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Spring 2021 ︎ SUNY Purchase ︎ (DES 3240) Design Issues 

Introductions & Expectations

(please note that this is pretty long so that you can reference it later.)


In some ways, this is a version of a class that I always wanted to take as a student. I’ve probably said this a million times in my other classes, but graphic design is not simply the designing of graphics. Simply focusing on the technical component of design can, at times be, dispassionate. Design is not simply in a vacuum, and you are designing for, or as part of, a larger culture of art, food, music, etchics, vidjah games, events and the like. Design butting up against these cultural factors produces issues.

I want to create and foster a respectful and safe space where we can express passionate (and opposing, when applicable) opinions about the topics that we’re going to talk about in this class. I’m trying to get heated, excited, get out our hot takes, talk spicy, sip and spill tea, and understand what we really believe and why. I imagine something between the level of relative civility here

(I think these clips are also important because they also represent a merger between a kind of “high culture” that cable news used to represent and the “low culture” of then-contemporary music and comedy)

And the raw passion in these clips (minus the ad hominem and physical attacks)

I present such an extreme dichotomy in the hopes we can forge a close enough bond that we can joke with each other from a place of love and care. Just a note that hopefully goes without saying to remain respectful of one another; if Lil Wayne and Birdman can still hug each other after multi-million dollar lawsuits we can stay respectful in this class room. 


Here’s the official description of the class on the SUNY Purchase website:

Current issues of theory, methodology, and practice confronting graphic designers are explored through readings, discussions, and designed responses. Topics include modernist and postmodernist manifestos; semiotics, deconstructionism, and feminism; the role of the graphic designer in society; branding and visualizing data; copyright law; sustainability; and designing for a digital world and local and global economies. Students produce a final research project. Open to students interested in design; highly recommended for graphic design majors.

We’ll be adhering pretty closely to this.  We’ll typically come in to class having read or viewed material on a given topic, that was introduced the previous class. Three people will be selected to produce a piece of (designed and typeset) writing based on some component of the homework material and present and read that in class. There will be several longer term projects related to the readings which we’ll discuss as they appear.

Learning Objectives

This class aims to do the following:
  • provide a greater cultural, theoretical and historical context for the aesthetic manifestations of your design practice. 
  • define and expand skills related to critique and discussion of cultural, historical, theoretical influences on design.
  • define and expand critical thinking skills as they apply to the above influences and your own work.
  • expand writing skills as they apply to discussing the readings in the class and “speaking” in a colloquial voice, as opposed to an academic one.

Required Materials

  • Any other readings/viewings will be available linked on this site or through the  Moodle page for the class. 
  • (laptop) computer with Adobe Creative Cloud.


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 class together. However, the realities of life may make this policy feel more draconian than what it was intended to be.

  • 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 with 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.

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.


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).  
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.


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. This also includes the “no shuriken mode” challenges which will be part of all assignments.

All assignments are due on the date outlined in the physical project sheet & project web page. The following conditions constitute a late assignment:
    • You don’t have your project with you in any form.
    • Your project required it be sent in some form (ie via email), in advance and you did not send it.
    • 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.

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 your job. 

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

  • What year/major are you?
  • How are you feeling?/How is it going (on a larger meta level)?
  • What stuff are you passionate about/into that may not have come up before?
  • What do you hope to get out of and put into this class?

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