introduction To Graphic Design



I was told this is an introductory class to graphic design, taken by most Newhouse students. I was handed a course syllabus and a few example projects and started to prepare to teach my first class, ever. 

The night before class I went into the room where I would start my academic path. I sat in the back, alone, thinking back to what it was to be a student, looking forward at my professor. The next day it wasn’t that professor from 20 years ago, it was me. I fumbled about, thinking of what to say, something a professor would say, I failed. I learned I was hired for who I am, not for what I thought a professor would say or do. As the years have gone past I have found my rhythm in this course and have learned to master many issues I’ve wrestled with my whole life: origination, consistency and the new role of a manager. 



  • Leveraged the third year review letter to better focus my efforts in the classroom. 
  • Created a download “Project Package” for each major project to better prepare students. 
  • Included more details about project due dates and requirements in lectures and handouts. 
  • Led the evolution of the course curriculum and labs to focus on digital distribution models and technology. 
  • Used the graduate level version on this course, GRA617, as an incubator for new ideas. 
  • Leveraged to help manage resources and tutorials. 
  • Created a class blog category architecture to allow students easier access to previous students work. 
  • Created a Dropbox shared folder or “GRA217 Warehouse” for all GRA217 & GRA617 instructors to draw and share course materials. 


  • 30–40 students per class. 
  • Sophomores & Juniors. 
  • Required class for most Newhouse students. 
  • Technology taught: Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator & the use of the Wordpress Content Management System.



One of my greatest accomplishments in this course has been to lead the curriculum evolution. When I came to Newhouse we were very print focused in GRA217 and we are now heavily digitally leaning. With the reduction of one major project (logo design), students and instructor alike have the bandwidth to tackle the constantly changing technology of the communications industry. 

Gradual Introduction of Interactive Concepts and Tools 

The initial question of the other graphics (GRA) instructors was how to address the need to educate our students in the ever changing area of digital publishing while not overwhelming them. After using the summer graduate version of this course (Visual Communication Theory & Practice) as a laboratory, we decided to gradually introduce the concepts and technologies of digital content publication. 

The incremental introduction of these concepts through each project escalates to the tablet project which brings these lessons all together, and introduces them to new ones.


Résumé & Wordmark Project  

We address the psychology of interaction alongside the introduction of basic Adobe InDesign interactive tools, specifically hyperlinks. In addition, each student is required to hyperlink her/his résumé to their LinkedIn profile. We also encourage the development of an online social identity system to begin the process of having an online professional presence. 


Poster Project

The poster project is where we introduce the concept of duo-orientation design for tablets. This is a common function while viewing most tablet based publications (such as Wired); the design changes depending on how the device is being held, vertically or horizontally. We also introduce the psychology behind how content is viewed depending on where the user is physically and how the design needs to shift to meet those changes.


User Interface

This project now includes the concepts of information architecture, web publication technologies and usability on the web. 


Tablet Publication Project

This is where previous lessons in communicating digitally come together with new ones about touch interaction and the technologies of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite or DPS. The Adobe DPS is the most widely used publication technology in the world. The final result is a working duo-orientation, tablet publication that is then shared via a free Adobe ID with anyone having access to an iPad. 



This course is not a high-level class. Little that comes from an introductory course wins awards or gets much attention past the doors of the classroom. Yet I have to say this course has meant the most to me. I’m not sure if it’s because it was the first class I ever taught or due to the fact we keep it so basic. I always tell my class that your technical inability is actually a blessing in disguise; that those so called constraints actually free you from making the classic mishap in design: having too much going on. This class keeps it simple and close to home, perhaps that’s why I enjoy teaching it so much.