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Fall 2020 SUNY ︎︎︎ Purchase ︎︎︎ (DES4100) Community Design

introductions & Expectations


Here’s the official description of the class:
Brings senior graphic design students together in a collaborative design studio, simulating a “real world” professional studio situation. Students work directly with on-campus and nonprofit off-campus clients. Under the supervision of the faculty member, the students assume complete responsibility for the concept and development of multiple design solutions, production, printing, scheduling, maintaining client relationships, billing, etc. Required for graphic design majors.
We will be doing a version of this, but I’d also like to take the time to consider the a big question


In order to accomplish this we’ll be doing the following
    • Breaking up into pre-determined (totally random, or as random as Google’s random number generator is) teams.
    • Working with clients; receiving briefs, discussing an approach, iterating and distilling outcomes and deliverables.
    • Have readings, viewings and guests that examine the central question of the class. 
    • Conduct non-commercial projects and exercises as a way of said question. 
    • Be part of a collaborative semester-long mail workshop.


    • Increase your proficiency and experience regarding the management of client relationships and related professionalization.
    • Increase your proficiency, sensitivity, and awareness regarding working collaboratively, and collectively.
    • Increase your proficiency, sensitivity, and awareness regarding the societal role of (graphic) design and it’s applications that are not necessarily capitalistically oriented.

Required Materials

(If you have an issue with any of these let’s at least talk about and see what is possible to make things work)
  • Computer with Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Access to Adobe’s Fonts (through Creative Cloud)
  • A Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive or similar file sharing account with which to share your homework assignments, progress and sketches.
  • Reasonably stable internet connection (for synchronous Zoom sessions).
  • A sketchbook of some kind, that you are prepared to document and share. (I’m partial to the Muji Passport Memo pads as they are easy to keep in your pocket. Rhodia also makes a similar book. This can also be partially or completely digital. Milanote and Notion, tools like are.na, or pinterest are also useful. I might be one of the five people still on tumblr, but I like tumblr as well. Be prepared to share this supplemental work with each of your assignments).


As you know, SUNY Purchase, specifically the School of Art+Design, has a rather oppressive attendance policy (emphasis is my own):

There are no excused absences in the School of Art+Design. Three or more absences in any course will result in a failing grade. Excessive tardiness may count as absences. Please see your course syllabi for more details.

This is mostly a good thing, in that it places emphasis on being in a space class together. However, the realities of life may make this policy feel more draconian than what it was intended to be.

  • If you have 2 unexcused absences I will send out a Student Alert.
  • Be on time for class, within 10 minutes of the class’s start time, or...ya late.
  • Three latenesses = 1 absence.
  • Being on time, ideally, means arriving a little bit before such that you’re ready to go at the class start time. This is most important for critique if we need to hang up work, or send files to one another.
  • I will send an advanced warning to everyone if I’m in danger of being late.
  • Leaving class early without a valid reason (valid meaning, letting me know before class that you have to leave early) counts as being late.
  • If you leave without explanation more than an hour before the class is done this will count as an absence.
  • It sucks to have to repeat the same thing again, so if you’re late, I will not go back and re-teach any demos or concepts until after a demonstration or discussion is done. Please don’t disturb another student who was on time unless they are ahead and able to help you.
  • If you have a medical condition, job, or something going on personally that prevents you from getting to class on time, completing work, or being in class the entire duration please discuss it for me so I know.

TL;DR be on time and just be in contact with me in advance if you are going to be late or cannot attend class, I will do the same for all of you.

Note that, this semester, due to the nature of COVID-based virtual reality, I’m going to experiment with class sessions possibly being shorter, but with increased asynchronous responsibilites. You may have to view a tutorial during the week and we’ll field questions the following week. Additionally I may ask you to view something like a movie or Star Trek episode, and I’ll have a screening session which may happen outside of class. Additionally I will have “Open Office Ours” on Wednesdays from 1PM to 4PM. I’ll leave a Zoom session open which you can just drop in on it.

Grading (the class)

SUNY Purchase Grading Guidelines︎

I find most descriptions of the grading process a bit vague. Here’s an attempt to explain each grade letter by what through what two hypothetical people did in a semester for each grade; in as few words as possible.


You are somewhat timid in class but your work possesses a certain je ne sais quoi, or your work is more advanced and you are forced into this class by some twist of fate.

I have to tell you to stop participating in class discussions & your work consistently goes beyond the boundaries of the assignment (in a good way).  


Your work is well constructed and shows a noticable amount of effort and dedication, is submitted on time and you participate frequently in class. You were late to six classes without discussing with me at any point in the semester that you have a job, and your shift ends right before class.

Your work almost always shows an excellent level of effort and exploration, however you struggled significantly with between one and two projects.


You’ve shown up to class on time for every class, you’ve done the minimum requirements for every assignment, and you rarely participate in class discussions and critiques.

You communicate and participate in class discussion, but not to the degree where I’d have to tell you to stop to let other people join in. You submitted several of your assignments late but they showed promise and effort.

D & F

(If you are in danger of getting a D or an F,
you will more than likely be notified in advance)
You did (almost) nothing during the semester, the work you did hand in was multiple weeks late, you have to be reminded (constantly) to get off your telephone.Your work was extremely shoddily constructed and seems like you made it a couple minutes before class and you were absent for three weeks without letting me know.

Grading (assignments)

Assignments will be graded on the following criteria:
  • Appropriateness (20%) ︎Is the outcome related to the prompt? Did you follow whatever directions were involved and meet the minimum  requirements?

  • Craft/Execution (20%) ︎ This encompasses both digital and “analog” craft.  If  you needed to trim something, is it trimmed cleanly? Is your print out all wrinkled and shit? If I examine your files, are the layers well organized?

  • Effort (20%) ︎ How many versions did you try? Did you simply go with your first idea?  Did you attempt something outside of your comfort zone (which might take more time)?

  • Exploration (20%) ︎ Did you attempt one or more of the challenges in the project sheet? Did you learn a new piece of software or technique not outlined in the project? Did you do extensive (documented) research about a topic related to your piece?

  • Development (20%) ︎ Does the project reflect an evolution in your personal development as a designer?

  • je ne sais quoi (+10%) ︎ Je ne sais quoi is French for “I know not what.” Grading + subjectivity is hard, to that end, I’m adding an additional 10% to account for that. I will not grade you above 100% for an assignment but I will “bank” this factor for extra credit.

A Note on teams

Note that this class is, obviously, broken into teams. Please be patient, sensitive, and kind to the other members of your team. Know that again, I chose the teams completely randomly to avoid any perceived cliques, groups friendships, or just similar visual approaches that I’ve observed. Additionally, please put an amount of effort that you feel befits the team, will reflect positively on you as a group, and shows what you as an individual would want the rest of the team to put in.

I will not assign roles for a given project, but please try to be aware who is crafting copy more often, who is art directing, who is managing the deliverables and doublechecking them, etc.

I will generally resist breaking or regrouping the teams, but let’s please make sure that we address any interpersonal issues that might prevent people from working or communicating kindly, or at the very least cordially.

My hope is that for some projects you will work collaboratively to an extent that it will become synergistic, and it will be harder to extract who did what. That being said, please track your individual contributions and be aware, to the extent your grade matters to you, that those contributions are clear.

Submitting Assignments

Please, please please! Do not, ever, send an assignment as an attachment in an email. It will get lost/become difficult to track and make grading more difficult! I will provide a spreadsheet with a specific area for each assignment. Provide a link to your folder there. Include only the final versions of files there, do not send project files (inDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc), unless there is a specific reason to.

In the resources page, there is a description of how to name your folders and files, please follow it. This is less for reasons of “stickler”-ness but to make the grading and file collection process cleaner.

All assignments are due on the date outlined on the individual project page. These conditions qualify work as late:
    • You don’t have your project linked to the appropriate spread sheet before class.
    • You had an extenuating circumstance preventing you from completing the assignment, however you did not communicate with me at least 24 hours prior to class or figure out an alternative method of delivery.

You are welcome to submit previously submitted work again. If you change your idea, want to incorporate feedback from a critique, whatever the case is. Please do not delete the original files or links, create an additional link and add some indication of the version number in your folder.

Late work is subject to the following conditions:
    • Your work will not be critiqued.
    • You may submit your assignment again any subsequent week, however you will lose an entire letter grade for your assignment each week.

The point here is all assignment due dates are (almost always) attached to a critique. Critique is super important to me, and valuable to your development as a designer (and human). A critique where everyone has their work, everyone talks about each other’s work, and everyone has put a suitable amount of effort into their work to help generate conversation is a good critique. I totally understand the reality of doing things at the last minute, however handing things in on time, planning, and communicating with clients and colleagues effectively is part of the implicit agreement you make by being part of the class.

Schedule Overview︎

About Me

I live in Ridgewood, Queens with my three cats Cumberbund  (misspelling intentional), Titus, and Booger and my partner Hailey.  (I used to have this stuff embedded here but Cargo is determined to destroy me). I’m not going to link my work here, but you may have seen it in other contexts. My art stuff is linked here, and my (currently super out of date) animation stuff is here. I just don’t want any of my work to have any implication about what I consider good in class, but I’m happy to talk about whatever you’d like.

About y’all

I hesitate to ask any questions like...how was your summer? But if anything happened that was not...spiritually obliterating, I’m happy to talk about it. I’m going to do the “go around the room and say something about yourself” thing mainly to help me remember/internalize your names. But a more neutral thing to talk about might be what you hope to get out of the class, or what you’re excited to do.

First Project: COVID-19 Campus Safety Campaign︎

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