AVT 215: Graphic Design I

Syllabus | Schedule | Assignments | Portfolio | Contact | Resources | AVT Home | Mason Home


AVT 104: Studio Fundamentals I and AVT 180: Computers in the Creative Arts
—or permission of instructor with portfolio review

Course Description

Introduction to elements of basic typographical composition, including the historical development of letter forms; recognition, use and specification of existing typefaces; and alphabet design.

For non-AVT majors, this course fulfils a "core" University General Education requirement in the Fine Arts. Core requirements help ensure that students are introduced to the broad range of intellectual domains that contribute to a liberal education. By gaining exposure to the subject matter and ways of knowing in a variety of fields, students will be better able to synthesize new knowledge, respond to fresh challenges, and meet the demands of a complex world. In the arts, Students will develop an understanding of the aesthetic and intellectual components of the arts through critical analysis of major artistic works or creative work of their own. Courses are intended to give students knowledge and understanding of the arts through critical or historical analysis, theory, and practice. Arts courses provide distinctive modes of thought, ways of working, and avenues for student achievement, and establish a foundation for ongoing intellectual and artistic development. Some courses emphasize the development of artistic technique, problem solving, and the creative and interdisciplinary process, while others focus on developing aesthetic sensibility and understanding historical and cultural contexts. For more information go to www.gmu.edu/departments/provost/gened or consult the University Catalog.


  • Recognize the importance of proper use of typography in visual communication
  • Understand the evolution and anatomy of the Roman letterform
  • Understand the history of printing and paper and their contributions to graphic design
  • Develop essential craft, critique and presentation skills
  • Learn basic software skills in professional layout programs such as InDesign and QuarkXPress


AVT 215 is not a graphic software training class—students must have proficient skills in Adobe Illustrator CS3 from completing the AVT 180 prerequisite. Through lecture, studio and computer lab time, students will learn typographic principles using hand rendering, traditional paste-up as well as software on the Macintosh platform. Students will develop a series of projects from rough schematics to final presentation for their portfolio. Students will be expected to research and utilize external graphic vendors and professionals, and are strongly encouraged to join professional design organizations such as AIGA and ADCMW.

Textbooks & Materials

Performance Requirements

Due to the dynamics of the course your attendance, participation and punctuality are critical to your successful completion of the class. You must be on time and prepared—with no exceptions. Not being properly prepared with required assignments is considered an absence from the class. Final projects are due at the beginning of class. Projects turned after the start of class critique are automatically reduced 1/2 letter grade. Late projects (after the completion of class critique) will not be accepted. If compelled to miss a class, you must contact Diane Worden (dworden1@gmu.edu) the Teaching Assistant via email with an acceptable explanation within 12 hours to be excused.

If absent, you are responsible for materials covered in class. Please "buddy-up" with a classmate for this information. Two un-excused absences will result in a half letter grade reduction. Tardiness will also affect your final grade—two late arrivals equals an unexcused absence.

Per University Policy, personal communication devices must be turned to "silent mode" and put away. The Instructor as well as the Teaching Assistant will keep their cell phones active to assure receipt of any Mason Alerts in a timely fashion.


All final projects will be graded by the following criteria: 1) concept development, 2) execution and 3) presentation. Concepts—developed through schematic thumbnail sketches and computer roughs—have the same weight as the finished project. You must show the design process for all projects. Presentation on the proper type of mounting board with tissue overlay and cover sheet also has equal weight as the other components. Final semester grade will be determined by project grades (50%), readings/written assignments (20%), quizzes (10%) and class participation (10%). There will be a final exam worth 10% of your final grade.

Additional Requirements

Projects/assignments are due at the start of class (10:30am). Any project or assignment not turned-in at the start of class is dropped one-half (1/2) grade. Revised projects (re-do's) will be not accepted for re-grading but are encouraged for your evolving design portfolio.

A sketchbook as well as a design process notebook will also be a component of your final grade.
The main purpose of the sketchbook will be to document the design process of each project. Thumbnails, brainstorm lists, doodles, sketches, clippings, etc. are good examples of what can be included. A "9 x 12" or "11 x 14" ITOYA notebook is required for this semester-long assignment.

A non-returnable digital portfolio of all final projects (in PDF format only) must be turned-in on CD at the end of the semester. Creative presentation of the digital portfolio CD (i.e., case, labeling, layout & design) will be considered as a part of the grade.

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 703-993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC.

Lab Rules

All AVT Lab policies must be followed including no food & drink in the lab—please finish any snacks or meals prior entering the lab. Beverages may be left at the front table as you enter the lab.
Click here for the link to the AVT Digital Class and Open Studio Schedule.

With problems or questions related to the computers and printers in all AVT graphic design labs, you must contact our AVT Technical Director directly vial email: Sean Watkins (swatkins@gmu.edu). Sean can help diagnose problems and recommend proper solutions.

[ Click here for downloadable syllabus .pdf ]

Top of Page | Syllabus | Schedule | Assignments | Portfolio | Contact | Resources | AVT Home | Mason Home