Cory Archangel,  Super Mario Clouds , 2002

Cory Archangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002

Digital Foundations



A survey of technological and aesthetic best practices and theory in visual communication. Students will study the basic functions and integral properties of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, presentation, and video-editing software. Vector and raster imaging techniques, scanning, printing, using digital images, and typography are introduced through a series of demonstration/projects that build upon one another. Projects focus on design principles and basic skills needed to communicate a visual message with a specific intent.


By the end of this course a student who has completed the course successfully will be able to:

  • Use digital media and design tools and techniques to produce digital photographs, illustrations, books, and videos
  • Use the principles and theories of visual grammar to communicate ideas and concepts
  • Create digital art work that expresses a clear and individual voice
  • Critically analyze and contextualize their work and the work of other digital media artists
  • Think critically about the artists that create a historical and theoretical context for their work


  • Subscription to (provided)
  • Richard Poulin, The Language of Graphic Design (required)
  • 13 x 19 Premium Presentation Paper Matte Epson from the Skidmore Shop or online (can be shared)
  • External hard drive
  • Headphones
  • Sketch book and pencil


Your final grade will be compiled from the grades you receive on your projects throughout the semester.

Each grade will be weighted as follows:

Participation: 10%
Individual Research: 15%
Project 1: Perfect Day 12%
Project 2: I am Here 12%
Project 3: Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Object 12%
Project 4: Timescape 12%
Project 5: Data Collaboration 12%
Project 6: Serial 15%

The ability to speak for yourself and your work is one of the most important skills a digital media artist has. In this class there will be many forums for you to practice speaking, including discussions of texts and presentations, collaborative challenges, critical conversations about artists’ work, and peer critiques. Your participation in these activities will be taken into account in your final grade. If you are distracted in class by your cell phone or work from another class this will also be factored into this grade.

Individual Research
For this assignment you will be collecting visual research around an aesthetic principle from a reading in the book. You will present your research two ways, first as a comment on this website (due by midnight Monday) and second as a color print hung on the wall by the start of class. Each week we will discuss the research that the class has collected. For this project you will be graded on how often you contribute a visual piece of research that is thoughtful and imaginative. Each submission can receive up to three points.

1 Point – Answering the questions asked with a thoughtful and complete response
1 Point – Printing out the answer in color
1 Point – Turning in both the printed and online responses on time

Collaborative Research
For this assignment you will working with other students in class. If the project you create is one of the best pieces submitted you could earn three points towards your Individual Research grade.

In this class there are six projects including the final project. At the beginning of each project we will review the project overview on this website. Please take note of the due dates. Assignments MUST BE READY at the START of class on the date due to be considered on time. If you cannot be in class the day that the projects are due the project must be printed and uploaded before class starts to be considered on time. Late projects will be marked down one grade for each day they are late including the date they are due if they are received after the start of class. Projects can only be revised for the mid-term and final critiques. Revised projects will be given the average of the old and new grades.

Project evaluation criteria
Each project will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Does the project have strong aesthetic and formal qualities?

Formal Focus–20%
Does the project respond to the formal issues covered in the text and in class?

Conceptual Framework–20%
Are the concepts or ideas behind the project original, thoughtful, and well-organized?

Does the project use techniques and skills that are challenging?

Technical skill and technique–20%
Does the project demonstrate a mastery of the skills and techniques covered in class?


In this class I will cover all the technical tools and skills that you will need to complete the projects. If you want to go beyond these skills you can use the resources available to teach yourself (, If you use skills that are not covered in class the rule that I use in all my classes is that if you get yourself in, you must get yourself out. This does not mean that I do not encourage these explorations. I think they are where some of the richest and most interesting work can happen—I just cannot be responsible for techniques that I haven’t covered.


We will schedule individual mid-term and final critiques in the middle and end of the semester. The individual critique is an important opportunity to ask questions and think about the progress of your work in the class. You can also submit revised work for either critique.


Attendance in this class is critical. In each class you will learn tools and techniques and discuss ideas that you will build upon in subsequent classes. I keep track of attendance by passing around a sign-in sheet at the beginning of class. If your name is not on the sheet you will be considered absent. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences—instead I consider how the classes and content you have missed will impact your success in the course. Each student is allowed up to three absences. If you have missed more than three classes each additional absence will result in a ten-point deduction from your final grade.

Frequent lateness will also have a negative effect on your performance in the course: every three latenesses will be considered equal to one absence. If you are not in class you must review the material on the website and get notes from a classmate since you are still responsible for the material covered in class as well as any in-class assignments. You can also visit my office during my office hours to get an overview of what I went over in class.


In order to complete the assignments for this class, you must be prepared to work independently during the hours that the lab is open. The Digital Media Lab is reserved for students enrolled in Digital Media classes. The lab will be open 24 hours a day and on weekends during the semester through swipe access. We have a lab assistant who is available to help you on your projects; their hours will be posted the first week of classes. You may not use the lab when other classes are in session without prior permission. It is important to familiarize yourself with the lab schedule that is posted on the door to the lab and on the website.


I created this website to accommodate the changing needs of this class. All of the lectures, projects, and demonstrations that are discussed in class will be on this website. If class is canceled or you are absent you can check the website to see what you need to do for the next class. This is also an excellent resource to review skills and concepts.


In this course there are many opportunities for lively discussion and debate. However it is important to think about how your comments may impact other members of the class. When you speak you must speak respectfully of all people–including your peers and myself. In this class we will work to create an environment that is intellectually safe and has a spirit of collaboration and trust.

Turn off all cell phones and other potentially distracting noise makers during class. Pay attention to what we are doing in class and take notes. Be polite, respectful, and attentive while others are speaking.


If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need academic accommodation, you must formally request accommodation from Meg Hegener, Coordinator for Student Access Services.  You will also need to provide documentation which verifies the existence of a disability and supports your request.  For further information, please call 580-8150 or stop by the office of Student Academic Services in Starbuck Center.


I want each of you to be successful in this class. I want you to make work that that inspires you and your peers. I want you to push me and the other students to find new ways of approaching the materials and the tools we are using. I want you to emerge an innovative and creative digital media artist. I am here to support you in these goals. If you have any questions, small or large, technical or conceptual, please come see me. I have office hours that are posted on this website but I can also make an appointment to meet with you at another time that is more convenient. We also have a Teaching Assistant who can help you with technical issues that arise when I am not at school. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are having trouble or need help.


The Poster
Listen: Reed, "Perfect Day"
Project 1: Perfect Day Overview
Demonstrations: Introduction to Digital Drawing
Artists: Max Huber, Joseph Müller-Brockmann, Gail Swanlund, Paul Morgan
Collaborative Research: Day in History

The Poster - Shape
Read: Poulin, "Shape"
Individual Research #1: Shape due
Demonstration: Drawing Shapes
Exercise: Pathfinder and Align
Project 1: Black-and-white sketch due


The Poster - Balance
Read: Poulin, "Balance"
Collaborative Research: Type Sandwich
Demonstration: Type

The Poster - Color
Read: Poulin, "Color"
Individual Research #2: Color due
Demonstration: Color palette and Fill
Work in class


The Map
Critique: Project 1
Read: Perec, Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and the Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Four
Project 2: I am Here Overview
Artists: Paula Scherr, Grayson Perry, Carlos Romo Melgar
Collaborative Research: Saratoga Map

The Map - Form
Read: Poulin, "Form"
Individual Research #3: Form due
Demonstrations: Pen tool, Scan
Exercise: Pen Tool
Project 2: Illustration due


The Map - Contrast
Read: Poulin, "Contrast"
Collaborative Research: Copycat
Demonstrations: Advanced Drawing

The Map - Typography
Read: Poulin, "Typography"
Individual Research #4: Typography due
Demonstration: Printing & Web
Work in class


The Still Life
Critique: Project 2
Read: Stevens, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
Project 3:  Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Object Overview
Artists: Bernd and Hilla Becher, Duane Michaels, Sophie Calle, John Coplans
Demonstration: Shutter speed
Collaborative Research: Cubist still life

The Still Life - Movement
Read: Poulin, "Movement"
Individual Research #5: Movement due
Demonstration: Digital Images and Cameras, Photoshop basics
Exercise: Camera
Project 3: Grid sketch due in class
Camera signups


The Still Life - Closure
Read: Poulin, "Closure"
Collaborative Research: Cubist still life
Project 3: Photographs due in class
Demonstrations: Cropping & Resizing

The Still Life - Tone
Read: Poulin, "Tone"
Individual Research #6: Tone due
Demonstrations: Printing
Work in class


The Landscape
Critique: Project 3
Read: Lightman, Einstein's Dreams (16 April 1905)
Project 4:  Timescape Overview
Artists: Jeff Wall, Beate Gütschow, Anthony Giocolea
Collaborative Research: Location Scout

The Landscape - Space
Read: Poulin, "Space"
Individual Research #7: Space due
Project 2:  Sketch & Location due
Demonstration: Selections & Masks
Exercise: Melon


3/15 Spring Break

3/17 Spring Break


The Landscape - Symmetry/Asymmetry
Read: Poulin, "Symmetry/Asymmetry"
Collaborative Research: Small Big
Project 2:  Photographs due
Demonstration: Mask refinement, Cloning 

The Landscape - Scale
Read: Poulin, "Scale"
Individual Research #8: Scale due
Demonstration: Adjustment Layers
Work in class


The Infographic
Critique: Project 4
Listen: Cage, Imaginary Landscapes
Project 5: Information through Time Overview
Artists: Charles Minard/Edward Tufte, Spencer Finch, Stephanie Posavec, Periscopic, Andrew Kahn
Collaborative Research: Data Visualization

The Infographic - Point and Line
Read: Poulin, "Point and Line"
Individual Research #9: Point and Line due
Project 5: Storyboard due
Demonstrations: Video & Animation basics


The Infographic - Tension
Read: Poulin, "Tension"
Collaborative Research: Opposites
Project 5: Footage due
Demonstrations: Keyframes

The Infographic - Proportion
Demonstration: Animation & Color
Read: Poulin, "Proportion"
Individual Research #10: Proportion due
Demonstrations: Export and Upload
Work in class


The Book 
Critique: Project 5
Read: Queneau, Exercises in Style (pp. 19-26)
Project 6: Serial Overview
Artists: Artists' Books Library Special Collection
Collaborative Research: Artist statements
Read: Poulin, "Expression"

The Book - Texture and Pattern
Read: Poulin, "Texture and Pattern"
Individual Research #11: Texture and Pattern due
Demonstrations: Digital Layout & InDesign basics
Project 6: Prototype due
Group critique 


The Book - Frame  
Demonstration: Styles
Collaborative Research: Creative Printing

The Book - Grid
Read: Poulin, "Grid"
Individual Research #12: Grid due
Demonstrations: Master Pages
Project 6: Prototype due
Group critique


The Book
Collaborative Research: Sequences
Demonstration: Printing
Work in class

The Book
Work in class


The Book
Critique: Project 6