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"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: Aug. 20

Introduction to visual communication, syllabus, key course concepts

Semiotics of architecture: a campus tour | First outline (.pdf download)

What is culture? What is visual culture?

For funsies: Pictures at an (safari) exhibition | Freddie Wong: What's up, Internet? | Gamer Commute | "Brosurance": Selling insurance to young people

For Friday:
1. Read the syllabus for a possible quiz.
2. Contemplate the questions, "What is culture?" and "What is visual culture?"
3. Read Michael Kimmelman on culture
4. Read Intro and Ch. 1 of The Age of the Image

Due Friday:
Your first safari (instructions here)

Week 2: Aug. 27

Signs & Symbols | Color | Vision | Culture

Apkon, The Age of the Image (chs. 1 & 2) discussion

The visual rhetoric of comics (outline)

Ask yourself: What is the grammar of comics and cartoons? The vocabulary? What is the rhetoric of comics?

For funsies: Visual media & discursive surfaces | Personification | Roy Lichtenstein and the rhetoric of comics | 2000 lies (parody)

For Wednesday, Aug. 29: Your Kimmelman response. Instructions here, on the WanderingRocks.

For Friday:
Read Ch. 2, The Age of the Image
(possible reading quiz on first two chapters)

Due Friday: Safari for unusual, exotic, surprising visual rhetoric (instructions in class)

Week 3: Sept. 3

No class Monday: Labor Day

Silence speaking: Chris Rock, Kristi Yamaguchi | Michael Moore's opening | Visual rhetoric of tech product commercials

Seeing, sensing, selecting & perceiving

How we see | How we see by how we hear | | Light as metaphor (9:45) | Data visualization (Light! as metaphor)

How we perceive (COLOR, FORM, DEPTH, MOVEMENT) |

Aritfacts: Afghan eyes | Visual symbolism of 'State of the Union' addresses | One second (cancer patients) | Some cool up-close eyeball pics (thanks, Alex!) | BBC's optical illusions | Visual rhetoric of tattoos | an explanation of Fair Use | Comics to teach science | Annotated Watchmen

For Wednesday: Second safari: Bring in a photographic example of light used as metaphor. Original photography only; no photoshopping; no arranging; as naturally found (as opposed to interpreted) as possible. Typed, printed writeup with photo.

For Friday: Read Ch. 3, The Age of the Image | Read this New York Times article on MentalFloss


Week 4: Sept. 10

Introduction to visual communication theory:

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

Peirce's symbolic types: iconic, idexical, symbolic

Color, including red (The Night Watch, Rembrandt)

For funsies: Wahoo now taboo in Cleveland

For Monday: Comment on WanderingRocks on "seeing as a creative act" AND Safari #3: Bring in a photo you will take of a symbol you don't recognize. Then find out what it in fact means, or is intended to mean, to put in your writeup.

Safari #4, for Friday: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.

Week 5: Sept. 17

Berger's Metonymic (Snicker's ad), analogical, displaced, condensed codes -- another outline for note-taking. (The Washington Post on Snicker's ad)

Cognitive theory (memory, projection)

Safari #5, for Monday Friday: Bring in 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: Sept. 24

Denotation/Connotation (Barthes) case study | another outline for note-taking | The Accountant metaphor

Anti-stimulus bill editorial cartoon case study:

Popeye's Annie | Popeyes ad II | Minneapolis reaction | Rochester reaction | Hardee's and sex | Hardee's and sex II | Zesty Italian guy | Booker Wright and smiling at the white man

Aritfacts: Real complainers vote | Braves via infrared photography (New York Times)

Safari #6, for Monday: Berger code safari -- Find one or more print ads that use metonymic, analogical, condensed, and displaced symbolic codes to persuade. Include a paragraph CLEARLY identifying each of the four. If you need multiple ads to find all three, that's fine.

Week 7: Oct. 1

Stereotyping | Colbert's Stereotypes One | Two |The Racial Draft | Terrorist stereotypes | An image is missing (for Latinos) | Gender role reversals | Axe's hair meets boobs | "Black" ice | Whitewashing Hollywood | Racial bias in color film -- the actual film | Pulling for 'the Caucasians'


Aritfacts: Designing playing cards (thanks, Katy!) | National Memorial for Peace and Justice (memory) | Monuments, memorializing and Take A Knee | Lynching memorial/museum, Montgomery AL

No class Friday: BC in NC

Safari #7, for Wednesday: The best example you can find of simple denotation that communicates many connotations. The more the viewer has to work at creating meaning, the better. Submit photographic or image example, with explanation.

Week 8: Oct. 8

Visual Persuasion (advertising): Gestalt, myth, persuasion, aspiration & fear:

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

The Cymbalta ad on YouTube

Aritfacts: Anti-gay marriage | anti-anti-gay marriage vids | tolerance v. acceptance | CatholicVote | tobacco advertising

Also by Monday, view Joshua Foer's TED talk on memory palaces | Read the Times on the same | And a fun memory palace puzzle

For Wednesday, read Ch.s 4 & 5, The Age of the Image | Going viral, twice

Blog comment due Friday: Respond to the 'What's college for?' post.

Week 9: Oct. 15

Visual persuasion, part II: Product Placement & Appropriation

Product placement >> Logorama | 30 Rock strikes again | Starbucks on Best In Show

Aritfacts: Chipotle case study | Scarecrow Ad | Funny or Die critique | Mazda ad with Mia Hamm | Dissolve | iPhone parody | Canesten TV ad | Ad Age's Top 15 campaigns | Ambient advertising | Harvard Law sugar plantation seal

No class Monday: Fall Break

Blog post due Wednesday: 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 10: Oct. 22

BC's Prezi down Broad Street (typeface tour)

Typography (.ppt download)

No class Friday: BC at CMA in Louisville

Aritfacts: Obama & Pepsi | Obama, Change & Gotham | Gotham's print shop | Spirit Airlines (seriously?) | Papyrus and Avatar (SNL) | Ten Infographics on Type | What font are you? (Buzzfeed quiz) | 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 | | Free typefaces at FontSquirrel | The Kerning Game | Typeface for people with dyslexia (and why it matters)

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

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

Week 11: Oct. 29

Graphic Design | The Six Perspectives

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

Due by classtime, Monday: Take-home midterm answers printed out, stapled, with name and honor pledge/signature.

EJI midterm here
Alternate (traditional) midterm here

Wednesday by classtime: Type safaris

Week 12: Nov. 5

Graphic design II

Friday: Graphic design era presentations

Aritfacts: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 | Newest coolest thing I've ever seen: Global slave trade in 2 minutes, from

For Monday: Read Savannah slavery monument article by Dr. Carroll AND mini graphic design history

For Wednesday: Read the Six Perspectives.

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

Week 13: Nov. 12

Finish graphic design

Photography | Emmitt Till

La Jetée

Aritfacts: Migrant Woman Revisited | New York Times photo blog |Essay on Photography (.pdf download) | LA County seal ruled unconstitutional | Groundhog Day in Thailand | Photos That Lie

Blog post comment due Wednesday before class: On Wandering Rocks

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

Week 14: Nov. 19


No class Wednesday/Friday: Thanksgiving


Week 15: Nov. 26

Moving images

The Future | The Past (Conan)

Last day of class: Friday, Nov. 30

TWO safaris due Monday: 1. Bring in a still photo you will take of a "broken dream" interpreted as you wish. Include date taken and location. No photoshopping. 2. 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

(Last) safari due Wednesday: One photo to sustain you in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic future. A rebellion against time: The future cannot deny the past. AND read Ch. 6, The Age of the Image

DUE Friday, Nov. 30 in class: Second Major Assignment (advertisement for Pin Point)


Take-home final exam due 11am, Thursday, Dec. 6: turn in to Dr. Carroll's mail slot or slip under his office door (printed, stapled, with honor pledge >> no honor pledge signature, no grade).

  • Standard take-home final exam booklet
  • Alternate short film version

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 will need (required):

  • The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens, Stephen Akron (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013)
  • Access to a digital camera (model, sophistication not factors, and don't buy one just for class; you can borrow one

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 1-5; T 2-4pm 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!

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