Document Design



5:00 - 7:40, Wednesday

A document conveys meaning in many ways. What a document communicates visually, beyond the verbal component, is often as important as the written words themselves. This course will approach document design as a rhetorical practice and consider the idea of a “document” broadly as a container for meaning in a variety of media, including print and online and also in material and cultural artifacts. To achieve this view of document design, we will read a variety of scholarship, including work on visual rhetoric, visual perception, technical communication, and cultural studies. Students will study real-world scenarios and users and produce documents to meet those user's needs. As such, this course will entail both hands-on and analytic work. By the end of the course, you should be able to apply and discuss principles of design; apply and discuss theories of design; discuss how differences in design affect your message; and utilize tools in document design to create rhetorically savvy documents.

Contacting me: I am available Wednesdays 2:00 - 4:00 and by appointment. I will generally respond to questions and concerns via email within 24 hours, excluding weekends.

Week 1:

January 10 (Schedule subject to change)

Class: Introductions and policies; sign up for class leading excercises; review of authorship; document design lecture 1

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 1 & 2

Slack, J. D., Miller, D. J., & Doak, J. (1993). The technical communicator as author: Meaning, power, authority. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 7(1), 12 – 36.

Week 2:

January 17

Class: Cancelled due to weather.

Week 3:

January 24

Class: Document design lecture 2; discuss Warde; discuss Emotional Design; introduction to Adobe Creative Suite via Photoshop

Prep: Emotional Design 1 – 98

Warde, B. (1956). The Crystal Goblet. In H. Jacob, Sixteen Essays in Typography (pp. 11 – 17). New York: The World Publishing Company.

Resources: Lorem Ipsum  

Week 4:

January 31

Class: Document design lecture 3; finish discussing Emotional Design; discuss Microdesign 1; begin InDesign Tutorial (to be completed on your own)

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 3; Emotional Design 99 – end

Due: Microdesign 1 due in class. Document must use a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

Week 5:

February 7

Class: Discuss rhetorical analysis assignment; document design lecture 4; class leading group 1; discuss Cairo chapter 1; begin bulletin board flyer redesign.

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 4; Cairo 1 – 4

Resources: Best infographics; Useless Infographics

Due: Class leading Group 1

Week 6:

February 14

Class: Document design lecture 5; discuss Cairo 5 - 9; finish bulletin board flyer redesign

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 5; Cairo 5 – 9

Due: Rhetorical Analysis due by midnight on Friday

Week 7:

February 21

Class: Document design lecture 6; discuss readings; workshop infographic assignment; discuss Microdesign 2

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 6

Brumberger, E. R. (2002). The rhetoric of typography : The persona of typeface and text. Technical Communication, 50 (2), 206 – 2236.

Mackiewicz, J. (2006, October). Audience perceptions of fonts in projected PowerPoint text slides. In International Professional Communication Conference, 2006 IEEE (pp. 68 – 76). IEEE.

Lupton, E., & Miller, J. A. (2016). Period styles: A punctuated history. In M. A. Goldthwaite (Ed.), The little norton reader: 50 essays fromthe first 50 years. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co.

Due: Microdesign 2 due in class. Document must involve folding.

Resources: The History of Comic Sans

Week 8:

February 28

Class: Discuss readings; introduction to usability testing; draft of infographic due in class for critique; workshop infographic

Prep: Benedek, J., Miner, T., Corporation, M., & Way, M. (2002). Measuring desirability: New methods for evaluating desirability in a usability lab setting. Retrieved from

Nurkka, P. (2010). User experience evaluation based on values and emotions. Retrieved from

Barnum, C. M., & Palmer, L. A. (2010, April). More than a feeling: understanding the desirability factor in user experience. In CHI'10 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 4703 – 4716). ACM.

Week 9:

March 7

Class: Document design lecture (7 - 9); discuss readings; class leading group 2; workshop infographic

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 7 - 9

Teston, C. (2012). Moving from artifact to action: A grounded investigation of visual displays of evidence during medical deliberations. Technical Communication Quarterly, (21)3, 187 – 209.

Due: Class leading Group 2

Week 10:

March 14 (Spring Break)

Class: Spring Break

Week 11:

March 21

Class: Discuss client projects and client communication; discuss readings; form groups and begin research, planning, and brainstorming

Prep: Kimball and Hawkins 10

Hughes, R. G., Cain, C., & Haque, S. (2008). Organizational workflow and its impact on work quality.

Sy, D. (2007). Adapting usability investigations for agile user-centered design. Journal of usability Studies, 2(3), 112 – 132.

Due: Infographic poster due in class

Week 12:

March 28

Class: Discuss readings; workshop client projects

Prep: Northcut, K. M. (2011). Insights from illustrators: the rhetorical invention of Paleontology representations. Technical Communication Quarterly, 20(3), 303 – 326

Ross, D. G. (2017). The role of ethics, culture, and artistry in scientific illustration. Technical Communication Quarterly, 26(2), 145 – 172.

Due: Class leading Group 3, group project proposal due by midnight on Friday

Week 13:

April 4

Class: Discuss readings; discuss microdesign 3; workshop client projects

Prep: Dragga, S., & Voss, D. (2001). Cruel pies: The inhumanity of technical illustrations. Technical Communication, 48(3), 265 – 274.

Dragga, S., & Voss, D. (2003). Hiding humanity: Verbal and visual ethics in accident reports. Technical Communication, 50(1), 61 – 82.

Due: Microdesign 3 due in class. Design must be no larger than a standard business card (3.5" x 2")

Week 14:

April 11

Class: Discuss readings; workshop client projects

Prep: Dombrowski, P. (2003). Ernst Haeckel's Controversial Visual Rhetoric. Technical Communication Quarterly, 12(3), 303 – 319.

Goodsell, D. S., & Johnson, G. T. (2007). Filling in the gaps: artistic license in education and outreach. PLoS Biol, 5(12), e308.

Due: Group progress report due by midnight on Friday

Week 15:

April 18

Class: Discuss microdesign 4; workshop and critiques of client projects

Due: Microdesign 4 due in class. No design constraints.

Week 16:

April 25

Class: Group project presentations. Submit final project deliverables in class.

Resources: Rubric for group presentations

Due: All client materials are due in our final class. Individual summation reports are due by midnight, May 1.

Texts and Technologies

Our course readings will include the following:

Cairo, Albert. (2013). The Functional Art. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Kimball, M. A. (2007). Document Design: A Guide for Technical Communicators. Macmillan.

Norman, D. (2004). Emotional Design. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Numerous journal articles

We will primarily use the Adobe Creative Suite for our design work. Our lab has full access to all of the software you need. You may choose to purchase your own copies, however, or use any other design technologies instead, or in addition to, such as GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus, etc.


ON FORMATTING: All writings in this class should follow APA format. This is not a genre class (one focused on teaching how to write essays, proposals, research papers, etc.). Instead, this class is designed to teach you how to understand, and apply, multiple design theories and approaches. It is your responsibility to make sure that you are submitting your work in an appropriate format. For help on APA style please see the APA handbook or the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue.

Microdesign Reading Responses (10 points)

Four times over the course of the semester you will be required to design a response to our course readings (5 points apiece). Traditionally, reading responses ask you to consider a specific element of the day's reading, or write an overview of the piece. Rather than creating a 500 word written response, your job is to create a visually-intriguing, attractive (see Norman), functional (see Cairo), design which explores some aspect of the reading. You will submit these designs both electronically and physically--on each day a reading response is due we will begin the class by sharing the physical copies (bring one for each class member) for critique and discussion. You must be able to explain how your design draws from preceding class readings. Design contraints (listed on the course schedule) may include page size, document manipulation (i.e., folding), use of color, and more.

Leading Class Discussion (10 points)

Three times this semester class will be led by a 4 person group. Your goal is to summarize the readings and lessons leading up to your presentation, and lead the class in discussions and activities which help solidify these concepts. Your discussion may include standard presentation technologies (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.), handouts, lecture, interactive projects, or some combination of the above. You may not rely on pre-created content (videos/audio/etc.) to fill the time. While traditional lecture/call-and-response activities may help, avoid a point-by-point overview of the article. We'll have all read it, so instead focus on coming up with some way to help us further internalize the content. Remember that this is a document design class.

Rhetorical Analysis (10 points)

In this assignment you will analyze the design of a document or website to determine the effectiveness of the document for its intended users. Your deliverable should be a 1000-1500 word memo in which you analyze your document in terms of audience, purpose, and context. Consider how the document attempts to persuade the reader in terms of ethos, pathos, and logos, how the document is intended to function (and if it does so effectively), and the document's individual design elements. Be sure to provide specific evidence from both the document and relevant literature, provide at least one visual to illustrate your claim(s), and cite references in APA format.

Infographic Poster (20 points)

In this assignment you will design and present a large, single-page document designed to introduce an audience of your choosing to a topic/issue of your choosing. You will submit your design along with a ~1000-1500 word memo giving a detailed description of the design and testing process and a final justification for your design choices. Your discussion should include explanation of how you attempt to rhetorically motivate an audience (logos, ethos, pathos, etc.), and your choices for individual design elements. Be sure to provide specific evidence from both the document and relevant literature and cite references in APA format. The minimum size for this document is 12" x 18".

Design Project (30 points)

In this assignment you will work in groups to locate a real-world client (a business, academic unit, or individual), assess the client's documentation needs, and then propose and design material to meet those needs. This project consists of a series of interrelated assignments:

Proposal memo (5): In this memo you will propose your own final project. In a ~1000-1500 word proposal memo, clearly outline what you intend to design, who the user will be, and how you plan on meeting your deadlines. You should clearly describe the client, the client's documentation needs, and outline how your team plans to address those needs. If your working group is part of a larger group (if we have only a single client for the class, for example) make sure that your working group's memo clearly identify the scope of your working group's expected contribution to the entire project. Be sure to provide specific evidence from any existing documentation and relevant literature and cite references in APA format. In this memo, you should:

    Argue for the scope and focus of your work by showing what elements (if any) already exist
    Explain the existing problem
    Explain your design strategy, and how this solves the problem
    Propose a viable timeline and assessment criteria (how you will know when an element is complete, for example)

Progress Report Memo (5) In this ~1000-1500 word memo, due midway through the project, you will describe your team's (or working group, if we have only a single client for the class) work on the project so far, any impediments you have encountered and how you have addressed those impediments, and each teammate's/working group member’s contribution to the project. In this memo, you should:

Describe your group's work on the project, including your contact with the client
    Describe problems you have encountered and how they have been (or will be) addressed
Describe each member's contribution to the project
    Describe how you are usability testing your project

Presentation and Deliverables (20) In this presentation your working group will present the materials you have designed for the client, and give a 15 minute oral presentation to the class in which you display your materials and discuss the design choices you made. If we have a single client for the class, you will give a combined group/individual presentation, with the group component (overview of the project and the final deliverables) counting for 15 points, and your individual presentation counting for 5 points. The GROUP component should include the following:

    Explain and show the project
    Explain your client's needs, and how these needs were addressed by your design choices
    Explain any usability testing that occurred over the course of the project
    Discuss the relevant design elements of the project and their creation, intended rhetorical impact, and implementation

Your individual components (at least 5 minutes each) should explain how the work you did fits into the larger gestalt, any personal design choices you made, and how vou view yourself within the larger context of the group. Think of this as the sort of presentation (with more theoretical detail) that you might give to a potential employer to explain how your contributions are of value in group settings. While the deliverable of your project will be assessed against the standard rubric, both presentation components will be assessed against a presentation rubric.

Summation Report (10 points)

This ~1000-1500 word report in memo format asks you to sum up your experiences in this design class. You should briefly discuss the designs you have created (using visuals to support your discussion), and make note of any changes you would make to your work now that you have completed this class and had time to reflect on the designs and design process. As always, you are expected to discuss and apply the theories and principles we've discussed over the course of the semester and support your work with citational evidence.



You will fail the class if you do not attempt and submit ALL major assignments. Late assignments will receive a grade of zero (0).

Grades on assignments will be determined according to the following criteria:

A (90-99%) The document is superior. It exceeds all the objectives of the assignment. The presentation and discussion is ethical, sophisticated, thorough, thoughtful, and ideally suited for the audience. The style is clear and appropriate to the subject, purpose, and audience. The organization and design of the document make the information understandable, accessible, and usable. The mechanics and grammar are correct. Typography and design elements are sophisticated, ethical, and appropriate to audience and purpose. Outside information is cited appropriately.

B (80-89%) The document is good. It meets all of the objectives of the assignment, but requires minor improvements or contains only easily correctable errors in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Presentation and discussion are good, but could be addressed in more depth. Typography and design elements are good, ethical, and appropriate to audience and purpose. Outside information is mostly cited appropriately.

C (70-79%) The document is adequate. It omits useful information or requires significant improvement in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Presentation and discussion are superficial in places.Typography and design elements are not entirely suited to audience and purpose, have questionable ethics, and/or require significant improvement in order to function for their intended purpose. Some outside information is cited appropriately.

D (60-69%) The document is disappointing. It meets some of the objectives of the assignment but ignores others; the discussion is inadequately developed, omits important information, or displays numerous or major errors in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Typography and design elements are poorly suited to audience and purpose, lack awareness of ethics, and/or largely fail in their intended purpose. Most outside information is not cited appropriately.

F (0-59%) The document is unsatisfactory. It omits critical information, does something other than the assignment required, or displays major or excessive errors in organization, style, design, grammar, or mechanics. Typography and design elements fail to accomplish desired goals and/or lack ethical awareness. Outside information is not cited.

Projects submitted more than 7 days after the due date will not be accepted for a grade (they will receive a zero), though I will be happy to look over the project and offer constructive commentary.

Team Assignments

Team assignments receive grades based on group and individual work. It is possible that unsatisfactory participation in team assignments will result in a lower participation grade or a lower grade on the team assignment itself. You may be called upon to evaluate your own or your team members' performance on group assignments.


As this is a once-per-week graduate class, each unexcused absences will result in the loss of 5 points from the semester's point total.

Do not show up late to class. If a participation grade or quiz is given during the first 15 minutes and a student arrives late, a grade of zero (0) will be received for that assignment.

A student will be excused from attending classes or other required activities, including examinations, for documented University-approved functions (such as competing in an athletic event), or the observance of a religious holy day and the time necessary to travel for this observance. The student will not be penalized for the absence and will be permitted to take an exam or complete an assignment missed during the excused absence. The policy applies only to the documented University-approved events and official holy days of tax-exempt religious institutions. No prior notification of the instructor is required, though is requested. Other than exceptions related to university-related events and religious circumstances, only a note from a doctor or death notice for an immediate family member will result in an absence being excused. Personal circumstances are not considered acceptable for excusing an absence. Please see Auburn University's policies for additional materials relating to what constitutes an "excused" absence.

Dropping the Course

If you drop the course, you must do so in person at the Office of the Registrar. I cannot drop you from the course. It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of the drop dates.

Due Dates and Submission Technology

You will fail the class if you do not attempt and submit ALL major assignments. Late assignments will receive a grade of zero (0). It is your responsibility to turn in your work on time. Computer-related excuses will not be accepted. In the event of difficulties with our course management system (i.e., Canvas), you may email me your work to get it in on time, though you will still be responsible for submitting it through the appropriate channels when the difficulties are resolved. If you believe you have a legitimate excuse for submitting late work you may submit to me a formal appeal. I reserve the right to reject your appeal.

If you are absent the day a physical assignment is due, I will not accept the work via email. You must make arrangements with me to submit work before the deadline or put your work in my department mailbox. If extenuating circumstances apply (see below), your work will be due the day after your return from your athletic event or the day after you attend the emergency appointment or funeral.

Electronic documents must be saved in the following format: lastname_firstinitial_assignmentname.

Documents saved in the .docx format are generally compatible across systems. However, formatting is a major aspect of this class. To that end, you may wish to save your file as a .pdf to insure that all formatting appears to me exactly as you intended. There are several free options available to you, beyond those offered by most office software suites, including bullzip,pdfill, and cutepdf, among others. The excuse "it didn't look like that on my computer" will not be accepted.

I may give quizzes at any time during the class. These quizzes cover the specified readings, but they may also cover material introduced in previous classes/chapters. I do not offer make-up quizzes for any reason other than absences for university business (and only with proper university documentation), documented illness (a clinic must document the episode of illness if you have a chronic illness), or the death of an immediate family member. Additionally, late homework exercises will not be accepted under any circumstances.

Basic Technology Requirements


You are expected to be familiar with the day-to-day operation of computers including email (and sending attachments) and standard software. If you are not familiar with basic computing skills, speak to me as soon as possible, so that we can familiarize you with basic procedures.

You are also expected to have regular access to computing technology whether it be your computer at home or the computers provided by the university. The statement, "I don't have access to a computer" is not acceptable.

Hardware and Disk Media Requirements

It is your responsibility to ensure that the computer(s) and disk(s) you use are functional and that you have, in the case of technological failure, backed up your data. Bring a USB drive to class, or use the cloud,keep your work on it, and keep your work updated.

Email Requirement

You are required to have a viable email account. When sending email to me, your instructor, or to your classmates, please ensure the subject line is formatted as: RE: ENGL 7030- [Your Last Name]

Identifying emails from students is difficult, especially when sent from accounts outside of the university. If you do not include a valid subject line it may go straight to junk mail, or I may delete your email myself.


Plagiarism includes any use of words or ideas of another writer that would allow readers unfamiliar with the source to assume that the words or ideas originated with you. THIS INCLUDES USE OF IMAGES. Policy does not allow me to judge whether an instance of plagiarism is accidental or deliberate. If I find in your work 1) another writer's work inserted without quotation marks or acknowledgment, 2) a close, unacknowledged paraphrase of someone else's writing, or 3) another writer's research or analysis presented without acknowledgment, then I will treat it like a plagiarized assignment and deal with it appropriately. Sanctions range from failing the assignment to expulsion from the university. I take the issue of plagiarism very seriously, and will enforce the university's plagiarism policies to their full extent.

Please see Auburn University's policies relating to plagiarism and penalties.

Special Needs

Auburn University makes reasonable accommodations for people with documented disabilities. I will adapt methods, materials, or testing for equitable participation. Students who need accommodations are asked to electronically submit their approved accommodations through AU Access and to make an individual appointment with the instructor during the first week of classes – or as soon as possible if accommodations are needed immediately. If you have not established accommodations through the Office of Accessibility, but need accommodations, make an appointment with the Office of Accessibility, 1228 Haley Center, 844-2096 (V/TT).

Religious Holidays

Students requiring to miss class due to the observance of an officially recognized religious holy day are asked to consult with me in advance so we can schedule missed work accordingly.