Visual Literacy and Document Design

W321 — Spring 2020

Dana Anderson
Days and Times
2:30-3:45 MW
Course Description

TOPIC:  “Visual Literacy and Document Design”

How does the design of a document—the material shaping of text on a page—contribute to its effectiveness in achieving its purposes? Likewise, how do poor design choices prevent documents from accomplishing their aims? How are design elements such as page layout, font, spacing, size, proximity, color, and contrast central to our visual literacy—our ability to interpret, understand, and make use of information based on how it is physically structured for our reading?

These are the questions we’ll be exploring as we look at a range of different documents, especially (but not limiting ourselves to) those that we would call “professional writing”—reports, proposals, process and procedure descriptions, brochures, announcements, online documents such as web pages, and the like. In the computer classroom where we’ll be meeting, we will learn about more than essential concepts and theories of document design: we will learn how design choices have very real, specific consequences, rhetorical consequences, for how persuasive texts are in the purposes they seek to accomplish. The working knowledge of document design you’ll develop is one that is increasingly expected of people who write in their various workplaces. To that end, your work will provide you with a portfolio of various texts that you’ve created to help you demonstrate your abilities as both a writer and a designer of professional documents.

We’ll be completing various short writing and design assignments, as well as a semester project, which will likely be the writing and design of a longer document needed by one of our many community service organizations. Two of your major assignments will be group projects, including your semester project and a class presentation about it.

The course is intended to pick up where W231: Professional Writing Skills concludes. Accordingly, completion of W231 or instructor permission (and please contact me if you’re interested) is required.