Visual Communication Design Curriculum

DESN 20101 - Visual Communication Design 1: Fundamentals of Design

Origins, concepts and processes of graphic design

What makes a visual image compelling? Why do images engage? This course explores and helps develop an understanding of the delicate balance between these design elements and how they have been skillfully used by designers over time to create some of the most persuasive images and enduring messages.

The course will be an exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction of visual images using design elements as a tool. Through assignments, students will work digitally to explore color, form, composition, texture and typography; first individually and then in conjunction with other elements. Initial assignments will be short and will focus on the understanding of a singular element. As the course progresses, students will be expected to use experiences from these short assignments and use them as building block for more complex projects demonstrating and applying the understanding gathered in the previous assignments.  No pre-requisites.

DESN 20115 - Visual Communication Design 2: Type & Icon

History, application, and art of typography

This second course in Visual Communication Design sequence focuses on the art of typography, its history, and the use of type as a critical element in the visual world by building on key concepts introduced in Fundamentals of Design. Students will gain a fluency in typography and its systematic application to traditional and modern media. This studio-based design course is structured as a series of projects exploring message-making and type as image. Students will learn the origins and constructions of typography; how the visual translation of type influences human perception and understanding; and how textual messaging is evolving to include iconographic elements by exploring a variety of applications such as icons, symbols, alphabets, posters, animations, and non-traditional books.

This course is intended primarily for students majoring in Visual Communication Design who satisfy the requirements to enroll. Undergraduates and graduate students with a strong interest, aptitude and the rigor to engage in five and a half hours of in-class studio work and critique, as well as considerable time preparing for class, may contact the Department of Art, Art History & Design ( to be placed on the course wait list. If seats remain open after open registration ends, non-majors will be considered for enrollment.

DESN 20120 - Visual Communication Design 3: Web Design 

Web-based interactivity for desktop and mobile

Exploration of on-line interactive communications for web enabled platforms including desktop and mobile devices. Application of user-centered design principles to hierarchical and navigational structures, interface, web typography, imagery, sound, and motion through a series of exercises and projects. Survey of technological aspects to web site design, development and production. 

DESN 30111 - Visual Communication Design 5: Package Design

Package design utilizing advanced research methods 

Explore how to integrate typography, color and image onto a variety of 3D package surfaces while incorporating research-driven design methods as part of the design process. 

DESN 30131 - Visual Communication Design 6: Motion Design

Motion design using kinetic messages

Exploration of narrative, visual and aural principles to best convey a time-based message through a series of project assignments. Effective use of motion graphics through sketching, storyboarding, kinetic type, animation, narration and soundtracks. Media delivery may include digital signage, web, broadcast and other public venues such as a planetarium. Survey of the technological aspects to motion media including principles of digital animation, video output devices, and planning for application in a space.

DESN 30140 - Visual Communication Design 7: Interaction Design 

Interaction design of device user interfaces

Evaluation, design and simulation of user interaction with a computer or product interface. Development of interfaces through wireframes, sketches, renderings, illustrations, modeling and animatic sequences. Exploration of user testing and research methods for generative, participatory and evaluative stages of design. 

DESN 40100 - Visual Communication Design 8: Social Design: Initiatives, Challenges & Innovation

Design for social good affecting positive change

This advanced course in visual communication is for students to understand social advocacy within both a global context (India) and local context (South Bend). Students understand their role as designers/ collaborators/ catalysts through real life experiences. Students from diverse discipline are encouraged to come together to create a multi-disciplinary cohort that focuses on ‘blue-sky problems’ that combines and delicately balances strategic thinking with innovation. During the initial part of the course, in July 2017, students will travel to India for 3 weeks to work with students from India and then return here to commence the course during the Fall semester.

Working with students from India, the goal would be to understand social problems within a new paradigm and socio-economic parameter of a rapidly evolving country and its pluralistic culture and returning to Notre Dame with renewed and re-energized perspectives on those very same issues to examine and address them locally.  DESN 20101 (VCD1) is recommended, but not required.

DESN 40101 - Visual Communication Design 9: Package Design—Professional Practice

Research and design for professional, collaborative projects

Development of environmental graphics and design systems for three-dimensional spaces. Work collaboratively to adapt design skills for the built environment, connecting people to the spaces they navigate and inhabit through visual messaging. Emphasis placed on developing skills for professional practice, including portfolio preparation and presentation. 

DESN 40120 - Visual Communication Design 10: Visualization of Data

Information design for complex data and concepts

Visualization and sequencing of complex or abstract subject matter for the purpose of informing, educating or training the end-user. Design process includes the acquisition of information and data to become a subject matter expert on a project topic. Development of topics through the parsing of information, focusing of subject, sketching, illustration and graphical data representation. Delivery of information through an interactive, user-driven experience possibly exploring handheld devices.