ENGW 2329: Document Design (Spring 2013)

ENGW 2329: Document Design (Spring 2013)

Mondays & Wednesdays
2:00 – 3:15 pm
Moody Hall 306
Document Design: A Guide for Technical Communicators, 2008.
Thinking with Type (2nd edition), 2010.
Click here for additional resources to help you with this course
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REQUIRED Technologies

Dropbox account
Email address you check at least daily
USB for storing work
WEEKLY Calendar
Click here for your week-by-week calendar and daily assignments
Click here for a quick reference for your major due dates in this class


Official Description: Students will be introduced to the principles of design and visual rhetoric. Students will also apply these principles to the design of print documents and online texts.

You’ve received a lot of training when it comes to writing content. All of your classes in all the disciplines have helped you think about what you want to say, but I’m willing to bet that you’ve had very little training in terms of designing the content you created.  Truth be told, the design of your information matters as much as the content when it comes to writing effectively and convincingly, and from this point forward, I want you thinking about the design of your content even as you’re writing it.

The primary objectives of Document Design are to introduce you to the concepts of visual rhetoric and information architecture, and to help you incorporate these concepts into your writing practices.

This class is unique among courses in the English Writing and Rhetoric major in that we will spend most of our time designing words rather than writing them. (You will, of course, have plenty of opportunities to write about the things you have designed.) Over the course of the semester, we will explore how typography, color, paper (or screen) size, and other factors influence the effectiveness of print and online documents. You will learn a new vocabulary that will enable to you talk intelligently about visual rhetoric. You will scour campus and the city of Austin for examples of good and bad documents, then you will make bad documents good and good documents better. You will work with your classmates to negotiate competing notions about what complex documents should look like and how they should function. Along the way, you will compile your best work into an electronic portfolio, which will serve as the foundation for the ENGW portfolio you will submit before graduating from St. Edward’s.

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • understand the role of design in (persuasive) communication;
  • explain the relationship between the written and visual components of print and online documents (that is, interpret the interplay of design and content in producing meaning);
  • distinguish between effective and ineffective visual documents even as you interpret the larger ethical and moral implications of design;
  • employ thinking, composing, and designing strategies that produce successful professional documents (or, if you prefer, adapt a message’s design to its rhetorical situation);
  • implement principles of effective document design in preparing documents;
  • participate in the collaborative planning and executing of a project; and,
  • use various software programs to enhance your documents.


You will complete four major assignments over the course of this semester. I’ll ask you to make posters for three very different audiences, redesign materials for a company, revision existing documents, and even start your own electronic portfolio, which is a required part of our ENGW major.

Document Design Projects (700 points)

Unit 1: Poster Redesign, 100 points total

Unit 2: Visual Identity Package, 150 points total

Unit 3: Document Makeover, 200 points total

Unit 4: Electronic Portfolio, 250 points total

You will also complete some daily work and two exams over the course of the semester. Our first exam will be a standard in-class test, and the second exam will be a take-home exam with an application component.

Other Required Activities (300 points)

Design(er) Identifications, 5 @ 20 points each for 100 points total

Exams, 2 @ 100 points each for 200 points total

Excellent (A): 900 – 1000 points
Strong (B): 800 – 899 points
Fair, Adequate (C): 700 – 799 points
Weak (D): 600 – 699 points
Unacceptable/Failing (F): < 600 points


You will complete much of your work for this course in small groups, and I expect you to fulfill your fair share of group work and interact courteously with your peers at all times. Most of our class sessions will be conducted in discussion/workshop format, and many of these workshops cannot be “re-created” outside of class, so regular attendance and active participation are essential to your success. Active participation may also include successful completion of reading quizzes, which will be used to assess your preparedness for a class meeting.