Mechanics of Graphic Design is a graduate seminar that I crafted after recognizing the need for providing graphic design education within the architectural curriculum. Frustrated by the lack of understanding and facility that students have with producing representations of their work and portfolios, the course emphasizes the materiality of the production of visual artifacts. Weekly lectures are combined with a project that builds in complexity over the course of the semester as well as field trips that introduce vital concepts to understanding the components that craft graphic design.
The basic components such as composition, the grid, typography, history of graphic design, introduction to color theory, and patterning among other themes provided the students with the necessary tools to effectively employ visual design. Three field trips introduce the essential combination of all of the components. We begin with a trip to the French Paper Company in Niles MI, a family owned company that produces a high quality paper using sustainable practices. A trip to Edward Brothers in Ann Arbor, MI allows the students to witness offset, digital and web presses producing printed journals which are also bound on site through very intricate machinery. This visit in particular serves as a kind of rosetta stone to understanding why design standards exist and how to properly anticipate their usage. The third trip to Signal Return in Detroit allowed the students to engage with the highly tactile practice of hand setting type and to operate letterpresses.
Additionally, the students investigate patterning through a project that produces a full scale wallpaper using seriography (silk screen). The product is installed in chosen alley in an urban context. This investigation questions the role of territories and branded spaces. (A project's success is gauged by controversy and/or delight.) The students are required to document their process and are given a set of strict criteria for producing a collective publication.