Visual Communication (Archive: Wintermester 2019)

JOUR300 | Wintermester 2019 | Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno
Professor: Katherine Hepworth, PhD | Office: RSJ 205 | Office hours: Wednesdays & Thursdays 1-2pm (book here)


Course Description

This class introduces students to the difference between visual communication for personal expression and designed visual communication. It also presents an interdisciplinary perspective on how designed visual communication works. Students will design visual media using a combination of open source online tools and Adobe CC software.

Summary description from UNR Course Catalog
Study of visual literacy, perception, cognition, aesthetics, design principles, creativity, critical evaluation, and ethics related to the use of images and information in the media.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

Upon completion of this course:
1. Students will be able to to identify at least two communication strategies used within that artifact, the psychological effects that make those strategies effective, aspects of cognition (brain functioning) that relate to trigger those psychological effects.
2. Students will be able to create visual communication at a beginner level which is sensitive to ethical, legal, social, and economic context, combining theory (communication strategies) and process (online visual communication tools).
3. Students will be able to demonstrate a beginner level understanding of the ethical and legal issues related to using and producing visual media.
4. Students will be able to demonstrate a beginner level understanding of how successful media outlets increasingly rely on design for success.



  1. Gmail or Dropbox account (for using Google Drive or Dropbox to back up your work and share it between computers)
  2. Access to Adobe CC software (available in RSJ201, 202, and 214; and the Knowledge Center)
  3. Access to WebCampus


Students will need to confirm their identities during an in-person meeting or mandatory video conferencing session. The video conference will use Skype.

Mandatory conference sessions: At the beginning of the course, the instructor will announce multiple video conferencing sessions available to the entire class. Students will need to choose and reserve one session. These are mandatory participations. Students will receive a fail grade without a conference session participation or face-to-face meeting.

Identification check: The conference session will start with the identification check of each student. Students will need to show their identification to the instructor using video camera. No recording will be made during the identification checks.

Length of each session: Each session will last about 15 minutes, including identification checks and class topic discussions. The instructor will ask questions and students will discuss the class content.



Readings from the following books will be provided:

Ambrose, Gavin, and Paul Harris. The Fundamentals of Creative Design. 2nd ed. Lausanne: AVA Publishing, 2011.

Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think. 3rd ed. San Francisco: New Riders, 2014.

Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. Universal Principles of Design. 3rd ed. London: Rockport, 2010.

Saigal, Monica. Ed. The Psychology Book. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2012.


Re-Publishing and Sharing Work

To help future students, educators, and researchers do better work, your assignment submissions from this course may occasionally be shown in future classes, published online, in academic journals, or in printed books. If you would like to ensure your work is not viewed or published anywhere beyond this course, please let Katherine know at: khepworth at unr dot edu.

Any republishing will comply with FERPA and IRB guidelines. This message is in keeping with the policy of the University of Nevada, Reno Office of the General Counsel.

Getting Help

Borrowing Equipment

No funds? No problem! Make sure you have access to the hardware you need to complete your work at all times by borrowing equipment free of charge, including cameras, ipads, and laptops, from the following places:

Academic Success Services

Seeking help outside of class is the sign of a responsible and successful student. Your student fees cover usage of these on-campus services:

Nevada Recovery & Prevention Community (NRAP)

NRAP provides an environment of nurturing support and peer connections for students choosing a substance-free lifestyle and students recovering from substance and behavioral addictions.

Counselling Services

The mission of Counseling Services is to provide psychological services to students in order to support and facilitate their personal and academic success and development.

Ability & Disability Services

Any student with a disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak with me or the Disability Resource Center (see details below) as soon as possible to arrange for appropriate accommodations.

Title IX Services

The University of Nevada, Reno is committed to providing a safe learning and work environment for all. If you believe you have experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, or stalking, whether on or off campus, or need information related to immigration concerns, please contact the University's Equal Opportunity & Title IX office at 775-784-1547. Resources and interim measures are available to assist you.


Guide to Winning


Open inquiry, freedom of expression, and respect for difference are fundamental to a comprehensive and dynamic education. This course and the instructor are committed to upholding these ideals by fostering an environment that is conducive to exploring, engaging, and expressing diverse perspectives and respecting diverse identities.

Honesty and Dishonesty

Cheating, plagiarism or otherwise obtaining grades under false pretenses constitutes academic dishonesty according to the code of this university. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and penalties can include canceling a student’s enrollment without a grade, giving an F for the course or for the assignment. For more details, see the University General Catalog.

Recording devices

Surreptitious or covert video-taping of class or unauthorized audio recording of class is prohibited by law and by Board of Regents policy. This class may be videotaped or audio recorded only with the written permission of the instructor. In order to accommodate students with disabilities, some students may have been given permission to record class lectures and discussions. Therefore, students should understand that their comments during class may be recorded.