MAT-135 Syllabus

MAT-135 Graphic Design 1

MAT-135 Onsite, Graphic Design 1: Principles

Syllabus Contents

To jump to a section of this syllabus, select from the links below. Note: These links are only for convenience; students are required to read the entire syllabus.

The Basics
Meeting Times + Places  |  PrerequisitesAdministrative Deadlines and Drops |  Pass/No-Pass Grading Status HolidaysCourse ObjectivesStudent Learning OutcomesTechnical HelpStudents with Disabilities

Course Requirements
Required Textbooks and SoftwareCompletion of WorkCourse TimelineOnline (Asynchronous) Hour | Critiques

Grading and Assignments
Grading PolicyClass Participation Grading Breakdown + Assignments

The Basics

Meeting Times and Place

  • Course section #2657
  • Fall 2018 semester : 8/21/18 – 12/11/18
  • Class Meeting Place: OC4622
  • Class Sessions: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30am – 1:20pm
  • Office Hours: Room OC4621 (4600 building) -> TBA, and by appointment
  • Final Exam/Critique: TBA


Leigh Cotnoir
Leigh Cotnoir,



IMPORTANT Administrative Deadlines!

The following dates apply to this class’ deadline schedule! These are not necessarily for other courses you are taking, as some classes start later than others!

  • 9/02 : Last day to drop without W and to receive a full refund
  • 9/21 : Last day to switch to Pass/No-Pass grading status
  • 11/16 : Last day to drop the class and still receive a “W” on transcript
  • 12/11 – 12/14 : Final Exam Week

NOTE: the instructor of this class WILL NOT agree to a late appeal for a grade change, removal of a W, or to help get a refund if the student fails to abide by the above deadlines. You have been warned.


  • Sept 3 Labor Day (Legal Holiday)
  • Nov 12 Veterans Day (Observance)
  • Nov 22 Thanksgiving Day (Legal Holiday)
  • Nov 23 Day after Thanksgiving (Local Holiday)

Regarding Administrative Drops

While students are not graded on attendance in this class, participation is included in the grade. If a student is not regularly attending, participating, and turning in assignments, s/he will be subject to an administrative drop by the instructor for lack of participation. If the instructor deems that a student’s lack of participation will so severely impact the student’s ability to pass the course, she reserves the right to drop you within the acceptable instructor drop period. Please know that a student’s financial aid status has no bearing on the instructor’s decision. Students receiving aid based on number of enrolled units can potentially lose their that aid if an instructor drop puts them below their stated aid threshold.

Pass/No-Pass Grading Status

All students have the have the right to switch your grading status to Pass/No-Pass before the stated deadline above. That means that your grade point average will not be affected, and it will not have a negative impact on your transcript should changing circumstances prevent you from doing as well as you wanted. This option might be good for people who are on the fence about taking the course because they already have a heavy school and/or employment workload, and are worried about their GPA being negatively affected. You can still take the course without the fear/stress of falling behind and needing to drop later.

While Miracosta’s Media Arts & Technologies department accepts “Pass” grading outcomes toward their degrees/certificates, some other institutions and degree plans might not allow P/NP electives as transfer units. If you are counting on receiving credit for the class in another degree/certificate program, it is imperative that you check with your advisor to be sure it will count. You also need to ensure that P/NP status will not affect your aid package if you receive a form of financial aid.

IMPORTANT: It is the student’s responsibility to change this grading status with the enrollment office BEFORE the stated deadline above. The instructor cannot do this for students.

Course Description

This course introduces the visual communication principles and concepts of successful graphic design. Topics include form, color palettes, text/image relationships, typography, grid structures, and layout design. The course develops and refines each student’s personal design sensibility by applying appropriate and creative design presentations within cultural and historical contexts.

Primary Software Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and XD.

Student Learning Outcomes

The MiraCosta faculty believe that students who complete one or more certificates or degrees are systematic, critical, creative thinkers and clear communicators who are intellectually curious, technically proficient, aesthetically literate, and professional. To that end, the faculty has identified seven Program-Level Outcomes that apply directly to the high-level skills you are expected to possess in the workforce:

  • Technical Skills
  • Application of Discipline Skills
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Professional Behavior
  • Aesthetic Literacy and Appreciation
  • Global Awareness and Responsible Citizenship

To achieve this goal, you are expected to achieve competency in the following course-level Student Learning Outcomes (SLO’s), each of which help you achieve one or more of the above program-level outcomes:

  • Arrange and compose design concepts into effective illustrative solutions.
  • Compare and evaluate design solutions for visual and communication effectiveness.
  • Conceptualize and formulate abstract ideas into concrete graphic design solutions.

Specifically, when you have completed this course, you should be able to:

  • Compose two-dimensional space using various design structures and techniques.
  • Apply appropriate color palettes to convey content and emotion for different media types.
  • Organize appropriate typographic conventions to effectively display written content and convey appropriate meaning.
  • Design effective layouts incorporating images, color, text, and structure.
  • Identify and apply marketing concepts to complex content using various design metaphors.
  • Analyze historical design styles and themes as they relate to cultural influences of the time.

An overview of Institutional Learning Outcomes can be found at

Need Technical Help or Advice?
Visit the address above if you ned help with Canvas, SURF, server login or performance problems, or to get tutorials on using these systems.

Students With Disabilities

If you have specific physical, psychological or learning disabilities and require accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to Disabled Students Programs & Services at 760-795-6658.

Other Important Student Resource Links:

Course Requirements

Required Textbook:

book coverGraphic Design: The New Basics (2nd ed.)
Author(s): Ellen Lupton + Jennifer Cole Phillips
ISBN13 : 9781616893323
Chronicle Books Llc, 2015


Optional, Suggested Reading:

book coverLogo Design Love (2nd ed.)
Author(s): David Airey
ISBN13 : 978-0321985200
Peachpit Press; 2 edition (August 30, 2014)

Also terrific reading: the author’s Blog site.
Download the free Mind-Mapping chapter.


book coverGraphic Translation
Author(s): Kimberly Elam
ISBN13 : 978-1419653322
BookSurge Publishing (November 21, 2006)


Software, Computer, Equipment, and Media

Although it is not a requirement that students in this class have their own computers, it is helpful for students who do have computers to install the software that we are using in the class on their personal machines. This will allow those students to do homework at home. None of the core software we use in this class is free; this course employs industry-standard design software–specifically title fraom the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. This Adobe software is available on all library and MAT lab computers for student use, with possibly the exception of Adobe XD.  Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions are free for a 30-day trial, but you will be subject to a student rated subscription fee after that (if you want to use the software on your own computer).

Software that we will be using is as follows:
  • Free SFTP Program for Connecting to the Server from home (recommendations below)
  • Recommended (free) Browsers for media searches
  • Pixlr Desktop (for fast, easy and effective image editing/effects) 
  • Adobe Creative Cloud software titles
    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Adobe Illustrator
    • Adobe InDesign
    • Adobe XD
Where To Buy Adobe Software

The best deal to buy Adobe software is through the following link:

As a MiraCosta student using the link above, you can get the full Creative Cloud annual subscription for a price even lower than Adobe’s student pricing. To buy, you need to go to the link above, scroll down and click the “Shop Now” button under “For Students.”

If you cannot afford to buy the entire annual Creative Cloud subscription as a one-time purchase, you can check out Adobe’s month-to-month pricing here:

You will need the FULL subscription package for this course. You can always start a free 30-day trial and commit to a plan in a month.

Suggested Equipment and Supplies Purchases
  • Flash Media or other storage technology for moving and storing your in-progress work (recommend 16GB or higher)
  • Check out the supply list at Blick Art Store to see other items. NOTE: Almost all items are “Recommended” and only a few “Required.” I want to keep the cost of the class down, so you might want to find one or more classmates with whom you could cost-share on some consumable items.  It you have a financial aid grant for books and supplies that you have to spend, you might choose to buy what you can. Otherwise, you can wait until you need the supplies to buy as needed. The “Required” lists is only about $25, and only $5 of that is unsharable (the portfolio binder). You can also shop for these items (or competing brands) at other stores for better pricing.
  • Other expenses to expect are printing costs and mat board for mounting printed work for final critiques. I will do as much digital presentation critiquing as possible to keep printing costs down.

Completion of Work

You are required to keep up with work during the semester based on the schedule and due dates on the instructor’s course schedule page. Weekly agenda sections will be made available at the start of each week if not sooner. Most assignments will be much easier if you do your readings and lectures first (or concurrently)!

You will be expected to complete ALL assignments. Incomplete assignments will be evaluated as-is when turned in. Late work can only be turned in up to one full week late after the original due date (with a grade reduction). As the course progresses, students can expect to spend, at a minimum, approximately 6-8 hours a week working on this course’s content to be successful.

Course Timeline

Students can look at the instructor’s teaching website at any time for information about what you are responsible for (and what we are doing in class) at any given time. There will be links in Canvas to this page, as well.

You can visit the online course schedule page now.

Asynchronous Online Hour

This is a hybridized course that meets in person on the Oceanside campus for the majority of its time. There is an additional hour of online work that students are responsible for, though–completely separate from time expected to do homework. This online hour each week will be primarily comprised of online instructional tutorials and video lectures that the student can engage with at his/her own pace. They will typically be related to your homework to help you figure out how to do required technical tasks. This class will not ever require real-time synchronous online interaction.

Critiques (For Credit)

It is imperative that each student contributes to each critique. A dialogue of constructive criticism is what helps artists and designers find weaknesses and strengths in their work. These sessions are important tools in refining your own self-critiquing and design processes. We will have online and in-class critique sessions for different assignments. Critiques will be assigned during the semester.

Drawings, Artwork, Comps

With most projects, you will be required to create either hand sketches or computer drawings of ideas before embarking on the full-scale project. You can create these precursory drawings with a pencil and paper to avoid getting bogged down by technology, but you need to then digitize your hand sketches by taking a photo of them if you want to include them in any of your digital process files.

In addition to turning in digital files, students will also be required to print and mount several assignments for critiques. These will be evaluated not only on design but on level of craftsmanship. 

Grading Policy

You may turn in a project late up to one full week after the original due/critique date. Any work later than one week overdue will be subject to receive an “F” without consent from the instructor . If you know you will be unable to complete work on time, please discuss it with the instructor in advance! Please note that your grade will automatically drop by 10 points for late work. This means that if work is up to a week late, your highest possible grade begins at a 90.

The final project is the exception! ******NO LATE WORK ACCEPTED FOR THE FINAL.******

Class Participation

This is an onsite course, so class participation simply cannot happen when a student fails to attend class. While there is not a specific “Participation” evaluation value in your final grade, your level of participation will often help determine borderline grades, flexibility in missed work, etc. Participation is monitored through the following outlets:

  • meeting progressive deadlines for samples, preliminary sketches, etc.
  • contributing to classroom discussion and Q&A
  • critique participation
  • clear communication with the instructor and peers

Grading Breakdown and Assignments:

[30%]   Project 1.0 : Foundation Design Book

25pts // Phase 00 – Learning to See Design In the Physical World
10pts // Phase 01 – Identical Scale Exploration Studies
15pts // Phase 02 – Modified Studies (Scale, Intersection, Axis)
15pts // Phase 03 – Graphic Element Studies
10pts // Phase 04 – Refinement / Alignment
25pts // Phase 05 – Layout, Contextualizing Form, & Production
100 TOTAL POINTS (weighted at 35% of semester grade)

[05%]   Project 1.1 : Design Foundations Portfolio Spread

[15%]   Project 2.0 : Color Study

100 TOTAL POINTS (weighted at 15% of semester grade)

[30%]   Project 3.0 : Graphic Mark / Pattern / Applied Design

15pts // Phase 01 – Assignment // Concept Mapping
40pts // Phase 02 – Drawing and iterative mark design
20pts // Phase 03 – Modularity and Pattern
25pts // Phase 04 – Color Inspiration, Sampling, Assignment
100 TOTAL POINTS (weighted at 35% of semester grade)

[05%]   Project 3.1 : Abstract Mark Process Portfolio Spread

[15%]   Project 4.0 : UI/UX Prototyping for Responsive Web Design

20pts // Phase 01 – Brand Development and UI Research
50pts // Phase 02 – Website Modular UI Design
30pts // Phase 03 – Responsive UI Development Prototype
100 TOTAL POINTS (weighted at 15% of semester grade)

***Each project will take participation into account for borderline grades. Participation will be determined by the criteria outlined in the previous section.***

Letter Grade Assignments

Letter Value Numerical Value
A 90-100
B 80-89
C 70-79
D 60-69
F 0-59

Completed projects will be graded on the following criteria (VERY BASIC OVERVIEW):

  1. Instructions (did you follow technical instructions for the assignment?)
  2. Craftsmanship (is the finished piece and presentation clean and well-crafted?)
  3. Overall Composition and Creativity (did you understand and successfully execute the problems presented?)

For detailed grading criteria, you will need to refer to each project outline page. Grading rubrics for specific assignments are available via Canvas.

Grading Definitions

  • A = Outstanding achievement: available only for the highest accomplishment
  • B = Praiseworthy performance: definitely above average
  • C = Average: award for satisfactory performance, most common undergraduate grade.
  • D = Minimally passing: less than the typical achievement.
  • F = Failing.

**No incompletes will be given without EXTENUATING circumstances.


Digital Art, Design, and Communication Education