Introduction to Visual Communication

I.     Course Prefix/Number: GRD 101

       Course Name: Introduction to Visual Communication

       Credits: 3 (2 lecture; 2 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course covers the fundamental principles of design and how these relate to effective communication. It explores the media and tools that create imaging and how these tools are integrated into the image-making process. Topics include conceptual design, critical thinking in the creation of practical design, how design relates to industry, human perception and the visual process, and the history of visual communication, from the symbols of the cave man to modern-day advertising.

IV.   Learning Objectives

Students will:

  1. Identify the fundamental elements and principles of design
  2. Explain the how media are used in the creation of imaging
  3. Incorporate the design process into image-making.
  4. Use color in an effective manner.
  5. Produce images that demonstrate mastery of key skills.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. History of Visual Communication
    1. The cradle of civilization
    2. The invention of writing 
    3. The Asian connection
    4. The discovery of printing
    5. Alphabets
    6. The Graphic Renaissance
    7. The Industrial Revolution
    8. The Modernist Era
    9. The Age of  Information
  2. Perception and Imaging
    1. Visual selection
    2. Gestalt grouping
    3. Memory and association
    4. Space, time and color
    5. Contours
    6. Illusion and ambiguity
    7. The morphics
    8. Human personality
    9. Visual concepts
  3. Elements of Two-dimensional Designs
    1. Tone
    2. Line    
    3. Texture
    4. Shape
    5. Color theory
  4. Media
    1. Pencil
    2. Photography
    3. Digital imaging
    4. Painting
    5. Charcoal
    6. Print-making
  5. Principles of Design
    1. Unity and variety
    2. Grouping
    3. Containment
    4. Repetition
    5. Proximity
    6. Closure
    7. Patterns and grids
    8. Balance
    9. Symmetrical balance
    10. Rhythm 
    11. Emphasis
    12. Illusion of space and movement
  6. Problem Solving 
    1. The design process
    2. Fine art process
    3. Source of ideas
    4. Convergent and divergent thinking
    5. Brainstorming
    6. Visual research
    7. Critical thinking
  7. Meaning 
    1. Criteria
    2. Form, subject and content
    3. Critiques
    4. Contrast and compare
    5. Iconography
    6. Stereotypes
    7. Purpose and Intent
    8. Context
    9. Aesthetics

VII.  Methods of Instruction

This course will be taught using a combination of lecture and demonstrations. Software demonstrations will use the appropriate Graphic Design software.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Course may be taught as a face-to-face or hybrid course.

  1. Complete weekly assignments
  2. Participate in critiques with completed work
  3. Complete two required notebooks with assigned exercises
  4. Produce a minimum of four 8x10” prints mounted on 11x14” board.
  5. Final exam

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Suggested textbook to cover fundamental principles and practices of design, such as: “Launching of the Imagination: A Guide to Two Dimensional Design,” by Mary Stewart (McGraw Hill), or other relevant text.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

The final grade will be based on understanding and demonstration of key principles and course objectives. Grading and evaluation will be based on work, projects, assignments, process, critique, participation, and other items at the instructor’s discretion.

Completion of projects and participation in critique are required. Course instructors will base grades and evaluation on specified elements and percentage weights.

XI.   Other Course Information

Please note:
Some of the activities, lectures and assignments in this class may include imagery that is controversial, uncomfortable, shocking, has nudity, and personally unpopular to one's beliefs. If a student objects to this practice, he/she is encouraged to discuss with the instructor early in the semester alternative ways of completing course requirements.

Open lab time will be posted for students at the beginning of the course.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.