Welcome to Fundamentals in Communication Design. The course material for this subject is authored by Dr Keith Robinson and it is my pleasure to explore it with you.

As you know this subject is delivered in an online environment which allows participants to join discussion at any time of the day or night. Because of the flexible nature of this learning environment, it is vital that communication is frequent and clear, so please ensure that your nominated email address is fully functional as I will often communicate with you via email. The Blackboard facility of this site will be used to post general announcements, so check it regularly. Read all your course notes and associated literature carefully and follow the guidelines they present. Explore as much of the readings and resource material as you can.

Our online discussions will be structured around thematic threads. Keep on top of these, perhaps setting aside a small amount of time each day to login and read new posts. Even after one week, the number of messages posted can seem daunting. WebBoard provides us with a wonderful facility for sharing ideas, images and opinion, so the learning experience is one we will share as our reading and research informs and shapes the discussion. Enjoy.


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The Language of Design Communication is conceived of as the basic unit to the study of graphic/communication design theory in the Master of Design Program. Some of the ground we cover here assumes knowledge of semiotics, rhetoric and code, and many of the basic texts are shared between the two units.

This course tries to address what is unique about communication design as a special sort of discipline and hopefully clears away some of the myths and idealism that dogs much design theory and writing.

The first module starts by asking ‘what is graphic design?’. I suspect that we are all design professionals who at least relate to graphic design enough to be taking this subject, so no matter what our diverse backgrounds, we should all have a working knowledge of communication design as a subject of appraisal. Let's call this our naïve position. Step by step I will ask you to document this position, compare yours with the others, and then provide you with some challenging and expanding perspectives. You will also be asked to consider graphic design from the perspectives of production and consumption. This will be carried out via the discussion board, readings and the writing of a communication design manifesto informed by your thought, discussion, idealism and research.

The second module moves on to the idea of the visual. Visualization is a universal element of all applications of communication design, and, as we see our special knowledge applied to ever more diverse media and applications, we are all the time marrying the visual to an increasing array of complimentary and simultaneous messages delivered over different times, spaces and sensory extensions. Visual identity is multi-faceted, especially in an area with a tradition as long as graphic design. Our starting point will be a structural one. Rarely do we have the opportunity to produce communication design for a naïve market. So the creation of visual identity in graphic design involves a complex knowledge of what already exists, in order that we might innovate a new and differentiated identity. We will also explore where innovation comes from. Does innovation come from within the designer or from the outside world?

The third module looks at the different and changing media forms that graphic design constantly has to relate and adapt to. Media forms are a useful way of understanding graphic design as an interface between the media audience and the changing technological environments and requirements that create them. It is huge enough for graphic designers to be forced to produce artwork via whole new medias of production as has happened in the last twenty or so years. And yet this change is minor compared to our comprehension of the new media we are working in and what is happening to the changing role of the old medias we have left behind. To successfully entice the reader in the old media was difficult enough, but to entertain the viewer of the new seems at times to be so much more challenging.

At the completion of this course, students should be able to:

This course is broken down into the following modules:
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