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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Visual Communication"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Marco Ferrari
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00-11:15 AM

From photojournalism to Instagram, 21st century communication is primarily image-based. Whether its mass media, individual expression, social media or alternative media, images are used for promoting ideas, products, information and political discourses. In this course students investigate the role of visual culture in daily life, exploring fine art, popular culture, film, television, advertising, business communications, propaganda, viral social media and information graphics. As a critical introduction to visual communication, this course mixes theory, analysis and practical activities for an applied understanding of key issues, including the relationship between images, power and politics; the historical practice of looking; visual media analysis; spectatorship; historic evolution of visual codes; impact of visual technologies; media literacy; information graphics literacy; and global visual culture.

Topics include the evolution of visual culture from the Renaissance to Postmodernism; an introduction to semiotics; the influence of photography from its early inception to Instagram; image politics in elections, terrorism and war; the role of visual and reproduction technology; the study of images in popular culture, ads and viral media; fonts, visual data and information graphics; global visual culture; and image ethics.


The course’s content and activities are meant to prepare students for future studies in communications and media studies. By the end of the course, students should be able to:

· Describe key theories and concepts of visual studies
· Identify how ways of looking are culturally constructed
· Perform semiotic media analysis
· Use media literacy to analyze a range of visual texts, including advertising, social media memes and information graphics
· Distinguish communication strategies in visual media
· Critique the role of images in shaping political discourses
· Asses ethical dilemmas posed by images
· Generate visual media that reflect key themes from the course


Mideterm 20%
Final Exam 20%
Detailed Image Analysis 20%
Create an Infographic 25%
Participation and AttendanceA combination of class participation, attendance and evidence of reading required texts will be graded. 10%
JournalYou are required to keep a journal and take physical notes during class. No computers will be allowed.5%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________ 

More than three absences will result in the loss of a letter grade if not adequately excused.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Note: this schedule is subject to change

Part I: Visual Analysis

Week 1 Introduction to Visual Communication

Howells/Negreiros: Introduction

Barnes: Introduction; Ch 1

Bignell: Introduction

Week 2- 4: Visual Theories, Visual Codes, Genre and Intertextuality (Semiotics)

Howells/Negreiros: Ch 1-4 & 6

Barnes: Chapters 2-4

Bignell: Chapters 1

Week 5: Persuasion

Barnes: Ch 13

Bignell: Ch 2

Midterm/Visual Analysis (first day of week 6)

Part II: Images Analysis

Week 6: Media Literacy and Visual Analysis

Barnes: Ch 5-6

Additional readings: Handout

Week 7 and 8: Typography, Graphic Design and Information Graphic

Assignment: Create an information graphic

Lester: Ch 7: Typography; Ch 8: Graphic Design; Ch 9: Informational Graphics

Barnes: Ch 7

Bignell: Ch 3-4

Part II: Media Formats

Week 9: Drawing and Painting: From fine art to comics

Howells/Negreiros: Ch 7

Lester: Ch 10: Cartoons

Additional Reading: Understanding Comics, Ch 1 (PDF, available on course website)

Image analysis due

Week 10: Photography

Howells/Negreiros: Ch 8

Lester: Ch 11: Photography

Week 11: Film

Barnes: Ch 8

Bignell: Ch 9

Week 12: TV

Barnes: Ch 10

Bignell: Ch 5-7

Week 13: Computers and the Web: Memes, Viral Imagery and Culture Jamming

Howells/Negreiros: Ch 11

Week 14: Conclusion: Global Visual Culture

Barnes: Ch 14

Howells/Negreiros: Conclusion