IAT 110 Visual Communciation Course Syllabus


IAT110 will introduce non-SIAT majors to visual communication for art and design in digital media. This inquiry-based course will allow students to practice researching, writing and reflecting on a visual communication problem. Students will learn in a “studio style” lecture, where hands-on activities including sketching, journaling, and team discussions will be used to facilitate active engagement with the course ideas and approaches to acquire the fundamentals of analog and digital visual communication.

Students will be introduced to historical, political and technical dimensions of visual composition including the principles and elements of design applied to an image, a series of images and to image and text combinations. Seminal texts in new media theory will be central to discussions, assignments and lecture materials.

Notes: This is not a technically oriented or software training course, students will be expected to be highly motivated and self-sufficient in learning any necessary technical skills to complete the assignments. Students will be expected to use analog technics such as a pencil, a sketchbook, and image collaging tools. Digital tools required include access to a digital camera, laptop, tablet and open source applications.


Students will be prepared to:

  • Examine historical, political and technical dimensions of visual communications and design
  • Compare and contrast the tensions between analog and digital image production as it relates to visual communication problems in selected contexts.
  • Apply the principles of design including research, visual composition, sketching and analysis to an image, a series of images and to image and text combinations.
  • Reflect on their own perspective when solving visual communication challenges and how their personal stance shapes their design approaches, decisions, and solutions.
  • Critique their own designs and the work of others in terms of how elements within the design communicate idea and intention.


  • A sketchbook with white pages (no lines or squares). It has to be no bigger than letter size (8.5 x 11 inches) and no smaller than (5.5 x 8 inches).
  • An analog writing tool (pencil, marker or pen).
  • Access to a laptop computer or tablet that is able to process digital images and that has access to a wireless connection. You will need it to complete in-Class activities on CANVAS and in-Class Quizzes.
  • Have access to a digital camera. Camera phones or other lower quality cameras are fine as long as the picture is at least 10-mega-pixels in resolution quality.
  • There are two required books for this class. Additional readings will be distributed digitally through CANVAS via SFU Libraries.

Required Readings:

Ruben Pater, The Politics of Design: A not so Global Manual for Visual Communication (BIS Press, 2016);

Scott McLoud, Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art (Harper Perennial, 1994)


  • All e-mails should have the course (IAT 110) as a subject.
  • Please include your SFU ID # in your email.
  • Emails are answered Monday – Friday within 48 hours. Instructors are not expected to respond to messages late in the evening or on weekends. If a message is sent late on Friday afternoon or during the weekend, students should not expect to receive a response until the following week.
  • We do not provide design critique via email, please visit office hours or arrange a meeting time.
  • We do not provide grades feedback via email, please visit office hours or arrange a meeting time.
  • There should be a clearly articulated question that may be answered within a few sentences. If longer response is required, it will be recommended that you attend an office hour or arrange a face-to-face meeting.


Attendance & Participation (Individual)                    10%

– Students post weekly responses to in-Class activities.

– Submissions are done in CANVAS in-Class.

Critical Reflections    (Individual)     25%

– Reflection on readings and in-class activities to prepare students for the quizzes.

– Submissions are done in CANVAS

Quizzes (Individual)   30%

– Quizzes are done in class and submitted through CANVAS. There are three quizzes during the semester.

Final Project (Team)              35%

Final project consists of 4 milestones. Submitted through CANVAS

FP- M1 -Storyboard I– Individual    5%

FP- M2 -Storyboard II – Team      10%

FP- M3 -Prototype and Testing      10%

FP- M4 Final Project                    10%



You must be in attendance, engaged and actively working in class to achieve the participation grade (10%).

Your attendance and participation grade is based on your weekly involvement in in-Class activities. In these activities, you will apply the skills and reflect on concepts learned in class. Some activities will be team based and others individual. You will be always graded based on your individual submission.

  • Weekly in-Class activities are held during class time, they are time sensitive and are submitted on CANVAS. They can be held at the beginning, the middle or the end of lecture time. You are expected to attend the lecture from beginning to end.
  • You will be expected to document and upload material to fulfill in-class activities.
  • You will need each week in class: sketchbook, pencil, sharpener, fine line marker, camera (reasonable cell phone camera is fine), tablet or computer with internet access
  • You will be expected to document and upload material to fulfill in-class activities.
  • We will not accept the in-class activities if you were absent. You must attend class to do the in class activities.
  • If you are absent due to illness or another pressing matter you are required to provide an official note of absence and let us know in advance. There are no extensions or redoes for in-class activities.
  • If you provide an official note of absence and let us know in advance you can be excused for up to 2 absences during the term.



Critical reflections are based on readings, lecture materials, and in-class activities. They are designed to help you prepare for the quizzes. You will be required to solve several visual communication problems, which will involve a written reflection and documentation of your process. You have 3 critical reflections this semester. They are assigned each week and are due every third week. Check the schedule for due dates.

Critical Reflection 1 (wk. 1- 3) – 9%
Critical Reflection 2 (wk. 4-6) – 8%
Critical Reflection 3 (wk. 7-9) – 8%

  • Critical Reflections are individual assignments posted and submitted on CANVAS.
  • You will have approximately one week to solve them.
  • No late critical reflections will be accepted. Check the due dates and plan in advance.

 QUIZZES (30%)

Quizzes are individual, on-line, time-sensitive, and administered through Canvas. They are expected to be completed in the beginning of class unless otherwise specified. Questions will be from your reading, in-class activities and lecture material.  You have 3 short quizzes over the semester.

  • On the day of the quizzes you are expected to bring a fully charged and well-functioning laptop computer, phone or tablet that has access to wireless Internet.
  • No late quizzes will be administered. Check the due dates and plan in advance.


There is one final project in this course. Your final project will bring together the skills and concepts learned in class. It is team-based project and has one individual component

FP- M1 -Storyboard I– Individual 5%
FP- M2 -Storyboard II – Team 10%
FP- M3 -Prototype and Testing 10%
FP- M4 Final Project 10%

  • The instructor will assign teams.
  • The teams will be of three students each.
  • Final Project will be introduced approximately on week 6 and will be due in week 13.


Acts of academic dishonesty will result in a grade reduction or school disciplinary action at the instructor’s discretion. Acts of academic dishonesty may include cheating and plagiarism.

Avoid Cheating by ensuring:

  • All work must be produced by you for this course during this semester.
  • All work must be made for this course. Submitting images that were taken before the course (even taken by you) is considered as academic dishonesty.

And consider the following:

  • You may not have other people/students complete assignments for you.
  • If you are not sure if your work would qualify as original please ask.
  • You may be asked to verify that you created your project, please keep all project working files. All instances of cheating will be reported to the University.

Avoid Plagiarism by citing all your sources. This means acknowledging all sources of inspiration in your projects. If your work refers to an existing work, you must cite the original in your submission or presentation.  Failure to do so will be considered plagiarism.

For reference and clarification, please see SFU’s Academic Honesty policy.Links to an external site.

To know how to cite a source, Go to Modules > Resources + Help > How to cite a source that is not yours?. How to cite a source that is not yours?

Plagiarism is never tolerated; when in doubt, ask us and cite it.


You are responsible for checking CANVAS for updates on due dates and plan in advance. If you will be having concerns with any course requirement, talk to your instructor BEFORE the due date. Any arrangements are made only BEFORE the due date. You may be asked to provide verification of reason for any special arrangement, such as a doctor’s note.

  • No late quizzes will be administeredYou are expected to bring a fully charged and well-functioning laptop computer, phone, or tablet that has access to wireless Internet to complete in-class activities and quizzes.
  • Files incorrectly submitted to Canvas – for example, submitting a PDF that cannot be opened – will receive a penalty on the resubmitted file of 25% plus 1 point per day not resubmitted (after the grades have been released). It is very important to ensure that your deliverables make it in on-time and in an uncorrupted fashion. We will leave you a comment (in the assignment comment section) to let you know if your file does not open and if a re-submission is needed. Therefore, checking the comments as soon as the grades are released is extremely important to resubmit in a timely manner.
  • Final Project milestones will receive 1 point deduction per day late.
  • No Late Critical Reflections or in-class activities are accepted.
  • You are excused for up to 2 in-class activities during the term.


All information of this course will be available on CANVAS. It is your responsibility to check it for updates. Due dates are stated in Canvas, we will not accept the excuses for not knowing when an assignment is due.

All assignments should be submitted via Canvas. We do not accept email submissions (except if the instructor or one of the TAs requests the student to submit by email).

If you need help with Canvas please ask the TAs or check Canvas Student Guide under Resources + Help

If you have a canvas problem that we cannot help you with, here is Canvas help desk info:

Burnaby IT help desks | SCP 9300 (SE corner of AQ) and Library 778.782.4828 | www.sfu.ca/itservices/help

Surrey IT help desk Podium 3, Room 3505 778.782.7490 | help-surrey@sfu.ca

Vancouver IT help desk HCC 1300 | 778.782.5030 | www.sfu.ca/vantechhelp



All the grades in this course tally to 100% to make it easier to track progress through the term. To translate the percentage to a letter grade, this course uses the SIAT standard grading scale for final letter grades.

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What grades mean:
A: Exceeding expectations
B: Meeting expectations
C: Not-quite meeting expectations.
D/F: Not meeting/failing expectation



All questions pertaining to grading should be directed to the person (either the instructor or one of the TAs) who graded your assignment. To know who assessed your work, click on the rubric icon and view the name at the top-right corner.

If TA’s is unable to provide an adequate answer or if further discussion is required please email your instructor. In your email, send the instructor the feedback you received from your TA. Also, please explain in detail your arguments for why the given mark was inappropriate. The reconsideration of a grade may result in the grade being raised, lowered or remaining unchanged.

Reasons not related to performance will not be considered. For more info, read Grade appeals section in SFU Grading and the Reconsideration of Grades PolicyLinks to an external site.



If you are experiencing difficulty, speak to your instructor. A crucial mistake often made by students is not asking for help or not asking for help early – the end of the semester can produce a lot of stress – do not wait to ask for help or put off doing your assignments to the last minute.

Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the instructor for a confidential discussion of their individual needs for academic accommodation.
For more information: please visit the Center for Students with Disabilities at SFULinks to an external site.


  • Students are expected to attend all classes and arrive on time.
  • Students will be respectful of other students and the instructor. In particular, students will not talk while the instructor or another student is talking.
  • A student who fails to behave respectfully in class may be asked to leave.


**All course procedures (including topics, assignments, due dates, and evaluations) and policies in this syllabus are subject to change. Any such changes will be noted in-class and/or electronically. Students are responsible for tracking and working within any such changes in procedures.


Course Summary:



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