Syllabus: 481 Art Seminar

22-481 Fall 2017

M/W 10:20–12:30

AC S201 & S216

Instructor: Karina Cutler-Lake / 

Office: AC 517 / Office Hour: Thursdays 12:30–1:30 p.m. & by appointment

Welcome back!

I look forward to working with you this semester. Typography is the main focus of this course. Please read this document carefully, especially so you may understand what I am looking for, and how this course operates. If you need clarification on anything, please ask.


Projects, all weighted equally:

Here are the projects I have planned: (each weighted equally). Students who have completed 342 Studio Problems in Typography have the option to either a) repeat these projects or b) work with the instructor to develop alternative assignments. Students who have completed 342 do not have to retake or find an alternative to the quiz component. The final grade for these students will be an average of grades awarded to the four projects completed.

1. Personal Report

2. Currency Design

3. Calendar Design

4. Magazine & Masthead Design

5. Three Quizzes (averaged into one overall quiz grade)



There will be three quizzes this semester, which will focus on typographic readings, terms and usage.



Lupton, Ellen. Thinking With Type, 2nd Edition. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010)

As you know (because you’re on it), I keep a website where you’ll also find all assignments along with the class schedule. It also features an always growing list of useful design-related resources, which I have gathered with the needs of my students in mind. I don’t use D2L.

Certain documents that are too big to fit on my website might need to be accessed through a Google Drive link. I will let you know when you need to access it. I also use the Drop Box feature on our server, though I almost never check it unless an assignment is due.


Crucial resource:

We have access for all students. Take advantage of this amazing resource to improve and upgrade your software skills. This is an essential and constant process for anyone who plans to work with computer graphics over time. A few years ago (probably about the time I became a mother) I realized that it was impossible—and pointless—to remember how to do everything I’d ever done over the last fifteen years in InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Thanks to Google and Ms. Lynda, I can usually (re-)learn how to do something in no time. It it is vital that you develop the independent ability to adapt to software as it evolves.

As this is a general graphic design course, I focus on good design and typography first and foremost. Visual techniques learned in this class—including the juxtaposition of image and type as well as text layout and hierarchy—can be applied to a number of output situations, whether they be print, digital, packaging, or something not yet anticipated.

The success of professional graphic design work—as well as your success in the field—is directly proportional to quality of research and process that led to the design solution. Our task is so much more than just making something look good. Own your subject matter. Designing a stamp? Look at hundreds of stamps. Designed a decent stamp? Ideation is key. Design a bunch more, in case your client doesn’t like your first idea.

I assume you are here because you want to get a job someday. Jobs are hard enough to obtain! Don’t appear to be lazy by being uninformed. Passionate designers are curious people. As a professional, you’ll be expected to know all about what’s already out there. A project without evidence of research of the design problem shows a lack of devotion to the project. This is usually painfully obvious, so please don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ve done the legwork if you haven’t put the time in. Dive deep. Want to be a better designer? Punch the clock. That’s what the best do. You’ve gotta put the time in. This is why in-class work time is so important to me. But don’t be fooled: good work takes a significant amount of time outside of class as well.

Process books are a really big deal to me. You are here to grow and mature as designers and as your instructor, I need to see the manifestation of that. Your process book—a 3-ring binder with plastic sleeves—is a valuable thing for both instructors and future employers to see proof of your creative thought process. The process book—which I will talk about soon—is a tool that will help you to organize and corral your research, ideas and thoughts. Make sure to clearly label the cover and the spine of your process book with your name and the name of the course. Process books are required to be submitted with almost every project, and will not be accepted after the project’s due date.

Please understand: Projects without a process book are not eligible for a grade higher than a B.

Show me, don’t just tell me. Critique and presentation are important elements of the class. As you would imagine, working graphic designers are expected to present visual progress multiple times to clients for critique and revision before it goes public. During critiques, think of your instructor and classmates as your clients! Clients who want to see both you and the project at hand succeed, of course.

We’ll present and critique all levels of development: from basic concept (where you have to show through process sketches where you’re going) to final presentation (where you have to show the results). Color printouts (and completed mockups, if a packaging project) are required for the second critique.

Please note: the second critique is not the due date. So don’t mount your work at this time, as changes will likely be needed.

Back-up your files constantly. It’s free. It’s easy. Get in the habit. Google Drive gives everyone plenty of space for free. Back it up. I have little sympathy for those who don’t protect their digital work. I’ve seen way too many USB thumb drives fail. Don’t be that person.

I keep an eye on attendance. Attendance is mandatory—if you aren’t here for the entire class period (this includes studio time), you miss important info as well as essential work time. Three unauthorized absences will result in one lowered final grade, four will result in two lowered grades, and so on. Three late arrivals (or early departures from class) will count as one absence. Authorized absences are as follows: prior approval from instructor or documentation from a health professional. Six absences — whether authorized or not — will result in either failure of the course or an incomplete (the instructor’s discression). Please don’t schedule medical appointments that conflict with class. If you must miss class for health or personal reasons, the Dean of Students can help you communicate the situation to your instructors.

Grades will be based on your performance in several areas. Please see here: Sample Grade Form

Office Hour: Thursdays 12:30–1:30 p.m. & by appointment

E-Mail me with any questions. My address is I will send out a few mass e-mails to the class over the semester. I will also use it to communicate with you personally. I check my e-mail a few times a day M–Th, and once or twice on Friday, and prefer it to the telephone (which doesn’t ring in my studio off campus). I promise to get back to you in a timely manner. As with all questions asked both in and out of class—if I don’t know the answer, I will do some research and get back to you asap.

The digital final portfolio of all projects completed (PDFs only) is due on Tuesday, December 12th, a day after your final project is due. See schedule for more information. Specific submission and formatting requirements to come. Projects not turned in at the specified time will automatically cause your course grade to drop by one letter (i.e. A to B). Afterwards, late work will cause your course grade to decline one letter grade per day.

More Small Print & General Advice:

Plagiarism isn’t just for writing papers: it happens graphically as well. Be safe: use your own imagery as often as possible. Stock imagery can be used if is obtained legally, but it must underscore the overall concept of your piece. While your student status does afford you some luxuries regarding fair use, it gives you no permission to be lazy. If you need to use someone else’s image (such as anything found on the internet) give credit where credit is due. Any project with clearly plagiarized imagery will receive an automatic F. Ask beforehand if you are unsure of anything!

The most up-to-date class schedule can always be found on, along with this syllabus and all assignments. Please check there before asking.

Never stop looking for new information on this expansive subject. As students well into the Design emphasis, I would expect that you have at least a small selection of books on design in your possession, as well as knowledge of magazine titles and websites covering the subject. Always be on the lookout for inspiration, and don’t be afraid to get “lost” while you pursue what interests you. Graphic Designers should be intellectually curious. If this doesn’t sound like fun, you may be in the wrong program.

Get to know our professional organizations, such as AIGA and Fox River Ad Club. Networking leads to employment.

Many final project presentations in the graphic design program must be mounted on presentation board in a clean, professional manner. Never rush to mount something as class begins.

Even though they look great, I don’t require flaps on your projects.

The inability to find parking is not an excuse.

Please don’t type while I’m talking. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me! Even worse? Typing while one of your fellow students is presenting.

Protect your projects from the elements. Portfolios! Boxes! Even a plastic trash bag helps. Seriously.

Computer lab time is to be used to work on projects assigned in this class only. Silence your phones. If you must make or answer a call, do so in the hallway. Same goes for text messaging. Please keep e-mail, messaging and web activity to a minimum during class. Two minutes checking e-mail/game score/whatever is okay. Twenty minutes is not. And keep conversation on a quiet level.

I really believe that we learn best by actively doing, which is why my lectures are fairly short. Graphics take practice, time, and commitment. I’ll try to respect your work time by keeping interruptions to a minimum during scheduled lab time, though I will periodically walk around the room to check on class progress. This is an advanced course, and I expect you to be self-motivated enough to use the time given constructively. If you have any questions (or just need an opinion), please ask me! I am always willing and eager to critique a project individually during lab time if requested. It’s why I’m here.

Different students have different learning styles. In general, I’m a big believer in trusting the process though serious research, trial, and error. But if I’m not giving you the kind of feedback that works best for you (assuming you’re putting serious effort into your projects), let me know and I’ll try to adjust it. Really.

Anyone with a disability needing attention is encouraged to notify the instructor immediately so modifications and/or special arrangements can be made.

Lastly, take time to enjoy being a graphic design student! It might seem like a lot of work right now, but you will likely not have this sort of opportunity for creative freedom and discovery once you enter the job market, at least during the early years. This is something I hear again and again from our employed graduates. It may sound cliché, but Carpe diem.

If not now, when?