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"The more you see, the more you know. The more you know, the more you see." Aldous Huxley
"Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing."
Little Elf Judy, The Santa Clause

Course schedule
(dynamic and subject to change)

Class session
Texts, Readings, Resources

Week 1: Aug. 26

Introduction to visual communication, syllabus, key course concepts

What is culture? What is visual culture?

Semiotics of architecture: a campus tour | outline for note-taking (.pdf download)

Semiotics of architecture II: Barbie's Dreamhouse over time | BC's column on the Dreamhouse | NYTimes's interactive

Artifacts: Pictures at an (safari) exhibition | Instagram mansions, museums and factories (simulacra) | Creative Design blog (pretty cool) | James Webb telescope feed | BC's column on minimalism and the Notre-Dame

For Wednesday:
Carefully read the syllabus for a probable quiz

For Friday:
1. Read Michael Kimmelman on culture | companion piece on the culture police
2. Our first safari, instructions on Canvas behind 'Discussions' and on Wandering Rocks

Resources for excelling in this course and field (also behind Announcements on Canvas):

Week 2: Sept. 2

Signs & Symbols | Color | Vision | Culture

The visual rhetoric of comics (outline for note-taking): What is the grammar of comics and cartoons? The vocabulary? What is the rhetoric of comics?

Light as metaphor: How we see by how we hear | Light as metaphor (9:45) | eyeball pics

Artifacts: Amsterdam's Comiclopedia | Saudi Arabia to ban the "X" | Swastika on a Buddha | Harvard Law sugar plantation seal | LA County seal ruled unconstitutional | Comics to teach science | Annotated Watchmen | Viking rune with a code! | John Coltrane visualized | 'Seeing' Barbie

NO CLASS Monday: Labor Day

For Wednesday: Discussing the Kimmelman article on Canvas. Instructions behind "Assignments" and the discussion thread behind "Discussions"

Week 3: Sept. 9

The Gutter: Chris Rock, Kristi Yamaguchi | Michael Moore's opening | Sans Forgetica | New Yorker designer Christoph Niemann and visual 'language'

Seeing, sensing, selecting & perceiving

How we perceive:

  • FORM

Artifacts: One second (cancer patients) | BBC's optical illusions | Visual rhetoric of tattoos | an explanation of Fair Use | Designing playing cards | LG's new logo

For Wednesday: Safari no. 2. Bring in an example of a medium not typically considered to be visual rhetoric. The more unusual the better.

For Friday: Safari no. 3. Bring in a photographic example of light intentionally used by someone else (not you) as metaphor. Original photography only. No photoshopping; no arranging.

Week 4: Sept. 16

Introduction to visual communication theory

  • Gestalt (Think brown)
  • Semiotics (Berger, Peirce, Barthes)
  • Constructivism

Artifacts: Personification | The Night Watch, Rembrandt | Background on The Night Watch | baked cakes as visual culture? | Logo-ology | Cave drawings in Missouri a millennium old | 3D animation: Empire State Building


For Wednesday: Safari no. 4. Bring in a photo you will take of a symbol you don't recognize. Then find out what it means, or is intended to mean.

Week 5: Sept. 23

Visual communication theory

Peirce's symbolic types: iconic, idexical, symbolic

Berger's, analogical, displaced, condensed codes (outline for note-taking)

Denotation, connotation, chains of association, mythic "truth" (Barthes)

Artifacts: Snicker's ad (metoynmy) | The Washington Post on Snicker's ad | Optical illusion: Which car is bigger? | The Warburg Institute's Iconographic Database | Want to see Starry Night move?

For Monday: Safari no. 5. Take a photo of the best example of Gestalt you can find. Type up WHY you believe it to demonstrate Gestalt, explaining how the denoted elements add up to much larger connotations.

For Friday: Safari no. 6. A print advertisement that has or uses Peirce's iconic, indexical, and symbolic signs. Include a paragraph CLEARLY identifying each of the three in the image, explaining why each representation is in fact what you say it is. You must demonstrate that you know what the terms mean.

Week 6: Sept. 30

Finishing Berger

Denotation/Connotation (Roland Barthes) (outline for note-taking)

Artifacts: Metaphor in The Accountant | Generic ad from vmsoftware (UK) | Numan TV ad


Week 7: Oct. 7

Cognitive theory (memory, projection), including memory

Artifacts: Fons Americanus and Rumor of War | National Memorial for Peace and Justice (memory) | Monuments, memorializing and Take A Knee from the New York Times | EJI lynching memorial/museum, Montgomery AL | How many numbers do you see? | What figure do you see?

Public memory, collective memory (and forgetting)

Due Monday: Safari no. 7. Berger code safari -- Find one or more print advertisements that use metonymic, analogical, and displaced symbolic codes to persuade. Include a paragraph CLEARLY identifying each of the three and explanations that CLEARLY demonstrate that you know the codes' definitions. If you need multiple ads to find all four, that's fine

Due Wednesday: Safari no. 8. Berger code safari no. 2 -- Find one example of a condensed symbolic code. Include a paragraph CLEARLY explaining HOW it works, identifying as many of its signifiers as you can.

Due Friday: Read Dr. Carroll's piece on (not) remembering enslavement in Savannah, then submit on Canvas five (5) good to really good questions for the author, after having read the piece.

Week 8: Oct. 14


Visual Persuasion & Advertising: Gestalt, myth, persuasion, aspiration & fear

Artistotle's Logos, Pathos & Ethos

Artifacts: Lloyds Bank of London ad A Fairy Tale | Stallions | 'Your Life is a Story' (Dulux) | The Think Different (Apple, 1997) | adidas 'Originals' (2018)

No Class Monday: Fall Break

For Monday, viewJoshua Foer's TED talk on memory palaces | Read the Times on the same | And a fun memory palace puzzle

For Friday: Describe the memory palace you created and how it helped you remember something you otherwise couldn't have. The prompt is in the pinned discussion in Canvas. Due by classtime

Week 9: Oct. 21

Visual Persuasion & Advertising: Cymbalta case study

Eisenstein's collision of images

Artifacts: Anti-gay marriage ad | CatholicVote ad | tobacco advertising archives | "Brosurance" | Rule of Thirds and interior design | Owl & cybersecurity | Logorama | 30 Rock strikes again | Starbucks on Best In Show | Mazda ad with Mia Hamm | Canesten TV ad | Ad Age's Top 15 campaigns | Ambient advertising | What is art? Is contemporary art subversive? from Jacob Geller (thank you, Emma!)

Due Monday: First exam. Take-home. Submit hard copy of only answers, not entire test booklet, stapled, with honor pledge signature somewhere on the first page. No email. No Canvas. The rubric I will use to evaluate your learning.


Week 10: Oct. 28


Presentation to Georgia College Press Assn. (for notetaking)

Artifacts: Climate Crisis font from Finland | Variable Fonts | Spirit Airlines (seriously?) | Papyrus and Avatar (SNL) | Papyrus Bold and Avatar (SNL) | Ten Infographics on Type | Type sketch on College Humor | Metamorphabet | Why you should care about type (FastCompany) | If typefaces were cats | Designer of Transport typeface on Top Gear | The Kerning Game | Typeface for people with dyslexia (and why it matters) | Speak with conviction (watch the typography as message)

For Monday:Read "Man of Letters" article from The New Yorker magazine (quiz probable)

ALSO: View the film 'Helvetica' available on Kanopy through the Berry library webpage. Write 1 takeaway and 1 residual question after viewing; submit in discussion on Canvas.

For Friday: Safari no. 9 on choosing a typeface. Instructions on Wandering Rocks. A few resources:

Looking ahead: Choose your favorite school or era of graphic design

Week 11: Nov. 4

Graphic Design | The Six Perspectives

  • Balance
  • Unity
  • Contrast
  • Rhythm
  • CVI
  • Z pattern
  • The Big Idea (metaphor)
  • Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci sequence (or spiral)

Artifacts: History of movie posters | negative space logos | negative space II | title sequences and title screens | great logo examples | Good minimalist logos | Nieman Reports: Visual Journalism | Six creative front pages | Global slave trade in 2 minutes, from | Vector graphics in graphic design

For Wednesday: Read mini graphic design history AND The Six Perspectives

Surf the Creative Blog (logo design, creative, optical illusions)

Week 12: Nov. 11

Graphic Design II & Artful Design (design + aesthetics)

Art Deco in architecture | Art Deco in automobiles | Art Deco in furniture | Art Deco in movie posters | Art Deco in aircraft | Hippy-dippy YouTube walkthru of Art Deco | Steampunk City (Oamaru, N.Z.) | Carolina's argyle

Graphic design presentations Wednesday

For Monday: Read Dr. Carroll's recent column on Bauhaus, his column on Midcentury Modern, and his column on Shaker

For Wednesday: 8-minute group briefings on the various design era or school or philosophy. Instructions on Wandering Rocks.

Week 13: Nov. 18

Photography | Fibonacci spiral (golden ratio)

The explosive power of the image

Should we see mass shooting crime scene photos? Sandy Hook | Uvalde

The art of memory

Artifacts: New York Times photo blog | Groundhog Day in Thailand | Photos That Lie | NAACP and images | Emmett Till memoria app | 1930s London colorized and digitally remastered (stunning)

Due Monday: Safari no. 10: Beautiful, artful design safari

Due Friday: Exam Project II
>>Rubric for the exam project

Due Friday: Safari no. 11 asks you to bring in a still photo you will take of a "broken dream" interpreted as you wish. Include date taken and location. No photoshopping.

Week 14: Nov. 25

Photography to Cinema (still to moving images)

La Jetée | On Kanopy (free) | Creating a wormhole

The first moving images: serpentine dances

Artifacts: the first moving images: Best typefaces of 2022 | New York Times retrospective | Sites of remembrance | The James Webb telescope explained by our very own Dr. Todd Timberlake

Due Monday: Safari no. 12, as divided up in class, one photo of a. the mundane, everyday, banal, b. the ugly, grotesque or hideous, or c. the poignant, timeless, poetic. With writeup/explanation.

Read for Wednesday: Martin Why Marvel movies aren't cinema (Martin Scorcese) AND Hollywood's color blind past (New York Times Sunday magazine)

Due Friday: Safari no. 13. One photo to sustain you in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic future. A rebellion against time: The future cannot deny the past. (Safari based on La Jetee)

Week 15: Dec. 2

Moving images

Full circle: The Future



Take-home final exam due TBA. Submit to Canvas to this assignment's thread. If you do the alternate final, submit via email to Dr. Carroll.

Standard take-home final exam booklet and the rubric

Examples of alternate (film) responses:

pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972)

“It is a paradox of the twentieth century that while visual images have increasingly come to dominate our culture, our colleges and universities traditionally have devoted relatively little attention to visual media.” Sturken and Cartwright, Practices of Looking (2001)

Course Description: Study of visual theory, visual literacy and how visual images are used to persuade. Students study and interpret audience-specific visual culture and communication, and the rhetoric of visual materials.

Course Purpose & Objectives: By the end of this course, my goal is for students to --  

  • Better understand how images and their viewers make and communicate meaning.
  • Know how to study and decipher images for their textual meanings by applying methods of interpretation. (Object of focus: images.)
  • Examine modes of responding to visuality, or the practices of seeing or looking. (Object of focus: viewer/reader/audience.)
  • Explore the roles images play in culture and how those roles change as the images move, circulate, become appropriated and cross cultures.
  • Likewise, explore how cultural influences determine the type of visual messages used and how they are interpreted.
  • Learn a grammar and ethics of seeing and of producing visual messages.

What you may want (recommended but not required)

  • Visual Communication, Paul Martin Lester (Thomson)
  • Ways of Seeing, John Berger (Penguin)
  • The Image, Dan Boorstin (Vintage)
  • Ourspace, Christine Harold (University of Minnesota)
  • Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis (Wiley)
  • Visual Methodologies, Gillian Rose (Sage)
  • Graphic Communications Today, Ryan and Conover (Thomson)
  • On Photography, Susan Sontag (Picador)
  • Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright (Oxford)

Stuff you need to know

Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
Office: Laughlin Hall 100
Office phone: 368.6944
Home page:

Office hours: MWF noon-2pm, Tuesdays 10am-2pm, by appointment, or just drop by


Attendance: Be on time, just as you would for a job, surgery, or even a haircut. Everyone gets one unexcused absence or late arrival, maybe two, with no questions asked. Stuff happens. After that, unexcused and/or unexplained absences and/or lateness will result in point deductions from the "professionalism and participation" portion of your grade -- one point for each unexcused absence and/or late arrival. And late is late – one minute or ten minutes. It’s binary. What is excused is at the instructor's discretion, so you are best served discussing situations and extraordinary circumstances prior to class whenever possible. Medical attention typically is excused. Weddings, family reunions, vacations, job interviews, grad school visits, Winshape retreats, your roommate’s birthday? These are NOT typically excused. Save your free passes for these non-academic excursions.

Late submissions (deadlines): Submit assigned work on time, printed out for grading, and submit this work in person. Do not email the professor your work; your professor does not offer a printing service. Similarly, posting your assignment somewhere in Canvas will not “count” as making deadline. Late work, including any work submitted any other way than that which is authorized, will be penalized one letter grade per class session. Work submitted a week or more after deadline will not be eligible for points. In-class quizzes cannot be made up, regardless of the reason it was missed. The instructor is very reasonable when consulted PRIOR TO deadlines. Finally, please appreciate that deadlines are also for instructors, so that we can move on, as well. In short, deadlines are real, they are our friends, and they will be enforced.

Email etiquette: Related to the above, when emailing your instructor, please keep in mind that he is a person, not a vending machine for information, grades, etc. Begin each and every email with an address and a greeting, something like, “Dear Dr. Carroll. I hope this finds you well.” It’s courteous, and it doesn’t take much time to write. It’s also polite to thank someone for whatever was provided in response to your request. Speaking of email, it is the authorized communication channel for faculty and students at Berry, so you are responsible for checking your email and promptly responding to your instructors as needed.

Distractions:  The instructor needs your attention and your respect, as do your peers seated near or around you. Your instructor is easily distracted, so he needs your help. Practically, this means:

    • ZERO unauthorized device use of any kind, including laptops, iPads, smartphones, and Apple watches. Put your devices away and make sure they are either off or on ‘silent.’ Use a device, even an Apple watch to check a text, and you will be marked as having been “absent” for that class session.
    • Doing homework for other classes somewhere else.
    • Avoiding the zipping up of backpacks and clearing off of desks prior to being dismissed.
    • Avoiding repetitive noisemaking, such as clicking pens, crinkling food wrappers, and clanging water bottles.

Decorum: Related to the distractions described above, please remember that the classroom is the professor’s workspace and our shared learning space. It’s not your living room or den, in other words. You cannot, therefore, disappear with your phone into the restroom for 20 minutes whenever you might like. Getting up, leaving, using the door, returning, occasionally tripping over someone’s backpack and/or spilling their beverage – all of this distracts and interrupts. So, go the bathroom BEFORE you come to class. If nature calls – and I mean SCREAMS – ask for permission to (briefly) exit the classroom. Leave your phone behind. Students are permitted one or two “emergencies” during the semester, but deductions will be made from your professionalism and participation grade for chronic bathroom escapes or their equivalents.

Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will have consequences. You are invited to consult the College Catalog for an articulation of the College’s policies with respect to academic integrity. Specific to this course, academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: unauthorized collaboration, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, hiring a ghostwriter, asking an AI generator to write something for you that you later submit, failing to cite sources for your research (and, therefore, submitting others’ work as your own), consulting non-authorized sources or texts during an exam period, and aiding and abetting academic dishonesty by another student. Violations will be reported. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.” Attached to the course syllabus is the pledge of academic integrity you will be asked to sign for most major assignments.

Class recording (Zoom): Per Berry policy, students are required to attend class in-person. Classes will not be available for remote learning, at least not regularly or without advance warning and authorization. Any recordings will only be available to students registered for this class and cannot be re-transmitted, distributed, or otherwise shared without the expressed, written consent of the instructor, who owns the copyright to the intellectual property contained in or by the recording.  

How you will be graded

Safaris, blog comments, do-da's 15%
Exam I 25%
Exam II 25%
Final exam 25%
Professionalism and participation 10%

For daily projects and blog posts, grades of check plus, check, check minus, and zero will be awarded. Roughly translated, check plusses = As; checks = Bs; and check minuses = Cs. The wide variability of subjectivity of these daily assignments, such as “bring in three examples of metonymic symbolism,” preclude a more precise grading scheme. The check system also facilitates a faster turnaround time.

To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

59 and below

Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

Accommodation Statement

The Academic Success Center provides accessibility resources, including academic accommodations, to students with diagnosed differences and/or disabilities.  If you need accommodations for this or other classes, please visit for information and resources.  You may also reach out at 706-233-40480.  Please note, faculty are not required, as part of any temporary or long-term accommodation, to distribute recordings of class sessions. 

Academic Resources

Consultants at the Berry College Writing Center are available to assist students with all stages of the writing process. To schedule an appointment, visit

The Academic Success Center provides free peer tutoring and individual academic consultations to all Berry College students. The ASC Session schedule is available on ASC Website: The goal of these meetings is to help students study smarter, not harder.

Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time so let’s have some fun!

bc home | berry home | email the prof


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