History of Graphic Design
Fall 2019 | 1:30–2:45




Required Textbook

Graphic Design, A New History by Stephen J. Eskilson (Third Edition is out, Second Edition should be fine)

Course Description

A survey of design history. Looks at print and web design as both a reaction to and shaper of the broader culture (including other fine applied arts) through the study of major movements and designers.


Students will explore the historical development and expression of graphic design through lectures, class discussions, assigned readings, as well as a writing assignment. Participants should finish the course with a better understanding of how graphic design responded to (and affected) international, social, political, and technological developments since the beginning of history. Emphasis will be on work from the 1800s to today and the relationship of that work to other visual arts and design disciplines.


  • To recognize and identify influential people, places, and events in art and design from 1800 to today
  • To have an understanding of the role that graphic communications play as part of material culture
  • To analyze the influences (i.e. technology, capitalism, aesthetics) of history on contemporary graphic design


This course consists of shorter quizzes, longer tests, a research paper and presentation, and extra credit. The quizzes will be in relation to the current week's topic and the tests will be cumulative up until that point. There will also be a research paper and presentation toward the end of the semester.

Almost every week there will a quiz based on the material we covered in class or that you read about before class. The quizzes will vary in form and rules week to week so come to class prepared.

There will be two longer tests during the semester covering the material up until that point. The first test will be around the half way point and the second test will be toward the end of the semester.

Research Paper and Presentation
A major part of each student’s final grade is based on a research paper along with its interpretation into a class presentation.

Each student selects a person, style, movement or period of time relating to graphic design for review and approval by the instructor. A brief outline, along with resources, is required a few weeks prior to the written research paper. The paper itself must be 1500 to 2000 words in length, using appropriate high-resolution (300 dpi) visual examples throughout. Please include a bibliography of at least four sources other than the Eskilson textbook.

Each research paper will be transformed into a 5 minute presentation. The presentation should have around 20 slides (15 seconds a slide) and be created in Powerpoint, Keynote, or a similar program. Additionally, a one-page highlight sheet with key visual examples will be created by each student and distributed to each class member electronically (via .pdf) prior to the student’s presentation.

Extra Credit
Everyday there will be questions on the board you can answer for extra credit. The questions can only be answered before the official start of class and can only be answered once. The earlier you show up the better chance you have of answering a question.

attendance and participation

You must be physically, mentally and verbally present and prepared. Punctuality is of prime importance. There are few good excuses for being late to class, try and be as early as you can. Tardiness will also affect your final grade—three late arrivals equals an absence. Please come to class prepared and ready to listen and be involved for the entire scheduled time.

You are expected to attend all meetings of each class. I understand that sometimes issues arise that prevent you from making it to class. It is your responsibility to send me any work that was due that day and talk to a classmate to go over what you missed. You cannot participate if you are not in class. Every absence after three will drop your grade by 5 points. Again, participation in class is extremely important.


Your grade will depend on your participation and attendance (10%), quizzes (20%), tests (35%), and final paper and presentation (35%). There will be a rubric for the final paper and presentation to explain the grading criteria. Daily extra credit will be added to your quiz grade totals.

University and School of Art Policies

In accordance with George Mason University policy, turn off all beepers, cellular telephones and other wireless communication devices at the start of class. The instructor of the class will keep his/her cell phone active to assure receipt of any Mason Alerts in a timely fashion; or in the event that the instructor does not have a cell phone, he/she will designate one student to keep a cell phone active to receive such alerts.

Commitment to Diversity

This class will be conducted as an intentionally inclusive community that celebrates diversity and welcomes the participation in the life of the university of faculty, staff and students who reflect the diversity of our plural society. All may feel free to speak and to be heard without fear that the content of the opinions they express will bias the evaluation of their academic performance or hinder their opportunities for participation in class activities. In turn, all are expected to be respectful of each other without regard to race, class, linguistic background, religion, political beliefs, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, veteran’s status, or physical ability.

Statement on Ethics in Teaching and Practicing Art and Design

As professionals responsible for the education of undergraduate and graduate art and design students, the faculty of the School of Art adheres to the ethical standards and practices incorporated in the professional Code of Ethics of our national accreditation organization, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Open Studio Hours

SOA teaching studios are open to students for extended periods of time mornings, evenings and weekends whenever classes are not in progress. Policies, procedures and schedules for studio use are established by the SOA studio faculty and are posted in the studios.

Artsbus Dates for Spring 2019

  • September 21
  • October 19
  • November 16

ArtsBus Credit

Each student must have up to 5 AVT 300/Artsbus credits before graduation. For credit to appear on your transcript you must enroll in AVT 300. This also applies to anyone who intends to travel to New York independently, or do the DC Alternate Assignment.

If you plan/need to go on multiple Artsbus trips during a semester and need them towards your total requirement, you must enroll in multiple sections of AVT 300. Please go to the Artsbus website: http://artsbus.gmu.edu "Student Information" for additional, very important information regarding Artsbus policy.

Non-AVT majors taking art classes do not need Artsbus credit BUT may need to go on the Artsbus for a class assignment. You can either sign up for AVT 300 or buy a ticket for the bus trip at the Center of the Arts. Alternate trips must be approved by the instructor of the course that is requiring an Artsbus trip.

Visual Voices Lecture Series Fall 2019

Visual Voices is a year-long series of lectures by artists, art historians and others about contemporary art and art practice. Visual Voices lectures are held on Thursday evenings from 7:20–9:00 p.m. in Harris Theater.

  • September 5, 2019 Buzz Spector, Buzz Spector: I stack things. I tear stuff up.
  • September 26, 2019 Tom Ashcraft, Workingman Collective: Navigating a Collaborative Practice
  • October 10, 2019 Kristine Potter, Mythologizing America
  • October 24, 2019 Daniel Wickersham and Malcolm Lomax, Supplementals, Collective Consciousness, and Communicable Diseases

Important Deadlines

Once the add and drop deadlines have passed, instructors do not have the authority to approve requests from students to add or drop/withdraw late. Requests for late adds (up until the last day of classes) must be made by the student in the SoA office (or the office of the department offering the course), and generally are only approved in the case of a documented university error (such as a problem with financial aid being processed) , LATE ADD fee will apply. Requests for non-selective withdrawals and retroactive adds (adds after the last day of classes) must be approved by the academic dean of the college in which the student’s major is located. For AVT majors, that is the CVPA Office of Academic Affairs, Performing Arts Building A407.

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences

If you have a diagnosed disability or learning difference and you need academic accommodations, please inform me at the beginning of the semester and contact the Disabilities Resource Center (SUB I room 234, 703-993-2474). You must provide me with a faculty contact sheet from that office outlining the accommodations needed for your disability or learning difference. All academic accommodations must be arranged in advance through the DRC.

Official Communications via GMU E-Mail

Mason uses electronic mail to provide official information to students. Examples include communications from course instructors, notices from the library, notices about academic standing, financial aid information, class materials, assignments, questions, and instructor feedback. Students are responsible for the content of university communication sent to their Mason e-mail account, and are required to activate that account and check it regularly.

Attendance Policies

Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class participation is important not only to the individual student, but also to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation. Students who miss an exam with an acceptable excuse may be penalized according to the individual instructor's grading policy, as stated in the course syllabus.

Honor Code

Students in this class are bound by the Honor Code, as stated in the George Mason University Catalog. The honor code requires that the work you do as an individual be the product of your own individual synthesis or integration of ideas. (This does not prohibit collaborative work when it is approved by your instructor.) As a faculty member, I have an obligation to refer the names of students who may have violated the Honor Code to the Student Honor Council, which treats such cases very seriously. No grade is important enough to justify cheating, for which there are serious consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life. If you feel unusual pressure about your grade in this or any other course, please talk to me or to a member of the GMU Counseling Center staff.

Using someone else’s words or ideas without giving them credit is plagiarism, a very serious Honor Code offense. It is very important to understand how to prevent committing plagiarism when using material from a source. If you wish to quote verbatim, you must use the exact words and punctuation just as the passage appears in the original and must use quotation marks and page numbers in your citation. If you want to paraphrase or summarize ideas from a source, you must put the ideas into your own words, and you must cite the source, using the APA or MLA format. (For assistance with documentation, I recommend Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference.) The exception to this rule is information termed general knowledge—information that is widely known and stated in a number of sources. Determining what is general knowledge can be complicated, so the wise course is, “When in doubt, cite.”

Be especially careful when using the Internet for research. Not all Internet sources are equally reliable; some are just plain wrong. Also, since you can download text, it becomes very easy to inadvertently plagiarize. If you use an Internet source, you must cite the exact URL in your paper and include with it the last date that you successfully accessed the site.

Writing Center

Students who are in need of intensive help with grammar, structure or mechanics in their writing should make use of the services of Writing Center, located in Robinson A116 (703-993-1200). The services of the Writing Center are available by appointment, online and, occasionally, on a walk-in basis.

The Collaborative Learning Hub

Located in Johnson Center 311 (703-993-3141), the lab offers in-person one-on-one support for the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, Blackboard, and a variety of other software. Dual monitor PCs make the lab ideal for collaborating on group projects, Macs are also available; as well as a digital recording space, collaborative tables, and a SMART Board. Free workshops are also available (Adobe and Microsoft) through Training and Certification; view the schedule of workshops and to sign up.

Provisions Research Center for Art & Social Change

Provisions is located in Room L001 of the Art & Design Building. This student resource assists students in exploring and engaging new models for artmaking that lead to a more inclusive, equitable, and connected society. Provisions is also a hub for developing art projects through Mason Exhibitions, the Mural Brigade, and art partners throughout the metropolitan area, and beyond. Feel free to come in and browse the library, study, eat, etc. The University Art Librarian, Stephanie Grimm, will have regular hours in Provisions on Tuesdays at 2pm. Contact Don Russell for more information: drusse10@gmu.edu