Graphic Design Course Descriptions

Core: Level One Courses

Refer to Certificate Program Guide for specific semesters offered.

Drawing is an essential means of communicating, and central to every artist’s and designer’s practice. This class is a more rigorous and sustained introduction to the drawing medium. Drawing I students begin learning to define shapes and forms with line: investigating weight, direction and speed through gesture, contour and planar analysis. Then moving on to value, using both additive and reductive ways of working, they learn to utilize the power of light and dark to create a sense of texture, volume and space. Spatial systems, including perspective, are investigated as well as fundamentals of composition to construct dynamic imagery. Measuring and attention to negative space are essential skills used and reinforced throughout the learning process. Transcribing what is seen or imagined into visual form utilizing multiple approaches, from note taking to rendering to diagramming and sketching, is explored. The class is structured around demonstrations, guided exercises, and sustained drawing of varied subject matter including still-life, landscape, architecture and the human form.

Design is the discipline underlying all forms of visual expression, and an understanding of design principles is the basis for all art forms. This course introduces students to the formal elements of design: line, shape, pattern, value, texture, color and space. Working through a variety of challenging exercises, students use these elements to engage with problems of visual organization. Deliberate and considered placement of visual elements into an organized whole is the basis of composition, and skills acquired in this course have direct applications to anyone working in art and design, from painters and artists to art directors, illustrators, interior designers and interactive designers.

Color is one of the most powerful, and complex, tools at the artist’s disposal. Bridging the divide between color theory and color practice, this studio course distills the essentials of color mechanics into workable studies and projects. Students explore color through creative exercises using collage and paint to understand color and how to use it effectively. Explorations of the role of light, the psychological impact of color, and how such factors as hue, value and intensity affect design are integral to the learning. Slide-illustrated presentations address the historical background of the use of color. Through the process of experiencing the interface of color theory and color application, guidelines toward developing a personal palette are discussed. Mastery of color is essential in the work of artists, illustrators, craftspeople and designers, making this course an ideal starting point.

A graphic designer is a creative problem solver who conceptualizes, plans and executes a design that communicates a message. This course introduces students to the fundamentals of working in the field of graphic design by examining the meaning of graphic design, the design process and the role the graphic designer plays in society. Students respond to presentations and engage in hands-on assignments intended to provide a glimpse of the RISD|CE Graphic Design Certificate Program and the broader field of the professional graphic designer.

Explore the interdisciplinary relationship between imaging, coding, text, animation and video that come together as the designer’s toolkit. This fast-paced digital media course is ideal for the novice or even the intermediate user desiring a better understanding of computer-based workflow. A single unified Web design project, built over 12 sessions, is broken down into manageable lessons that include bitmap editing, vector graphics, page layout, image capture, preservation and manipulation. The terminology, protocols and connections between products are made clear as you become familiar with the techniques necessary for anyone who designs digitally.

Varies by semester. Electives may be taken at any point in the program, provided prerequisites have been met.

Concentration: Level Two Courses

Refer to Certificate Program Guide for specific semesters offered.
Note: Successful completion of the Core curriculum (above) is crucial prior to starting the Concentration level.

This course introduces two-dimensional design as it needs to be understood by the graphic designer. Students explore and develop an understanding of visual relationships through the use of the elements of design (line, shape, value and texture) and the accompanying principles of design, including figure/ground relationships, repetition, contrast, rhythm, and transformation. Students are gently introduced to the graphic design workflow using vector drawing tools on the Apple computer platform. Together as a class they review the basic concepts, practice and vocabulary of design while critiquing peer projects to achieve greater visual literacy.

Graphic designers must have a fundamental understanding of the basic structures and organizing systems that lie beneath all examples of the print designer’s craft. Grids and modules are discussed as the primary device for originating compelling design solutions that acknowledge the core rules of proportion, rhythm, pacing and sequence. Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are among the digital tools used to define these unifying structures that are often (but not always) invisible. The class builds upon a foundation of weekly exercises as students develop a solid understanding of the practical considerations involved in the planning and delivery of a conclusive graphic design project.

This course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of typography – including theory, practice, technology and history – so that students can use it to their full advantage. Making crucial design decisions while gaining fluency with Adobe InDesign, students explore designing with type while composing single- and multipage documents, laying out page systems effectively, and using type styles to influence expression and communication. Topics include conceptual development, reinforcement of meaning, analysis of letter forms, typographic measurement, typeface classification, typesetting, using grid systems, establishing hierarchies for organizational clarity, and assessing document legibility. Hands-on class and homework assignments provide students with the skills and conceptual understanding that serve as a foundation for graphic design practice.

What is the perfect recipe for a persuasive graphic design solution and how do you combine those ingredients for the best effect? Each variable is subject to choice and, whether shrewdly or poorly made, those choices cannot help but change the overall impact of the project. Students in this course are introduced to image making methods that are determined by underlying graphic and typographic messages. Assignments are devised to reinforce conceptual thinking and to foster understanding and evaluation of source information. The aim is to empower the graphic artist/advertising designer with a full visual literacy that best serves the project’s needs.

The two areas of communication that a graphic designer must command are type and image, and it is only through their harmonious display that graphic design is given meaning to represent messages and ideas. In this course, students synthesize and apply lessons learned in earlier courses to explore the complex relationship between type and image and their role in enhancing meaning. Topics also include the differences that occur when a message is delivered as a two-, three- or four-dimensional time-based design. Students apply the design process and higher-order conceptual thinking in their creation of several projects suitable for a professional portfolio.

Designed to expand students’ understanding of basic typographic principles, this accelerated project-based course leads to greater confidence in graphic design practice. Students gain fluency with visual interpretation and the representation of language while being encouraged to think beyond traditional design methods. Assignments are sequenced to concentrate on issues of hierarchy, conceptual development, image/type relationships, and structural systems. Problem-solving skills and concepts developed in this course serve as a foundation for working with more challenging graphic design. Lectures, critiques and in-class explorations reinforce these concepts as students produce complete and sophisticated projects that become finished portfolio pieces.

Your first client is the most important and the easiest to find. Start with yourself. Just as a company’s identity is essential to its success, so is your own professional identity as you embark on a career communicating visually. This advanced studio reviews innovative identities within the industry, such as letterhead, resume, envelopes, business cards and the obligatory Web presence. Students begin the process of evaluating, refining, writing descriptions and creating photography maps for promotional and archival needs. Students also learn about paper selection, pre-production considerations and communicating effectively with vendors. Lessons in contract language and procedure, as well as the construction and presentation of these documents, emphasize how these become a part of the graphic designer’s professional identity.

This course offers students who wish to enter the field of graphic design the opportunity to synthesize a wide variety of approaches, tools and concepts related to the discipline while developing samples of work for a portfolio. Whether refining an existing piece of work or creating something new, students receive guidance in choosing their strongest creative and visual solutions, and in compiling a group of samples that best represents them and their work. While targeting a future client or potential employer, students develop a creative strategy for presenting themselves and their ideas in a way that gets them noticed and achieves the results they are seeking. Certificate students: Your instructor will schedule a final portfolio review date, independent of the scheduled class dates

Varies by semester. Electives may be taken at any point in the program, provided prerequisites have been met.