Course Syllabus

The City University of New York
Department of Media Arts and Technology

Course Title: MMA 100 – Foundations of Digital Graphic Design
Semester: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Wednesdays – 5:30pm – 9:10pm – Classroom: Fiterman 706
Professor Ryan Seslow  – or
Office Hours: Wednesdays – 4:30pm – 5:30pm, Fiterman Room 706
3 Credit Hours (2 Hours Lecture, 2 Hours Lab) – Prerequisite: ACR 094, ENG 088, and ESL 062

Course Description: This image-based course will introduce graphic design as the foundation upon which effective visual communication is built. Investigation of the elements and principles of graphic design will lead to specific design problems and their solution. The development of ideas and the ability to communicate them effectively will be covered. Discussion of both vector and bitmap-based digital graphic platforms will begin progress toward industry-standard computer proficiency.

Class Resources:

Class Website:

We will be using a class website via the CUNY academic commons to learn, support, discover, share, experiment, present and archive our course work. Our class website is a growing resource and repository of information. Students will be expected to refer to the course website each week to obtain assignments, participate in discussions, submit their research and post their work on a regular basis. All students must sign up via e-mail to receive updates.

Recommended Text Books & Resources:

Textbook: Introduction to Graphic Design: A Guide to Thinking, Process and Style  – Author: Aaris Sherin, Publisher: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, ISBN: 978-1472589293

Text Book – Graphic Design: The New Basics Paperback – Author: Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Cole PhillipsPublisher: Princeton Architectural Press, 1st Edition, ISBN# 1568987021; 978-1568987026

Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign Visual Quickstart Guides (Peachpit Press) & Adobe Tutorials (

Use of Technology: Software used: Adobe CC with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Students will need a portable media system for storing and backing up their work (a flash drive or external drive works well) Students should also consider creating an account on Dropbox or Google Drive. Students can also use a free service like to send large files via the Internet. Students are 100% responsible for their files and maintaining them.

*Students will bring a sketchbook, pencils and an eraser to each class.

BMCC Computer Labs: Labs are in Fiterman Hall, Chambers Street and the Murray Street buildings. Please see the school website for the schedule:

Evaluations and Requirements:

Class and homework assignments: ———————  50%
Midterm Project:  ———————————————-  15%
Final Project:  —————————————————   20%
Class performance and attendance:  ——————-  10%
Final Assessment blog post: ———————————   5%

Assignments may be e-mailed, posted to our website or handed in to me on time. There will be some in-class assignments as well as homework to be done outside of class. Assignments can always be revised and re-submitted for the consideration of a better grade.

Grading Scale: (this class uses the CUNY grading scale)

The grade of A is awarded for excellence. An A student turns in all work consistently with very high standards of quality, creativity, and original thinking. This student also performs exceptionally in presentations and critiques.

The grade of B is awarded to students who have turned in all work consistently with high quality standards. The work shows creative thinking, extra effort, and care in presentation. B students have demonstrated knowledge that surpasses the basic material and skills of the course.

The grade of C is earned when all class work is turned in and the student has mastered the basic material and skills of the course. This student participated in class and demonstrated knowledge of the basic material and skills.

The grade of D or F is given for work that is incomplete, late, and/or does not demonstrate mastery of the basic material and skills of the course.

Outline of Topics:

  1. Design – Elements of design, principles of design and color theory
  2. Digital Graphics – Raster vs. Vector, sampling files
  3. Design Process – the creative brief, working with clients, brainstorming, consideration of your audience, promotion and ethics
  4. Software Proficiency – Vector graphics (Illustrator), raster graphics (Photoshop), page layout (InDesign)
  5. Typography – type, fonts, letter forms and designing with type
  6. Developing and Applying Brand Identity – Logos, creating consistent look across media
  7. Design Formats – Posters, spreads & layouts


COURSE OUTLINE: (Schedule is subject to change as needed)

Week 1What is Graphic Design?

Class introductions and our learning potentials.

Design Solutions: Strategy, Concept, Design, Execution & Production

  • What does a graphic designer do?
  • How is design different from art?
  • Areas of graphic design

Exploring the Design Process: Thumbnails, Roughs & Comps

 Assignment #1

Week 2Elements of Design:

Brainstorming, process, variations & avoiding cliche’

Line, Shape, Value, Color, Texture & Visual Flow.

Portfolio Basic, examples & considerations

Assignment #1a

Week 3 – Principles of Design:

Positive and Negative Space, Composition / Figure ground

Balance, Emphasis, Rhythm, Unity

Working with Raster software – Photoshop / scanning

Framing: cropping, bleeds, borders and margins

Assignment #2

Week 4Layouts and Visual Relationships

Using a Grid Format / Other Layout Formats

Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity

Color Theory – The color wheel, making color choices

Primary color systems: RGB (additive) and CMYK (subtractive)

Assignment #3

Week 5 – Typography

Letterforms / Designing with Type –

  • Terminals and decoration
  • Typographic hierarchy
  • Spacing and alignment
  • Kerning and leading
  • Choosing type

Assignment #4

Week 6 – Color & Type Continued

Additive, Subtractive (RGB, CMYK) – Mood & Perception

  • Type and color / scale & weight

** Midterm Project Discussion, expectations, process & presentation

Week 7 – Midterm Project Workshop – Full class lab session

Week 8 – Midterm Project Workshop – Full class lab sessions  with draft presentations

Week 9 –  Midterm project Critique – Full class group critique

Week 10 –  Layout and Arrangement

  • Emphasis
  • Scale and placement
  • Software: InDesign overview – the interface and tools + what it is used for in the industry
  • Managing Photoshop files in InDesign
  • Basics of the type tool in InDesign

In class assignment #5

Week 11 – Visual Identity and Branding,  Imagery in Design: Logos, Symbols                                       

Logos and Visual Identity, Creating a logo design brief                               

Type in Logos, Symbols, Icons & Pictograms  

What is Visual Identity? Brands and Branding, research, discovery and process

Assignment #5A

Week 12 – Designing Posters

Integrating Concept with Visual Elements

Poster Design & Poster Design History

Assignment #6

**Final Project Discussion, expectations, process & presentation 

Week 13 – Final Project Workshop – Full class lab session

Final projects thumbnails and development.

Week 14 – Final Project Workshop­

Final projects & portfolio preparation workshop continued.

Week 15 –  FINAL PROJECT PRESENTATIONS / Full Class Critique


For a full version of the course syllabus including course learning outcomes, measurements and assessment, BMCC & CUNY policies, students can download, save and print a copy here.