The Digital Imagination CMDI-2100 Spring 2009

Table of Contents

Note to commuting students: This course uses software that may be difficult for you to access off campus.

Contact and course information:

  • Instructor: Evelyn Stiller
  • My Web page:
  • Office: Hyde 415A
  • Phone: 535-2531
  • Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 11:00 - 12:15 and Tuesdays 12:15 - 1:30 or by appointment
  • Electronic Mail: estiller[at-symbol]mail[dot]plymouth[dot]edu (this is an anti-spamming technique)
  • Text Book: Visual Communication, Images with Messages 4th Edition by Paul Martin Lester
  • Optional text: In order to keep costs down for students, I am not requiring a book on Photoshop, but rather provide students with detailed how-to instructions. If students would like to purchase a book on Photoshop Elements, they are welcome to. Here is one example, but many other high-quality books are available.
    Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0: A Visual Introduction to Digital Photography by Philip Andrews
  • Students are also required to have a notebook that can serve as an idea/sketchbook.

Course Description

The way we communicate is changing in response to our use of rapidly changing digital technology. In this course, students explore how images can be used to express ideas by introducing fundamental concepts of image composition and design Students also learn how images embody meaning, and how to use powerful image and animation creation/editing tools to effectively express their ideas. Students explore the use of color, line, shape, texture, light, and principles of two-dimensional design. They also use techniques that enhance creativity as they develop images and animations that effectively communicate a variety of messages. This course includes a significant hands-on element in which students use state-of-the-art image editing and animation-creation software to develop their assignments and projects.

Course Objectives

  1. Learn how to effectively compose images using the following elements:
    1. color
    2. form
    3. texture
    4. depth
    5. light
  2. Understand principles of two-dimensional design.
  3. Understand how to develop creative ideas.
  4. Understand basic principles of the semiotics.
  5. Learn to effectively critique the effectiveness of images.
  6. Learn how to use Photoshop to create and edit images.
  7. Learn about vector graphics.
  8. Learn how to create animations.
  9. Learn about various types of files used for digital images and animations.
  10. Learn how to interpret the possible meanings of images.
  11. Learn how to communicate effectively using images.
  12. Learn how to create images that are not offensive to racial minorities, women, men, or individuals who do not identify with a specific gender, individuals with disabilities, various religious affiliations, and individuals with various sexual preferences.
  13. Learn about ethical/societal issues associated with the dissemination and editing of images.

Peer review and creative expression:

Students will be challenged to provide constructive feedback in response to creative expressions produced by students in class.  The feed back will follow guidelines provided in class geared to creating a productive dialog around developing creative works.

Students will read several essays by artists addressing their creative process to better understand the creative processes that lead to the generation of ideas and to engage in new interpretations of existing ideas.

Course Schedule




and due dates

Readings to be done before the first class of the week . Chapter references below address readings from: Visual Communication, Images with Messages 4th Edition, unless specified otherwise.



The creative process. Copyright considerations

Starting to think creatively. Respecting others' intellectual property.

Essay on the creative process:

A Consideration of the Relationship Between Creativity and Approaches to Learning Art and Design, International Journal of Art & Design Education, May2005, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p186-198, 13p.

Article available on Blackboard

Focusing questions: How does the author distinguish between the creative and the bizarre? What benefits do creative thinkers receive according to the author? What conclusions can we draw from Martin Gardener’s theory of multiple intelligences? What role does environment play in developing creative thought? What are Graham Wallas' four stages of the creative process. How does the sketchbook aid in developing creative thought?

For your reflection:  When are you the most creative?  What are the necessary conditions for creativity?

2 Physiological aspects of how we see and perceive images?  

Chapters 1 through 3

Link to Focusing questions:




Basic elements of images: line, shape, texture and value, and basic color theory

How to work with the fundamental aspects of images and use various aspects of color to achieve design goals. Assignment 1 due.

Chapter 4

Reading on color schemes:

Link to Focusing questions:



Sensual and perceptual theories of how we communicate.

What principles can we harness to best communicate visually?


Chapter 5 -

Link to Focusing questions:




Image analysis.

How do we analyze images?

Assignment 2 due.

Section 4 introduction (pp 111-119)

Link to Focusing questions:

6 Problem seeking and problem solving.  How to create creative solutions to specific challenges.

Reading on creative thinking (available in Blackboard) -

Link to Focusing questions:



Animation and Vector graphics

The dimension of time.

Introduction to Flash Graphics

Introduction to Flash animation

Assignment 3 due.

Reading on vector graphics:

Reading on animation:



Spring Break






Visual persuasion.


How can one derive meaning from non-verbal graphic expressions?


Chapter 6

Link to Focusing questions:

10 Images that injure: pictorial stereotypes.

How to avoid depicting stereo-types.

Assignment 4 due. Note assignment due date has shifted by one week. (due April 2)

Chapter 7.

Link to Focusing questions:



Graphic Design

Assignment 5 due.

Chapter 9

Link to focusing questions




Chapter 12:

Link to focusing questions

13 World-wide web and the more you know, the more you see.  

Chapter 16 and 17

Link to focusing questions


refining/presenting the project



Enhancing the creative dimension.


Work shopping student projects. Consider volunteering your project for a class critique. This is a guaranteed way to improve the creative content of your project.




Student presentations

Project is due Tuesday of this week for everyone, independent of presentation date.




Student presentations






     20% - Final Project

     20% - Quizzes

     20% - Assignments

     15% - Lab work (must be present in lab to receive credit for each lab)

     10% - Idea/Sketchbook and Artist's journal

15% - Participation


Assignments and Labs:

Approximately half of the class time will be devoted to hands-on lab assignments. On those days the instructor will often give a lab assignment which is due at the end of the lab period, unless the instructor indicates otherwise. The purpose of the lab assignments is to ensure that students feel comfortable with a new concept, and can demonstrate their mastery of this concept. Students who do not attend a lab class cannot receive credit for the lab assignment. The instructor will drop the lowest lab grade for each student to compensate for a legitimate absence.

The instructor will also give students regular weekly assignments, which are due on a specified date. Assignments handed in late will have 10% deducted per calendar day after the due date.


The purpose of quizzes is to ensure that students carry out assigned readings and are attentive in class. Students are expected to do readings before the first class day of the week of the assigned reading, unless the reading is particularly long, and the instructor indicates this to be the case. Students may use their notes to take all quizzes, so you should make careful notes on each reading, paying particular attention to any focusing questions. No make-up quizzes will be given, but the lowest quiz will be dropped to allow for legitimate absences.


Please read the following statement of departmental policy very carefully: The work you submit in this course must be your own. Whenever possible, it is preferred that students paraphrase/explain key concepts in their own words and cite the original source material appropriately. However, if you include four or more consecutive words directly from any source, be certain to surround them with quotation marks, and to properly cite the source and page number. Plagiarism, however unintentionally it may occur, is a serious violation of academic integrity. A student who is found to have plagiarized on any assignment should expect to receive a failing grade for the entire course. There are no exceptions to this policy.

General Education

This course is a Creative Thought Direction in PSU’s General Education program.

Creative Thought Direction 

 People need to be creative in order to thrive in our complex and changing world. 

 People need to understand the creative processes that lead to the generation of ideas and to engage in new interpretations of existing ideas.  Creative thought courses encourage students to recognize beauty in its many manifestations and to become aware of formal elements of creative expression. 

 These courses also encourage students to view themselves as creative beings, to appreciate creativity in others, and to regard creativity as an essential component in all areas of human endeavor.  In these courses, students develop and value perseverance and a tolerance for ambiguity.  Students are challenged to appreciate aesthetic forms, to use their imaginations, and to develop the skills and attitudes that allow creativity to flourish:  independence and non-conformity, the ability to organize and reorganize information, and the confidence to think in new ways. 

 Creative Thought courses emphasize the skills of critical thinking, reading, writing, listening and speaking, and working with information technology.  

Course Philosophy

This course emphasizes learning-by-doing. While students are given a series of assignments for the purpose of exploring specific concepts, they must draw upon their creativity to determine the particular subject matter of most of these assignments. In addition, there are a number of concepts that you will be held accountable for from the readings, but you should not have to memorize large quantities of information. In order to avoid the need to memorize you should keep a good set of notes. All quizzes will be open notes, so it is important that you take notes from your readings and during class, as well as keeping notes on how to do a number of technical tasks.

Attendance Policy (Very Important)

Please read the following statement of departmental policy very carefully: Students are expected to attend each course meeting and to arrive at class on time. It is acknowledged, however, that a student may need to miss class occasionally. Accordingly, each student is limited to two unexcused absences during the semester (the equivalent of missing an entire week of course content). Absences beyond the second will result in the deduction of one-half letter grade (five points) per absence from the student’s final grade in the course. In addition, arriving late to class is an unacceptable practice. As such, two late appearances to class count as one absence. Appropriate official documentation for excused absences must be submitted to the course professor within one week after the student returns to class; otherwise, no credit will be granted for such absences. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Participation Evaluation

  low medium high

Appropriate behavior in class


Does not always participate in class exercises. Appears to be engaging in non-class related activities.


Is engaged in class exercises and pays attention during class discussions.


Is clearly engaged in class discussions, frequently answers questions and always participates in class exercises.


Shares ideas

Rarely shares creative ideas, answers to questions, or other solutions with class.


Occasionally shares creative ideas, answers to questions, or other solutions with class.


Frequently shares creative ideas, answers to questions, or other solutions with class, and allows other students to participate as well.


Uses lab time well.

Sometimes plays games, IM's, sends text messages or views videos not relevant to class material.


Uses lab time to work on labs and assignments, but rushes through them to leave class early, but never plays games, IM's, sends text messages, or views videos not relevant to class material.


Always works on labs and assignments in a thoughtful manner, clearly attempting to benefit learn as much as possible.