Technical and Science Graphics

COM540, on-campus and online

Summer '11-12

Lawrence Souder, Ph.D.

Voice: 215-895-2730

Classroom: TBA

Office Hours: Wednesday, 5:00 - 6:00 pm, Creese Cafe

Office: #47, Room 323

E-mail: LS39 @

Description: Although visual communication through graphics, charts, and pictures pervades our public and private spaces, they seem to receive much less scrutiny than verbal communication. On the assumption that the creation and consumption of visual language is subject to misdirected, misunderstood, and even misled communication, this course attempts to explore the conventions of visual language especially as it is used in the contexts of science and technology. Through studying the current state of the art of document design, examining case studies of professional design settings, and conversing directly with practicing designers, students in this course will explore such topics as:

This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, specificially COM 510 (Technical Communication), COM 520 (Science Communication), and COM 875 (Ethics for Science and Technical Communication).

Objectives: If you successfully complete this course, you will be able to:

Text: Roberts & Kostelnick, Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators, Allyn & Bacon, Second Edition, (ISBN-13: 978-0-205-61640-4).

Grading:  This course will proceed as a seminar. As such, it will require you to take an active role in presenting and discussing ideas in class. No midterm or final exams will be given. Your final grade will be computed on the basis of the following components:

Assignments: Each week in this course will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. Most readings are chapters from the textbook. Click on the chapter designators in the Reading Due column of the Assignment Schedule for study guide questions to help you focus on their key terms and concepts.

Most writing assignments are opportunities to apply the perspectives and principles explicated in the textbook to your own projects. Click on the items in the Writing Due column of the Assignment Schedule for specific details. Because the emphasis in this course is on professional editing, you will be expected to be sensitive to the importance of deadlines. For this reason, late assignments will be penalized one letter grade increment for each class day late.

In addition to the ongoing reading and writing assignments, each of you will give a formal presentation at some point in the course. Click on the link to presentations for details.

Academic Honesty: It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, submitting papers written in previous semesters, and referring to notes during exams. For more clarification on plagiarism, see Drexel's Student Handbook. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action. Be advised that internet services such as EVE 2.3 and make the detection of plagiarism easy.

Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes. Attendance is important to your progress and your classmates'. Much of what you learn will come from discussions and interactions with your fellow students. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence. You may miss one class without penalty; any additional absences will reduce your final grade.

Classroom Comportment: Most of the classroom activities for this course will revolve around face-to-face dialogue—between student and teacher and between student and student. For that reason your attention to the conversations during class time must be undistracted. Moreover, as students of communication you must be sensitive to importance of non-verbal cues. If you text or attend to your laptop during class, you will give the impression that you are not interested in what is being said. Please do not use any personal electronic devices while you are in class. If a personal emergency requires you to attend to your cellphone, please discreetly excuse yourself from the room.

Assignment Schedule

Week Topic Reading 1 Writing Present (critic) 2 Present (article)
1 Rhetoric 1 [in-class sample]    
2 Perception 2      
3 Visual Analysis 3     Buchanan, 1985
4 Linear Components 4 Project 1 Assignment 1, page 147 Moore, 1993
5 Text Fields 5   Assignment 2, page 196 Brumberger, 2004; Bernhardt
6 Nonlinear Components 6   Assignment 1, page 239 Brumberger, 2003 (1, 2)
7 Data Displays 7 Project 2 Assignment 2, page 288 Maat, 2005; Spyridakis, 2007
8 Pictures 8   Assignment 2, page 332 Kostelnick, 2008; Richards 2
9 Document Design 9     Horton, 1993; Richards 1
10 Wrap-up   Project 3    

1 Numbers refer to chapters in textbook.

2 Numbers refer to pages in textbook.