Introduction to Design:

York University

Introduction to Design: Practice and Appreciation (for non-majors)

Course Outline 2021-2022

Course description: Welcome to the Introduction to Design: Practice and Appreciation Course! This course takes a holistic approach to offer an overview of design history in context to the applied design practices throughout modern and postmodern eras. Through theoretical learning and class project processes, the course expects students to develop a basic understanding of design theories and practice to appreciate design as a professional discipline with a multitude of approaches. The intention of this course is to bring students the sound knowledge and skill to expand the design experience in conjunction with their own discipline for future learning and practices.

This course is not a software learning course, but it encourages students to learn and use design software and apps in the design process.

Course Calendar Description

Week 1:  Welcome and Introduction to the course.
Week 2:  Introduction to Design and the Course Content.
Week 3:  Modern Design: Bauhaus and Design Basics.
Week 4: Modern Design and Design System: Grids and layout.
Reading week.
Week 5: Modern Design in Postwar America & Design Principles.
Week 6: Modernism Design and Globalization, Corporate Design and Branding.
Week 7: High Modernism, Design in Consumerism and Pop Culture
Week 8: Postmodern challenges and Basic Typography.
Week 9: The Digital Revolution and Design in New Media.
Week 10:Design for Social Changes: Activism, Participatory and Co-Design.
Week 11: Design Thinking and Human-Centred Design: Systematic thinking and design process.
Week 12: Design for the future: design innovation and responsibility.

Technical requirements for taking the course:

This course does not require students to have any prerequisite experience in design and graphic design software. However, it is essential that students have moderate digital devices such as a desktop computer, laptop or Ipad/tablet as this course is delivered online and requires network and graphic design software. It is also necessary to equip a webcam and microphone for online meetings and video recording. It is recommended to have a high-speed internet connection. Using handsets and smartphones are not suitable for this course as they only provide limited functions and access. 

There is no requirement for purchasing design software in this course, textbooks are available for purchase and are also available in the York library. Some additional costs may occur if students choose to use commercial-based design tools.

A way to determine Internet connection and speed: there are online tests, such as Speedtest, that can be run.

Useful links describing computing information, resources and help for students:

Information about the delivery and organization of the course


Please note that this is a course that depends on remote teaching and learning. There will be no in-class interactions or activities on campus. All course lectures, tutorials, and facilitation are delivered remotely via Zoom and the York University e-class platform. 

Organization of the course :

The course will be conducted remotely online through synchronous and asynchronous classes. There are two sections in this course including lectures and tutorial classes. The lecture will be delivered by synchronous seminar and asynchronous video recording. Synchronous lectures with design activities and tutorial classes require students’ participation in discussions and facilitation. Students who need accommodation must be arranged with the course director or tutorial instructors prior to the classes. 

  1. Topics and Concepts 

This course uses Ellen Lupton’s Graphic Design New Basics as the primary design textbook. Additional reading will be assigned from various authors and designers’ text; including Phillip Meggs, Josef Muller-Brockmann, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser,  Katherine McCoy, et. The additional readings will be uploaded into the course files.

Weekly Reading List 


Kim, H. H., & Geissbuhler, S. (2017). Graphic Design Discourse: Evolving Theories, Ideologies, and Processes of Visual Communication. Princeton Architectural Press.

Lupton, E. (2015). By Ellen Lupton – Graphic Design: The New Basics: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded (2 Rev Upd) (2015–07-29) [Paperback]. Princeton Architectural Press. 

Müller-Brockmann, J. (2021). Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers(Hardback) – 2001 Edition. Niggli Verlag.

  1. Learning Outcomes with Examples

Although this course is designed for non-major students, it is expected that students will gain sound knowledge in design literacy to apply design elements and design principles in the assigned projects. The students should be able to create designs to demonstrate their understanding of the basic design theory and applications and are able to articulate their design rationale in relation to the design choices and contexts. The goal of this course is to help students develop their individual approaches of applying design through creative thinking and making, and expanding design as an interdisciplinary tool in students’ disciplines and everyday practice.  

Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to learn and practice design processes and design presentations. Students will become more comfortable using design language to articulate their designs. In addition, students will have a basic overview of design history and discourse in context with the design aesthetics and styles.

At the end of the course, students will have two project process books produced containing the process documentation and the final designs. The two reflection papers will help students to reflect on their overall understanding of design contexts.

  1. Graded Assessment

This course takes a continuous assessment method in grading students’ work. The students’ grades are calculated by two design projects which are worth 30% per project, and two reflection papers weigh 15% each towards the total grade. The 10% participation grade is evaluated for students’ participation in the classes. The final grade is accumulated based on marks of students’ weekly progress.

Weekly Assignments:

Course Grading Breakdown.

Entire course Week 4, 5, 6 Week 7. Week 8, 9, 10 Week 11
Participation 10% Project 1 



paper 1


Project 2


Reflection paper 2


Project Grading Breakdown example:  30% 

Week 3 Tutorial or presentation 5%  Process work submission 5% 
Week 4  Tutorial presentation 5% Process work submission 5% 
Week 5 Tutorial presentation 5% Process work submission 5% 

Late Assignment Penalty:

The late submission will be penalized for 10% deduction per calendar business day after the project submission due date.  

Reflection Paper Grading Criteria. 15%

  • Argument/Claim
    • Was a clear statement or claim made upfront in the introduction?
    • How appropriate or original was the claim?
  • Structure/Organization
    • Is there a well-organized, logical discussion in support of the claim?
    • Does the organization contribute to the clarity of the paper’s argument?
  • Support Material/Example
    • Was an appropriate example chosen?
    • Was it identified by title/maker/origin?
    • How effectively was it used to support the claim/argument?
  • Technical 
    • spelling, grammar, sentence structure
    • formatting
  1. Additional Information

This course requires students’ participation in lecture activities, discussion and tutorial presentations. It is designed to encourage community-based learning and collaboration in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. To better facilitate students, the instructors will use tutorials to provide project consultation and feedback for students. Each instructor will also hold limited “open office hours” remotely to help students on an individual basis. Additional methods of communication include emails. However, emails are expected to be replied to within 48 hours in business days under York University policy.

Instructors and Students can also use community discussion forums in e-class to post questions and discussions in regards to course material and learning. The community forum is the most efficient space to help each other in our teaching and learning. Please take advantage of this online tool. Online etiquette is respected and appreciated in the online learning community.

Synchronous online class/meetings: to help create a learning community, it is highly recommended to use webcams during the online meeting and discussion to help us know each other and feel more comfortable together in the online space. Students are welcome to use the chat room during the lecture/tutorial but please keep the chat in the course-related content. Please be mindful of the language and be respectful to each others’ comments. 

Students with special needs please contact the instructors for accommodation and additional facilitation.