Fall 2021 // Thursday 1:30–4:10 // AB 1020

Poster Design



This is the syllabus for the Fall 2021 class of AVT 419: Poster Design (3 credits). The instructor is Michael McDermott, he can be reached by email at mmcderm8 at gmu dot edu and can be met with at his virtual office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10–12 or by appointment.

Download a PDF version

Delivery and Timing

We will meet once a week in person on Thursday from 1:30 to 4:10 in room 1020 in the Art and Design Building. The classes are required and during our sessions we will discuss work, complete workshops, and further our design knowledge. The class is scheduled to run for 15 weeks and you can expect to work for 6 hours outside of class each week.


AVT 311: Graphic Design Principles and Methods and AVT 313: Editorial Design, AVT 414: Corporate Design and Branding, or permission of instructor.

Course Description

This course is designed to explore the poster as a vehicle of visual communication and expressive form. Students build skills in generating form and combining type and image at a large scale as well as develop craft based skills.



There is no specific textbook for this course. There will be various readings provided but nothing must be purchased, below are a few books that might be interesting to you that relate to this course.


You must have at least Illustrator and InDesign to participate in this course. Other Adobe CC programs might be used to produce assets and other files throughout the semester.


Not many necessary materials for this course but there are a few. (Items in parenthesis are what I use)

  1. Cutting Tool (Olfa 9mm SVR-2 & SAC-1)
  2. Cutting Mat, minimum 12”x18” (Alvin Self Healing Cutting Mat, 12”x18”)
  3. Metal Ruler, minimum 18” long (24” stainless steel, cork backed ruler)
  4. Clear Tape (Scotch Magic Tape, 3/4” wide)
  5. Glue Sticks (Uhu Stic, small, large, or jumbo)


This course consists of exercises, projects, workshops, readings, discussions, and critiques. The exercises are to familiarize students with specific concepts and ideas and the projects are to synthesize the concepts and ideas we will cover. Readings and discussions will be centered around contemporary poster design.

poster 1: using only type

An investigation into typography as a means of communication and as a formal element in design. The base of the project will be choosing a character to physically construct, then documenting that character through photography and then integrating that image into a poster. More information here.

poster 2: content follows form

Many times the content of a design drives the form but what happens the content is decided based on the form? This poster will start with formal studies using collage and abstract photography and then integrate content. More information here.

poster 3: for an exhibition

The final poster will be for a fictional exhibition of work. A list of artists will be provided to choose from and the only design restriction is that images of the artist or the artist’s work cannot be used. Details and information that must be included on the poster will also be provided. More information here.


This course has an engagement policy instead of an attendance policy. Your engagement will affect your final grade (and, by extension, the quality of your work) for this course. You are expected to actively and passionately take part in this course in the following ways.


Grades will be based on engagement (25%), exercises (25%), and projects (50%).

engagement (25%)

This percentage will be based on your engagement in the class which is explained on previous page but will include attendance, discussion and readings, critiques, and overall participation. Be engaged in this course and its content throughout the semester and this should be an easy 25%.

exercises (25%)

The exercises are graded using a basic rubric show in the PDF version of the syllabus. The rubric includes your ability to follow the instructions of the exercise and your ability to submit it on time. The exercises are meant to be quicker, skill building tasks that improve your projects and design knowledge.

projects (50%)

Each project will generate two different grades. One grade will be based on your ability to submit the required, weekly checkpoints for the project. These weekly checkpoints use a simple rubric based on your effort, timeliness, improvement, and completion. The second grade will be based on the final project you submit and has a more extensive rubric. At the end of the semester you will have 6 total project grades that are all weighted equally for this 50%. The rubrics used for grading the checkpoints and projects are in the PDF syllabus.


Rubrics are used to grade exercises, projects, and checkpoints. The rubrics are available in the PDF syllabus.


Your ability to communicate with me is of prime importance in this course. If you are going to be absent, late, or not have your work, it will be your best interest in communicating those things to me in advance. I do not need to know your reasons for being absent, late, or not having your work but I do need to know. A simple, short email will be fine.

The same goes for if you are struggling in this class or having other issues that are hindering your ability to complete work in this class. The more you keep me in the loop the more I can help you and adjust as needed.

Weekly Schedule

Class is on Thursdays from 1:30–4:10. Most days we will meet for the entire time but some weeks we will have individual meetings or end early. Unless otherwise specified, all work is due at the beginning of class.

A note—Time management is an important skill to master and should be worked on all your classes. Staying up all night working is not a badge of honor, it typically means you didn’t budget your time correctly. Staying up all night isn’t healthy and, especially now, making sure you are keeping yourself healthy is your first priority.

A second note—Printing doesn’t happen in five minutes. In order to be prepared for class you will most likely need to print things the day before, or at the very least several hours before class. Sending something to print an hour before class will most likely result in you not being prepared for class because the print isn’t ready to pick up or because you don’t have time to trim, glue, tape, etc.

Semester Schedule

The schedule on this site is an outline of what we will be covering this fall. It is subject to additions and subtractions.

Discussion of Work

You will need to take an active role in both the presentation and discussion of your work. We will review projects in a variety of ways and you are expected to be able to talk and write about your own work and give feedback to your peers about their work. The ability to discuss your work and other student’s work is a very important part of your education at Mason. Use this class to improve on those skills.

Visual Voices Lecture Series

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 four Thursday evenings from 7:20–9:00 pm:

For Fall 2021, this lecture series will be held online.

Space Talk: Anti-Racist Student Engagement Initiative

Please join the School of Art for a virtual, forum style student panel where students will lead discussions about topics relating to inclusion, equity, and responsibility in the classroom, on campus, and anywhere else where people share space.

Keep an eye on your email for more information.

Exhibition With Nova Community College

The last two years challenged the global community in unique ways. There was fear, confusion and the loss of human contact and connection. But throughout this global test of humanity there was also inspiration, innovation and the discovery of new ways to connect, new ways to be a community. This exhibition acknowledges the many ways our daily lives have changed while celebrating the new discoveries made during turbulent times. From the increased need for digital connection to personal revelations all artwork addressing change or growth will be considered. Artists are encouraged to share their personal narratives or social observations through any medium. Any NOVA or Mason student enrolled in a 100 or 200 level course is eligible to participate. Winners will receive monetary prizes. Details will be announced in September 2021.

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.

Attendance Policies

Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class (including sections that meet online) 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

To promote a stronger sense of mutual responsibility, respect, trust, and fairness among all members of the George Mason University Community and with the desire for greater academic and personal achievement, we, the student members of the university community, have set forth this Honor Code: Student Members of the George Mason University community pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work. https://oai.gmu.edu/mason-honor-code/

Non-Confidential Employee Disclosure

As a faculty member, I am designated as a “Non-Confidential Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy 1202. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of Mason’s confidential resources, such as Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) at 703-380-1434 or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 703-993-2380. You may also seek assistance or support measures from Mason’s Title IX Coordinator by calling 703-993-8730, or emailing titleix@gmu.edu.

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).

Anti-Racism Statement

I explicitly reject white supremacy and racism and am committed to equity, justice, and democracy in society, on campus, and within my classrooms. No matter the name or label, anti-Black and anti-Semitic, and racist thought and action are antithetical to my mission and values as an educator. I condemn the divisive and intimidating tactics of white supremacist views.

I recognize that systemic racism is pervasive within our society and institutions, and pledge to combat it through receiving critical feedback on how I can be more inclusive and being more self-aware of my privileged identities. Including the use of collective teaching, programming, scholarship, and service. I want you, Mason’s students, to know that I am committed to fostering a classroom where everyone can learn without the chilling effects of bigoted views.

I am determined to uphold the University’s mission, which states that, “We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards as educators, scholars, and professionals,” and thus am committed to creating a culture of excellence, inclusion, and accessibility.

I welcome all members of our extended community regardless of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, sexual identity, gender identity, socioeconomic status, political or institutional affiliation, and ability, and am fully dedicated to promoting a diversity of voices and views as an academic department.

I recognize that there is still much self- and systemic-work to be done to make the spaces of the University safe and hospitable to all and am committed to continuing to do that work. My door is open to any students seeking support or guidance.

Land Acknowledgment

We acknowledge the Monacan Nation, including the Manahoac people, the traditional owners of the land and waters upon which our University stands.

Writing center and Library Resources

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. For Spring 2021, the Writing Center is holding all sessions online, with writers choosing between meeting their tutor in real time on Zoom or uploading a draft for their tutor’s written feedback. Please send your questions to wcenter@gmu.edu

Provisions Research Center for Art & Social Change 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. Contact Don Russell for more information: drusse10@gmu.edu

Art and Art History Librarian, Stephanie Grimm, will offer appointments and office hours (in-person and virtual) for the Fall 2021 semester:https://go.gmu.edu/sgrimm4

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences

Students with disabilities who seek accommodations in a course must be registered with the George Mason University Office of Disability Services (ODS) and inform their instructor, in writing, at the beginning of the semester http://ods.gmu.edu

Official Communications via Mason E-mail

Students are responsible for the content of university communications sent to their George Mason University e-mail account and are required to activate their account and check it regularly. All communication from the university, college, school, and program will be sent to students solely through their Mason e-mail account.

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 School of Art 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 in College Hall.