Lose your syllabus? Download another one, no extra charge | The Berry COM jobs/internships site

"The more you see, the more you know. The more you know, the more you see." Aldous Huxley
"Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing."
Little Elf Judy, The Santa Clause

Course schedule
(subject to change, so don't print out once and treat as gospel; refer back regularly)

Class session
Texts, Readings, Resources

Week 1: Jan. 13

Introduction to visual communication, syllabus, key course concepts

What is culture? What is visual culture?

Semiotics of architecture: a campus tour | outline for note-taking (.pdf download)

Artifacts: Pictures at an (safari) exhibition | Instagram mansions, museums and factories (simulacra)

For Friday:
1. Read the syllabus for a possible quiz
2. Read Michael Kimmelman on culture
4. Your first safari, instructions on Wandering Rocks

Week 2: Jan. 20

No class Monday: MLK, Jr. Day

Signs & Symbols | Color | Vision | Culture

The visual rhetoric of comics (outline for note-taking): What is the grammar of comics and cartoons? The vocabulary? What is the rhetoric of comics?

Light as metaphor: How we see by how we hear | Light as metaphor (9:45) | Data visualization | Afghan eyes | eyeball pics |

Artifacts: Saudi Arabia to ban the "X" | Swastika on a Buddha | Harvard Law sugar plantation seal | LA County seal ruled unconstitutional | Comics to teach science | Annotated Watchmen | Viking rune with a code!

For Wednesday: Your Kimmelman response. Instructions on Wandering Rocks.

For Friday: Safari no. 2. Bring in an example of unusual, exotic, surprising visual rhetoric (instructions in class)

Week 3: Jan. 27


The Gutter: Chris Rock, Kristi Yamaguchi | Michael Moore's opening | Sans Forgetica | New Yorker designer Christoph Niemann and visual 'language'

Seeing, sensing, selecting & perceiving

How we perceive:

  • FORM

Artifacts: One second (cancer patients) | BBC's optical illusions | Visual rhetoric of tattoos | an explanation of Fair Use | Designing playing cards

For Friday: Safari no. 3. Bring in a photographic example of light used as metaphor. Original photography only. No photoshopping; no arranging; as naturally found.

For Friday: Comment on WanderingRocks on the question of seeing as a creative act

Week 4: Feb. 3

Introduction to visual communication theory

  • Gestalt (Think brown)
  • Semiotics (Berger, Peirce, Barthes)
  • Constructivism

Peirce's symbolic types: iconic, idexical, symbolic

Artifacts: Personification | The Night Watch, Rembrandt | Background on The Night Watch | baked cakes as visual culture? | Logo-ology


For Wednesday: Safari no. 4. Bring in a photo you will take of a symbol you don't recognize. Then find out what it means, or is intended to mean.

Week 5: Feb. 10

Visual communication theory

Berger's, analogical, displaced, condensed codes (outline for note-taking)

Cognitive theory (memory, projection)

Artifacts: Snicker's ad (metoynmy) | The Washington Post on Snicker's ad

For Monday: Safari no. 5. Take a photo of the best example of Gestalt you can find. Type up WHY you believe it to demonstrate Gestalt, explaining how the denoted elements add up to much larger connotations.

For Friday: Safari no. 6. A print advertisement that has Peirce's iconic, indexical, and symbolic signs. Include a paragraph CLEARLY identifying each of the three in the image, explaining why each representation is in fact what you say it is. If you need multiple ads to find all three, that's fine.

Week 6: Feb. 17

Denotation/Connotation (Roland Barthes) (outline for note-taking)


Anti-stimulus bill editorial cartoon case study:

Popeye's chicken special case study:

Artifacts: Metaphor in The Accountant

For Friday: Safari no. 7. Berger code safari -- Find one or more print advertisements that use metonymic, analogical, condensed, and displaced symbolic codes to persuade. Include a paragraph CLEARLY identifying each of the four and explanations that CLEARLY demonstrate that you know the codes' definitions. If you need multiple ads to find all three, that's fine.

Week 7: Feb. 24

Media representation & ethics of representation

Artifacts: Colbert's Stereotypes One | Two | Terrorist stereotypes | An image is missing (for Latinos) | Gender role reversals | Axe's hair meets boobs | "Black" ice | Whitewashing Hollywood (Last Week Tonight) | What Hollywood Keeps Getting Wrong (The Daily podcast) | Racial bias in color film -- the actual film stock | Pulling for 'the Caucasians' | Wahoo now taboo in Cleveland | The Green Book and white fantasies

Memory >> Fons Americanus and Rumor of War

Artifacts: National Memorial for Peace and Justice (memory) | Monuments, memorializing and Take A Knee from the New York Times | Lynching memorial/museum, Montgomery AL

For Monday: Safari no. 8. The best example you can find of simple denotation that communicates many connotations.

Week 8: March 2

Week 9 wiped out because of Covid

Spring Break just prior

No class next week: SPRING BREAK!!

Visual Persuasion & Advertising: Gestalt, myth, persuasion, aspiration & fear

Artistotle's Logos, Pathos & Ethos

Artifacts: Lloyds Bank of London ad A Fairy Tale | Stallions | Stallions II | 'Your Life is a Story' (Dulux) | The Think Different (Apple, 1997) | adidas 'Originals' (2018)

Cymbalta case study:

Artifacts: Anti-gay marriage ad | CatholicVote ad | tobacco advertising archives | "Brosurance"

Due Friday: First midterm. Take-home. Submit hard copy of only answers. Stapled, with name and honor pledge/signature.

The rubric the professor will use to evaluate your work

Week 10: March 23

Visual Persuasion & Advertising

Eisenstein's collision of images

Artifacts: Logorama | 30 Rock strikes again | Starbucks on Best In Show | Mazda ad with Mia Hamm | Canesten TV ad | Ad Age's Top 15 campaigns | Ambient advertising

For Monday: View Joshua Foer's TED talk on memory palaces | Read the Times on the same | And a fun memory palace puzzle

For Friday: Describe the memory palace you created and how it helped you remember something you otherwise wouldn't have. The prompt is right here on Wandering Rocks. Due by classtime.

Week 11: March 30


Powerpoint (for notetaking)

Artifacts: BC's Prezi down Broad Street (typeface tour) | Obama & Pepsi | Obama, Change & Gotham | Spirit Airlines (seriously?) | Papyrus and Avatar (SNL) | Ten Infographics on Type | | Type sketch on College Humor | Typography Deconstructed | Metamorphabet | Why you should care about type (FastCompany) | If typefaces were cats | Designer of Transport typeface on Top Gear | | | The Kerning Game | Typeface for people with dyslexia (and why it matters)

For Monday: Read "Man of Letters" article from The New Yorker magazine (quiz probable)

TV ad safari (safari no. 9) CANCELED (version of this in Canvas discussion)

For Friday: Safari no. 10. Instructions on Wandering Rocks. A few resources:

Looking ahead: Choose your favorite school or era of graphic design

Week 12: April 6

Graphic Design | The Six Perspectives

  • Balance
  • Unity
  • Contrast
  • Rhythm
  • CVI
  • Z pattern
  • The Big Idea (metaphor)

Artifacts: History of movie posters | negative space logos | negative space II | title sequences and title screens | great logo examples | Good minimalist logos | Nieman Reports: Visual Journalism | Six creative front pages | Global slave trade in 2 minutes, from

For Monday: Read mini graphic design history AND The Six Perspectives

For Wednesday: Safari no. 11: Beautiful, artful design safari CANCELED (replaced with group safari)

Week xxxx:

(the lost week)



For Wednesday: 8-minute group briefings on the various design era or school or philosophy. Instructions on Wandering Rocks. CANCELED

Week 13: April 13

Photography | Emmitt Till

Artifacts: New York Times photo blog | Groundhog Day in Thailand | Photos That Lie | NAACP and images | Emmett Till memoria app

No class Friday: Good Friday

For Wednesday: Comment to post, "Photography is like . . ." Instructions on Wandering Rocks

For Friday, read Emmitt Till .pdf (required for admission to the class; failure to read this is an absence) CANCELED

Week 14: April 20

Photography to Cinema (still to moving images)

La Jetée | On Kanopy (free)

Artifacts: the first moving images: serpentine dances | pathos in Dick's Sporting Goods ad

For Monday: Safaris no. 12 and no. 13. Bring in a still photo you will take of a "broken dream" interpreted as you wish. Include date taken and location. No photoshopping.

As divided up in class, one photo of a. the mundane, everyday, banal, b. the ugly, grotesque or hideous, or c. the poignant, timeless, poetic. For both safaris: writeup/explanation

Due Wednesday:
Midterm II: iPhone ad for VW | grading rubric

For Friday: Safari no. 14. One photo to sustain you in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic future. A rebellion against time: The future cannot deny the past. (Safari based on La Jetee)

Week 15: April 27

Bringing it all together: Memory, nostalgia, 'seeing' as a creative act, persuasion, silence/absence

The Future

Read for Monday: Martin Scorcese on why Marvel movies aren't cinema

Read for Wednesday: Dr. Carroll's piece on (not) remembering slavery in Savannah (required reading)


Take-home final exam due TBA

Examples of alternate (film) responses:

pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972)

“It is a paradox of the twentieth century that while visual images have increasingly come to dominate our culture, our colleges and universities traditionally have devoted relatively little attention to visual media.” Sturken and Cartwright, Practices of Looking (2001)

Course Description: Study of visual theory, visual literacy and how visual images are used to persuade. Students study and interpret audience-specific visual culture and communication, and the rhetoric of visual materials.

Course Purpose & Objectives: By the end of this course, my goal is for students to --  

  • Better understand how images and their viewers make and communicate meaning.
  • Know how to study and decipher images for their textual meanings by applying methods of interpretation. (Object of focus: images.)
  • Examine modes of responding to visuality, or the practices of seeing or looking. (Object of focus: viewer/reader/audience.)
  • Explore the roles images play in culture and how those roles change as the images move, circulate, become appropriated and cross cultures.
  • Likewise, explore how cultural influences determine the type of visual messages used and how they are interpreted.
  • Learn a grammar and ethics of seeing and of producing visual messages.

What you may want (recommended but not required):

  • Visual Communication, Paul Martin Lester (Thomson), fifth edition
  • Ways of Seeing, John Berger (Penguin)
  • The Image, Dan Boorstin (Vintage)
  • Ourspace, Christine Harold (University of Minnesota)
  • Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis (Wiley)
  • Visual Methodologies, Gillian Rose (Sage)
  • Graphic Communications Today, Ryan and Conover (Thomson)
  • On Photography, Susan Sontag (Picador)
  • Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright (Oxford)

Stuff you need to know:

Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
Office: Laughlin Hall 100
Office phone: 368.6944
Home page:
Blog: Wandering Rocks

Office hours: MWF 3-5pm; T 1-5pm or by appointment or just drop by any time


• Attendance: Attendance is a part of your grade. Be here every day on time, just as you would for a job, surgery or even a haircut. Everyone gets one unexcused absence >> no questions asked. Stuff happens. After that, unexcused absences will result in deductions from the "professionalism and participation" portion of your grade -- one point for each unexcused absence and/or lateness to class. What is excused is at the instructor's discretion, so you are best served by discussing situations and extraordinary circumstances prior to class whenever possible.

• Distractions: This instructor is easily distracted. Ringing cell phones, therefore, will be lobbed out of the classroom window and/or run over with a truck. Chatter during lecture will result in "professionalism and participation" point deductions, as will Facebooking, texting or any other Internet use during lecture or topic presentations, particularly after a warning has been issued. Do homework for other classes somewhere else. If you have to arrive late or leave early, clear it with the instructor beforehand whenever possible.

• Preparation: Complete the assignments and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss and debate ideas, approaches and opinions.

• Deadlines: When an in-class/in-lab assignment is due, it is due. This reflects the reality of many mass communication professions and work environments. Late in-class assignments will not be accepted unless permission for extension had been granted prior to deadline. Turn in whatever has been done by deadline. If we have out-of-class assignments, they will be accepted for up to one week after deadline, but late assignments will be penalized. Remember, penalized work is not necessarily the same as 0 (zero) points. Complete out-of-class assignments and learn from them, even if they are turned in late. After an assignment is more than a week late, however, that work is not eligible for points.

Please note: If a student misses a class when an assignment is due and that student has a legitimate excuse, the professor will accept the late assignment without penalty at his discretion. The professor defines what constitutes a legitimate excuse and reserves the right not to grant full credit for assignments turned in under these circumstances.

How you will be graded:

Weekly projects & blog posts 15%
Exam I 25%
Exam II 25%
Final exam 25%
Professionalism and participation 10%

For daily projects and blog posts, grades of check plus, check, check minus, and zero will be awarded. Roughly translated, check plusses = As; checks = Bs; and check minuses = Cs. The wide variability of subjectivity of these daily assignments, such as “bring in three examples of metonymic symbolism,” preclude a more precise grading scheme. The check system also facilitates a faster turnaround time.

To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

59 and below

Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

Berry Viking code
Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable because any breach in academic integrity, however small, strikes destructively at the college’s life and work. The code is not just policy, it is foundational to the academic environment we enjoy and in which scholarship thrives. It is in force in this classroom.

For the complete Viking Code, please consult the student handbook. In short, each student is “expected to recognize constituted authority, to abide by the ordinary rules of good conduct, to be truthful, to respect the rights of others.” The College’s mission, in part, commits to a community of integrity and justice. During an era when ethics are sometimes suspect, there seems no higher goal toward which students ought to strive than that of personal honor.

Students with special needs
If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities, please let me know. Come discuss it with me. I want to make sure on the front end that we prevent any problems associated with the course. Martha Van Cise, director of the Academic Support Center, suggests: “Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the Academic Support Center in Krannert Room 301 as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.”

Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, so let’s have some fun!

bc home | berry home | email the prof

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I believe this constitutes a "fair use" of such material under Title 17, U.S.C. § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.