Design & Education

RAP / Syllabus

Research, Analysis and Process
2018 Fall

COMD 240-06

Research, Analysis and Process

School of Design
Communications Design Department

2 BFA Studio Credits
Prerequisite: None

Thursday 09:00AM - 01:20PM
Steuben Hall, Room 410


Course Description

Bulletin Description:

This course is an introduction to the research methodologies and processes that form the foundation of successful communications design. It demonstrates how communication design is shaped by the problem solving phases of learning, identifying, generating and implementation and how these methodologies can be applied to the understanding of audiences, organizing content, developing strategies, and defining purposes.

Detailed Description:

Communications design is an ever-expanding field that demands students be accustomed to constant change and requires the development of confidence and core competencies for life-long practice. This course complements the Image as Communication course taken concurrently in the first semester of the sophomore year. 

In this introductory course, you will begin to develop frameworks for understanding the research process, in general, and will become familiar with the discourse of communication design research, specifically. Basic methods for locating, utilizing, and referencing diverse resource materials are introduced and the skills needed to comprehend and synthesize previously generated research results from within design contexts are fostered. Through readings, discussions, and work assignments you will improve your ability to analyze an image and appreciate the differences between in-depth visual research and basic fact-finding.

In class, you will be exposed to various research methodologies, theoretical writings and processes that are foundational to all conceptual thinking. The emphasis is on critical thinking, iterative design methodology, and the synthesis of research, design production and presentation. Outside of the classroom you are expected to read, research, edit, write and develop the documentation needed to support your assignment work. This includes visiting libraries, museums or other research facilities underscoring the importance of shared visual and verbal languages in order to clearly articulate your own theory of practice and purpose of design. The goal of the work outside of class is to develop a uniquely personal, efficient and informed perspective on various subject matter by deploying a well documented and dimensional research process. Research methods introduced in this course will serve as foundational tools for the ensuing coursework.


Course Goals

  1. To become familiar with the analysis of context (ethics, aesthetics, culture, society, economy, politics, needs).
  2. To acquire a knowledge of the essential communication design research methodologies and processes.
  3. To become familiar with tools for design research, analysis and synthesis to generate communication concepts.
  4. To understand the development, organization and editing of content for a project.
  5. To acquire an appreciation for the emerging concepts and language of different media platforms.
  6. To become familiar with documenting process as a tool to reflect on research, analysis, and synthesis.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Design strategically, critically, ethically and creatively for specific audiences, and contexts.
  2. Recognize and articulate the essential communication design research methodologies and Processes.
  3. Apply design tools for research, analysis, and synthesis to generate communication concepts.
  4. Effectively use a common vocabulary for the analysis of visual communications.
  5. Develop and organize self-driven design processes derived from personal interest.


Students will be required to complete three projects during the semester and document the research and development work produced in support of each assignments in a Process Log.

By the end of the course you will demonstrate your understanding of the concepts learned in class and will have researched three topics (using the problem solving methodology of learning, identifying, generating and implementation).

The focus of the projects is on responding to a design research question, building a body of research and developing visual communicative ideas and concepts (rather than producing a highly resolved final product). Deliverables will include design prototypes, experiments with form and written proposals. 

The three projects each cover a different aspect of the communication process and are designed to challenge you with problems that must be solved using the full range of production media-collage, graphic design, illustration, photography, typography, etc.

All projects are due at the end of the semester, and students are expected to continue refining the projects until the end. 

Project 1: New Skill

Students will research and learn a new skill. They will present their process and/or outcome in class in printed or digital form. Students may use any materials they wish to document their learning process. Photography, drawing, video and print are all acceptable. They must submit all your sketches and notes for review. This project addresses the learning outcome 1 to 3 

Project 2: New New York

Assignment is to rediscover New York City through the Design Analysis (Typology) process, described in the Chapter 4 of Visual Research. Students will collect numbers of items based on their interest and organize them according to LATCH theory. This project addresses the learning outcome 1 to 3.

Project 3: New Time

Students will reinvent "time". This project addresses all the learning outcomes.

Reading & Research Assignments

Select readings will be provided throughout the semester, giving students critical insight into the format and subject matter, with the intention of supplementing research and class work. Each week, one or two students will be assigned to present a specific topic in the assigned reading material.


Students will select a creative person (illustrator, designer, filmmaker and so on) or group of people (design studio, movement, and so on) you're aspire to, throughly research his/her/their creative process and present it as a visual diagram. You may create your own work according to the process. Students will work in a small group.  

Process Log (Process Book)

A Process Log is an easy way to share the back-story of a project - it allows a viewer to see the progression of a project from the beginning to end through research, rough sketches, screen shots, scans, photos, and multiple rounds of work. It must be organized according to course/program guidelines and include a cover with your name and the course title clearly visible. It should reflect the use of appropriate research and analytical skills. The Process Log should include the following chapters detailing the design process for each of the three assignments; Debriefing, Research, Observation, Discovery, Brainstorming, Ideation, Prototyping, Comping, Implementation.


Homework Projects Will Help You:

  • Closely examine the role of research and process in communications design,
  • Understand the impact that audience analysis and cognitive science have on strategic thinking and concept development, and
  • FInstigate your own self driven design process derived from personal interest and exploration.

  • Always safeguard your work by making a second copy on a back-up disk. Lost work due to disk malfunction or deletion is not excused and will have to be recreated for a lesser grade. Submitted work should be in PDF format unless otherwise specified. You should create a PDF document for each projects that includes all elements of your work for review.



    Assignments are graded based on how well student have achieve the particular Student Learning Outcome, as well as class participation, professionalism, and process & deliverable. Your final grade is arrived at by reviewing your accumulated assignment grade. The weighting for the final grade breaks as follows: 

    • Project No.1: 25%
    • Project No.2: 25%
    • Project No.3: 25%
    • Exercises: 25%

    Assessment is a very important part of your learning. Feedback on that learning helps you understand what is expected of your work at this level, what you have achieved so far, and how you can improve your work in future. We recognize how important it is that you receive feedback as soon as possible, so that you can apply that learning to new projects and assignments. As a result you are required to participate in mid-term and end of semester critiques. These critiques are conducted in the classroom as individual one to one discussions. All your work for the semester will be reviewed and in discussion with your professor and you will be given written feedback about your work.

    Midterm Grades You will receive a midterm grade at our one-on-one midterm evaluations the eighth week of class and then a final grade at the end of the semester. You are welcome to ask for a rough sense of your grade at any time during the semester.

    Assignments not completed by due date are automatically downgraded. A grade of Incomplete (INC) will be considered only for medical reasons or other documented serious circumstances beyond your control. Last-minute printing problems or loss of files because you did not back them up are not legitimate reasons for an Incomplete grade.


    A (4.0) / A- (3.7)

    Excellent Sustained level of superior performance in all areas of course requirements.


    B+ (3.3) / B (3.0) / B- (2.7)

    Above average Consistent level of performance that is above average in a majority of the course requirements.


    C+ (2.3) / C (2.0)

    Acceptable Performance that is generally average and course requirements are achieved.


    C- (1.7) / D+ (1.3) / D (1.0)

    Below average Poor level of work and performance and achievement of the course requirements


    F (0)

    Failure Accomplishment of the course requirements is not sufficient to receive a passing grade


    INC (n/a)

    Incomplete Automatically expires after the following semester.


    Recommended Reading

    Below are a selection of mandatory books that are mostly available in the Pratt Library. You will be responsible for reading any chapters or sections from these books given to you by your teacher as reading homework.

    Mandatory Reading

    • Basics Graphic Design 02: Design Research: Investigation for successful creative solutions By Neil Leonard, Gavin Ambrose
    • Visual Research: An Introduction to Research Methodologies in Design by Ian Noble and Russell Bestley, VA Publishing; 2nd Edition, 2011

    Supplementary Reading

    • Graphic Design Thinking by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, Princeton Architectural Press; 1st edition, 2011
    • The Storm of Creativity By Kyna Leski

    Recommended Reading

    • A Designer's Research Manual, 2nd edition, Updated and Expanded: Succeed in design by knowing your clients and understanding what they really need By Jenn Visocky O'Grady, Ken Visocky O'Grady
    • Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field By Helen Armstrong
    • This Means This This Means That, A User’s Guide to Semiotics by Sean Hall, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, Second Edition, 2012
    • Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems by Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin, Rockport Publishers, 2012
    • Designing Design by Kenya Hara, Lars Müller, 4th edition, 2015
    • White by Kenya Hara, Lars Müller, 1st edition, 2009
    • Ex-Formation by Kenya Hara, Lars Müller, 2015
    • Design Methodologies and Processes by John Bowers, Wiley, 1st Edition, 2011



    Attendance, Participation

    Departmental Attendance Policy

    There are no unexcused absences or cuts. Students are expected to attend all classes. Any unexcused absence may affect your final grade. Three unexcused absences may result in course failure at the discretion of the instructor. Unexcused tardiness may also affect your final grade. 

    Daisuke Attendance Policy

    Three unexcused absences will automatically result in failure for the semester. The first and second unexcused absences will result in a reduction of your final grade by one half letter. (Chronic lateness may also affect your grade.) An excused absence means that I have received notification of a legitimate excuse (such as illness or a personal or medical emergency) before class starts—preferably by the night before. We can then schedule a makeup time for our discussion.

    You are expected to arrive on time and be prepared to work for the entire period. Being late to the class twice count as one absence.

    Class Participation

    Class participation is an important part of this course. Students are expected to contribute to classroom discussion at every class meeting: to ask questions, make a comment or observation, respond to questions asked by faculty, guest presenters or classmates. Students are expected to work in class and be ready to sketch, work with analog or digital processes and present and discuss their assignments every week. Class participation will be monitored and the student’s grade will reflect the contribution made each week.

    Class time is devoted to presentations and critiques within which you will be asked to review your classmates’ displayed work. Such evaluations are very important in the development of self-analytical judgment.


    Required at Each Class

  • Weekly assignment completed to deadline date.
  • All previously completed work on the assignment as well as all related research materials.
  • Fulfillment of any other requirements issued in writing by your instructor.

    Course Calendar / Weekly Schedule

    Week 1 / August 30


    1. Introduction (Ice Break)
    2. Syllabus
    3. Lecture: Process in General
    4. Lecture: Learning Log (Process Book)
    5. New Skill: Introduction
      • Start debriefing
      •  Workshop: Mind Mapping & Word Listing

    Week 2 / September 6

    New Skill 1

    1. Lecture: Process (Debriefing, Research & Organizing Research)
    2. Lecture: What and how to do group crit
    3. New Skill: Group Crit 1
    4. Lecture / Workshop: Reframing


    Week 3 / September 14

    New Skill 2

    1. Lecture: Process (Ideation & Development)
    2. New Skill: Group Crit 2
    3. Lecture / Workshop: Presentation


    Week 4 / September 20

    New Skill 3 / Talent Show

    1. New Skill: Talent Show. 
      • Evaluation sheets.
    2. Lecture: Design Analysis (LATCH Theory).
    3. New New York: Introduction + Debriefing 


    Week 5 / September 27

    New New York 1

    1. New Skill: Reflect on what we have learned about the process through the first project.
    2. New New York: Group Crit 1
    3. Lecture / Workshop: Ethnography


    Week 6 / October 4

    New New York 2

    1. New New York: Group Crit 2
    2. Lecture / Workshop: Mapping

    Week 7 / October 4

    New New York 3

    1. New New York: Group Crit 3
    2. Lecture / Workshop: Group Work (Marshmallow Tower)
    3. Project #3 (TBD): Introduction

    Week 8 / October 18

    Mid Term Review

    1. One-on-One Tutorial
    2. Project #2 & #3: Group Crit

    Week 9 / October 25

    New New York 4

    1. Project #2: Final presentation 
      • Evaluation Sheet
    2. Project #3 (TBD): Group Crit 1
    3. Lecture / Workshop: Ideation (A+B, Visual Rhetoric...)

    Week 10 / November 1

    Project 3: Week 2

    1. Project #3: Group Crit 2
    2. Lecture: Typography

    Week 11 / November 8

    Project 3: Week 3

    1. Project #3: Group Crit 3
    2. Lecture: Mood Board

    Week 12 / November 15

    Project 3: Week 4

    1. Project #3: Final Presentation
      • Evaluation Sheet
    2. Lecture: ...
    3. Final Review: Introduction

    November 22

    Thanks Giving

    Week 13 / November 29

    Final Review / Reharsal

    Final Review: Class Presentation 

    Week 14 / December 6

    Final Review 

    Final Review: Panelists

    Week 15 / December 13


    1. Lecture: How to connect what we have learned to our future.
    2. Class Discussion

    Pratt Institute-Wide Information

    Academic Integrity Policy

    At Pratt, students, faculty, and staff do creative and original work. This is one of our community values. For Pratt to be a space where everyone can freely create, our community must adhere to the highest standards of academic integrity.

    Academic integrity at Pratt means using your own and original ideas in creating academic work. It also means that if you use the ideas or influence of others in your work, you must acknowledge them.

    At Pratt,

    • We do our own work,
    • We are creative, and
    • We give credit where it is due.

    Based on our value of academic integrity, Pratt has an Academic Integrity Standing Committee (AISC) that is charged with educating faculty, staff, and students about academic integrity practices. Whenever possible, we strive to resolve alleged infractions at the most local level possible, such as between student and professor, or within a department or school. When necessary, members of this committee will form an Academic Integrity Hearing Board. Such boards may hear cases regarding cheating, plagiarism, and other infractions described below; these infractions can be grounds for citation, sanction, or dismissal.

    Academic Integrity Code

    When students submit any work for academic credit, they make an implicit claim that the work is wholly their own, completed without the assistance of any unauthorized person. These works include, but are not limited to exams, quizzes, presentations, papers, projects, studio work, and other assignments and assessments. In addition, no student shall prevent another student from making their work. Students may study, collaborate and work together on assignments at the discretion of the instructor.

    Examples of infractions include but are not limited to:

    1. Plagiarism, defined as using the exact language or a close paraphrase of someone else’s ideas without citation.
    2. Violations of fair use, including the unauthorized and uncited use of another’s artworks, images, designs, etc.
    3. The supplying or receiving of completed work including papers, projects, outlines, artworks, designs, prototypes, models, or research for submission by any person other than the author.
    4. The unauthorized submission of the same or essentially the same piece of work for credit in two different classes.
    5. The unauthorized supplying or receiving of information about the form or content of an examination.
    6. The supplying or receiving of partial or complete answers, or suggestions for answers; or the supplying or receiving of assistance in interpretation of questions on any examination from any source not explicitly authorized. (This includes copying or reading of another student’s work or consultation of notes or other sources during an examination.)

    For academic support, students are encouraged to seek assistance from the Writing and Tutorial Center, Pratt Libraries, or consult with an academic advisor about other support resources.

    Refer to the Pratt website for information on Academic Integrity Code Adjudication Procedures.

    General Pratt Attendance Policy

    Pratt Institute understands that students’ engagement in their program of study is central to their success. While no attendance policy can assure that, regular class attendance is key to this engagement and signals the commitment Pratt students make to participate fully in their education.

    Faculty are responsible for including a reasonable attendance policy on the syllabus for each course they teach, consistent with department-specific guidelines, if applicable, and with Institute policy regarding reasonable accommodation of students with documented disabilities. Students are responsible for knowing the attendance policy in each of their classes; for understanding whether a class absence has been excused or not; for obtaining material covered during an absence (note: instructors may request that a student obtain the material from peers); and for determining, in consultation with the instructor and ahead of time if possible, whether make-up work will be permitted.

    Consistent attendance is essential for the completion of any course or program. Attending class does not earn students any specific portion of their grade, but is the pre-condition for passing the course, while missing class may seriously harm a student’s grade. Grades may be lowered a letter grade for each unexcused absence, at the discretion of the instructor. Even as few as three unexcused absences in some courses (especially those that meet only once per week) may result in an automatic “F” for the course. (Note: Students shall not be penalized for class absences prior to adding a course at the beginning of a semester, though faculty may expect students to make up any missed assignments.)

    Pratt Institute respects students’ requirements to observe days of cultural significance, including religious holy days, and recognizes that some students might need to miss class to do so. In this, or other similar, circumstance, students are responsible for consulting with faculty ahead of time about how and when they can make up work they will miss.

    Faculty are encouraged to give consideration to students who have documentation from the Office of Health and Counseling. Reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities will continue to be provided, as appropriate.

    Refer to the Pratt website for information on Attendance.

    Students with Disabilities

    The instructor will make every effort to accommodate students with both visible and invisible disabilities.  While it is advisable that students with disabilities speak to the instructor at the start of the semester if they feel this condition might make it difficult to partake in aspects of the course, students should feel free to discuss issues pertaining to disabilities with the instructor at any time.  Depending on the nature of the disability, and the extent to which it may require deviations from standard course policy, documentation of a specific condition may be required, in compliance with conditions established by the campus Learning Access Center, and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students who require special accommodations for disabilities must obtain clearance from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester. They should contact Elisabeth Sullivan, Director of the Learning Access Center, 718-636-3711.

    Religious Policies

    In line with Pratt’s Attendance Policy, Pratt Institute respects students’ requirements to observe days of cultural significance, including religious holy days, and recognizes that some students might need to miss class to do so. In this, or other similar, circumstance, students are responsible for consulting with faculty ahead of time about how and when they can make up work they will miss.

    Departmental Attendance Policy

    There are no unexcused absences or cuts. Students are expected to attend all classes. Any unexcused absence may affect your final grade. Three unexcused absences may result in course failure at the discretion of the instructor. Unexcused tardiness may also affect your final grade.


    Personal wireless devices must be inaudible at all times and used only for class purposes with permission of the instructor.