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DESN111 Introduction to Graphic Design

Unit rationale, description and aim

Good graphic design is essential to effective visual communication. Good graphic design is appealing and informative, useful and available to everyone, connected to history and willing to wrestle with complex social, political and environmental challenges. In this unit students will be introduced to the design process steps, principles and techniques of professional graphic design production. Assessment tasks increase in complexity, promoting critical thinking and building upon design research and technical skills. At the end of this unit students will have gained fundamental competence with design software and a foundation from which to effectively create and communicate design concepts, strategies and decisions.

The aim of this unit is to gain an understanding of current graphic design thinking and design trends, develop technical capability with a variety of industry design software options to produce designs for print and digital media.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Identify and describe the importance of the design principles used in effective visual communicationGC1
LO2Demonstrate the design process steps in the planning and production of a designed outcomeGC1, GC2
LO3Critically evaluate and justify via verbal and written means, their methodology and solution in response to a design briefGC1, GC2, GC8, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO4Apply your competency in a range of technical software skills used in graphic designGC1, GC2, GC8, GC10


Topics will include:

  • Digital imaging and graphic design software skill acquisition.
  • Application of design principles and choices in document layout.
  • The role and responsibilities of peer feedback in the iterative design process.
  • Imagining design solutions and outcomes in everyday contemporary culture.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit uses an experiential learning approach. Students will learn about designing for print and digital media through the learning activities, group critiques and assessments. This will provide them with the foundation to apply design principles to the creation of their own graphic design projects.

Students undertake this unit in workshop classes that consist of a) an explication of the requirements and practices associated with graphic design projects, b) discussion and reflection on the standards of projects in the Australian creative industries and c) work designed to further the needs of students’ own projects.

The learning and teaching strategy and rationale for this unit is to create experiences through the assessment items that enable engagement with the graduate attributes addressing written and oral analysis and visual communication and presentation. Classes will provide opportunities for students to critique, discuss, test and express values, knowledge, and skills that produce critical and reflective strategies for design.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit allows students to develop their expertise in the graphic design discipline. It provides opportunities to demonstrate skills and knowledge of the practices, materials, technologies and techniques in design practice. Students will be expected to work independently and will have the opportunity to show creativity throughout the process of developing a project brief.

The assessment strategy used allows students to progressively develop their knowledge and skills to the level of sophistication where they are able to produce their own designs for print and digital media. In order to develop this level of design capability, students first understand the design process through design briefs that further develop their understanding of graphic design concepts, techniques and software. The assessments are designed to address the learning outcomes relevant to graphic design in addition to instructional exercises in class to acquire technical design skills. This approach is designed to appeal to students with a preference for learning within a physical social environment and allows for essential skill development with expert support.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Image and text design outcome: to allow students to understand the design process, elements and principles


LO1, LO2

Typography research design outcome and presentation: to allow students to create and research a design concept and develop a design solution with a focus on typography


LO2, LO3, LO4

Major design outcome and written rationale: to allow students to demonstrate design skills by producing a completed project including evaluation of their design process


LO1, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Ambrose G., Harris P. (2018). Typography. (2nd ed.). Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Ambrose, G., & Harris, P. (2015). Design thinking for visual communication (2nd ed.). Fairchild Books.

Coupland, D. (2016). Tentacula: Douglas Coupland on Helvetica, clip art and the gangly beast that is the internet.

Dabner, D., Stewart, S., & Vickress, A. (2020). Graphic design school: The principles and practice of graphic design. (7th ed.). John Wiley.

Fitzgerald K., & VanderLans, R. (2010). Volume writings on graphic design, music, art and culture. Princeton Architectural Press.

Gautier D., & Gautier C. (2018). Design, typography, etc.: A handbook. Niggli.

Gosling E. (2019). The Design + Music Industries are BFFs AGA Eye on Design.

Heller, Steven, & Ilic, Mirko. (2012). Stop, think, go, do: How typography and graphic design influence behavior. Rockport Publishers.

Saccani A. (2013). Letterscapes: A global survey of typographic installations. Thames & Hudson.

Zegala, A. (2008). Redback Graphix. National Gallery of Australia.

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