introduction to Semiotic:
Model of the sign: Saussure, Pierce, Jacobson

Week Four
Monday, July 14, 2003
Sign and Things. Levels of abstraction.
Modern Hieroglyphs and Icons.
Bilboards. Maps. Information design.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Analyzing structure: sintagma and paradigma.
Deconstruction as design method.

Week Five
Monday, July 21, 2003
Challenging the Literal: Rhetorical tropes, Denotation/Connotation.
Relationship between text and image

Monday, July 21, 2003
Codes, processes of codification.
Transparency of the code in cultural contexts.

Week Six
Monday, July 28, 2003
Individual meeting

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Final presentation.

Case studies: Velasquez, Marinetti ad the Futurism, El Lissisky, The Bauhaus, Lester Beall, Paul Rand, Alvin Lustin, Frida Kalho, Magritte, Ed Fella, Emigre, Tybor Kalman, David Carson, John Maeda... Diesel Advertising, Colos Magazine, The Matrix and much more...