A Course at The Media School

C226 Visual Communications, Fall 2017

What you can expect from C226

C226 Fall 2017 syllabus
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We swim in a sea of images. We work, play, dream—and communicate—in the most prolific visual culture in human history. From cellphone cameras to You Tube, from touch-screen PDAs to Facebook walls, from logos, ads and icons to gut-wrenching photojournalism, a tsunami of visuals inundates us daily. New digital forms are challenging the legacy mediums: print images in newspapers, magazines, bill boards and packaging, and moving images in television, film and animation. Instead of the province of professionals and a few wealthy amateurs, the cameras, computers and software that produce our visual culture are available for mass consumption. Never before has it been easier to consume, create and publish images.

A decade and a half ago, when the Internet and the desktop computer destroyed the old barriers between print and television, the buzzword for the media realignment was “convergence.” We have moved beyond convergence, to a stage where cutting-edge content providers create multi-sensory experiences for mobile platforms­—pads and androids—that bid to replace the old “top” siblings: desk- and lap-.

C226 will help you navigate this flood by introducing you to the principles of visual literacy. We will model visual literacy on verbal literacy. After learning to critically read other people’s visual messages, you will use the knowledge gained to tell your own visual stories. The knowledge and skills you gain in C226 will advance your career in the ever-shifting media landscape and—equally important—enrich your personal life.

Technology is only a tool. Seeing, thinking and telling stories are the heart of this course. The lab sessions, exercises and assignments will help you learn to operate a digital camera, a video camera, a digital audio recorder and several software applications on the Macintosh computer. At first, these technologies may dominate your time and effort, but they are not the most important part of the course. By themselves technical skills will not guarantee you will take good photographs, design good publications, create good soundtracks or produce good video. Try to master the technologies as quickly as possible so you can move on to what is most important—telling effective stories with pictures, sound and the written word. The most important dimensions of C226 are: 1) academic knowledge about the history, ethics and principles of visual communications and 2) hands-on experiences in telling visual stories.

A major theme uniting all aspects of the course is learning to use your sense of sight more effectively. This objective is based on the assumptions that we tune out most of the visual stimuli that bombard us, that we fail to bring into consciousness much of what we see and that we rarely engage in concentrated, purposeful seeing. We will work on improving your vision by paying close attention to the real world and the mediated world, by analyzing the visual messages of professionals and previous C226 students, and by creating your own. The knowledge and skills you gain in C226 will be of value to you whether you chose a career in advertising, public relations or journalism. If you aspire to a career in writing, learning to see better will make you a better writer. Beyond that, there are numerous writing assignments in this course.

In the best tradition of education, this is a hands-on, active-learning course. You will create three projects and post them on your individual C226 website. The projects are: 1) a picture story with a written text and captions, 2) a magazine design that repurposes your picture story as two spreads, and 3) a two- to three-minute video with a soundtrack. Your site will be linked from the gallery page of the course website.

Regarding computer skills, you will use Bridge and Photoshop to edit digital photographs, InDesign to create your magazine spreads, Final Cut Pro to create your sound track and edit your video, and Word Press to manage your Website.

The motto for our course — See! Think! Create!  — encompasses all these themes.