Graphic Design (DSGN 266)


Graphic design is completely about relationships between communication and form. In this studio course we will address a set of three interrelated questions: What media does graphic design include? How can graphic design be used to create systems—material forms and visual hierarchies? How can we use graphic design to highlight interest in communication – visually and through our other senses?

Over the course of fifteen weeks, we’ll use different media (image generators, audio, writing, animation, and finally, a more traditional e-publication) to experiment with communication and form. We’ll think about what components unify the process of each, and how they differ. Developing a point of view and expressing it through style will be discussed and analyzed, as will the role of design as a contributor and byproduct of culture.

This studio course will introduce the students with new domains, issues, and questions that face the contemporary designers. Students will engage with and develop design methods through intellectual exploration, research, analysis, ideation, and prototyping. Projects and assignments will lead the students how to communicate ideas visually, use appropriate tools and methods, formulate points of view and messages, and embrace fast transforming culture.

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Class Homepage


Nika Simovich Fisher


  1. Junk Mail
  2. Soundscape
  3. Looping Projection
  4. Visual Archive

Code of Conduct + Group Agreement

As a class, we will create a group agreement that addresses respect and etiquette in the classroom. Students will be responsible for maintaining this standard throughout the semester. The University of Pennsylvania is very lucky to have a representative group of students with different backgrounds and cultures. With this comes varying amounts of privilege and awareness, so it is important that we practice patience and empathy in the classroom. We must all continuously learn, be open to criticism, develop a consciousness about these discrepancies, and actively seeking equity and allyship in the classroom and beyond.

View our code of conduct

Project Critiques

Each project will close in a group critique. All students in class are encouraged to participate in these reviews and discussions. Two student peers will have active roles in each critique: (1) first responder and (2) note taker. The first responder will summarize/reframe the presenter’s project and provide initial feedback. The note taker will write down the group comments and write a digestible overview, to be given to the presenter and instructor by the end of the presentation day. All students should participate in each discussion and provide feedback in the form of a neutral observation or value judgment. Please be respectful—our full attention will be given to the presenter and, excluding the note taker, all laptops and mobile devices should be closed.

Tools + Materials

Most of the hardware and the software which are going to be used in class will be provided and be ready in the classroom in class hours. On the other hand, we strongly recommend that you have your own computer at home equipped with relevant software for practice and execution of the assignments. Some of the assignments will require higher processing speeds, so please prepare yourself to work in the lab at school throughout the semester. You may attend the class with your laptop, but you will be responsible for your own workflow and troubleshooting. You are also be responsible for their own files, making sure to back them up in some way.

Students Will Be Assessed On Three Primary Items:

Research and process: Students are expected to develop their projects through research and experimentation. Students should develop an independent habit of organizing themes and visual references and develop a personal library. Rather than landing on one idea right away, students are encouraged to experiment through form, typography, and content.

Presentation: Each project will end in a final critique and have presentation check ins throughout. Students should always be prepared to discuss their ideas and have an organized and visual presentation ready to go at the start of class.

Critique: Attendance to critiques is mandatory, and students are expected to actively contribute during their own and their peers’ presentations.

Materials and Supplies

  • Laptop/Computer
  • Phone
  • Adobe CC
  • Internet connection

Academic Integrity

Please familiarize yourself with the University Code of Academic Integrity.