Course Syllabus

GD15 Course Information/Syllabus

 Kathy Thornley photo

Kathy Thornley
Instructor home page



Course Outcomes About your Instructor
Communication Required Textbook
Hardware/Software Lectures/Assignments
Participation/Attendance Grading
Online Preparedness Expectations
Important Dates Tips

Welcome to GD15 History of Graphic Design!

his 17-week online course looks at the fascinating development of graphic design; its humble origins in early cave paintings, explosive development during the Renaissance, and stunning variety of styles in modern times. We will explore graphic design from the perspective of historical events, cultures, social movements and technological advances and also learn more about the individuals who influenced and shaped it.

This course will be taught entirely online (no Zoom or face-to-face meetings). Each week, you will read chapters in your required textbook, watch videos and complete assignments and group discussions that focus on the topics. This gives you a very flexible study schedule, but also requires that you work in a self-disciplined and independent manner.

You will need a reliable computer and Internet connection in order to participate in this online class. You should have some basic computer competency, but will not be required to use sophisticated graphic design software applications like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Alternative tools will be provided!

As a student in this class, it is your responsibility to read and understand completely everything that's on this syllabus.

NOTE: Please do check your email/notifications from Canvas frequently for any updates and communications from me regarding the class materials. I send out weekly announcements that appear on the class home page. You should set your notifications to also receive announcements via email. Here's some important information on how to manage your Canvas Notifications in this course.

I reserve the right to change the course syllabus and point values for specific assignments and activities at any time. If I do so, I will inform the class promptly via e-mail and on the class website. Therefore it is essential that you keep your current e-mail address on file by updating your SRJC profile in your student cubby any time you make a change to your contact information.

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Course Learning Outcomes and Objectives:

Student Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify, analyze, and evaluate current graphic design within the context of past graphic design movements as to the design's effectiveness and influence on our modern day-to-day lives.
  2. Find effective resources from graphic design history to apply to modern design.


Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:
  1. Evaluate and interpret the content of our present graphic and visual communications environment through understanding the sources of modern graphic design.
  2. Analyze and describe past graphic design movements styles as they reflect the culture of various periods from prehistory to modern times.
  3. Examine how our lives are influenced by our relationship to the graphic and visual communications environments around us.
  4. Develop ideas for new design through exposure to alternative graphic and visual design styles.
  5. Locate and utilize resources from graphic design history.
  6. Evaluate the multicultural and gender influences on Western design by identifying global contributions.

Course Outline:
Link to current full course outline

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About Your Instructor

 My name is Kathy Thornley and I've been teaching at the JC in the Graphic Design/Computer Studies Department since 1988. During the past 30 years I have taught so many classes at the JC including: Typography, QuarkXPress, Advanced QuarkXPress, Introduction to the Internet, Multimedia Design, Animation Design, Principles of Screen Design (GD72), Beginning and Advanced Advertising and Page Layout Design (GD54), Introduction to Adobe Acrobat DC, Photoshop 1, CS5: Intro to Information Literacy, and an information literacy class: LIR10. Wow, that is quite a list! But... History of Graphic Design is one of my favorite classes to teach!

I was born and raised in England and still have an accent to prove it (perhaps you'll hear it in the videos!). I am a graduate of the Graphic Design Certificate Program at SRJC and have ACE certificates in Photoshop and InDesign. I also have a Masters Degree in Information Studies from UC Berkeley. Before I got into teaching, I worked for many years as a typesetting and layout artist creating event programs, flyers, books and technical documents to name a few.

I think graphic design is fascinating! I love exploring creative and unique designs on the web. I relish a beautiful font and exquisite typography. A clever and intriguing logo design always catches my eye. But no design exists in a vacuum. It's a product of many influences; previous design trends, culture, events, and technology and that's what makes the study of graphic design history so captivating.

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Communicating with Your Instructor and the Class

Although we may not meet face-to-face during this course, there are several ways we can communicate:

Instructor Contact Information:

Kathy Thornley: (e-mail or Canvas "mail" is the best way to contact me!)

Question and Answer Forum:

There will be a course-long class forum where you can ask questions about the class, assignments etc. Participation in the questions forum is not required but you should post any class-related questions here so I can reply to all students at once. You will receive 5 points extra credit for active participation (at least 2 posts) in our Q and A forum.

Individual E-mail:

You are welcome to send me a message or e-mail any time you need to discuss a private concern or individual question. My e-mail address is: Kathy Thornley -- Canvas mail is also a good way to contact me.

  • You can expect a reply to your e-mail within 24 hours (except on weekends) but I usually respond much faster than that.
  • Make sure you put GD15 in the subject line. I teach multiple classes each semester so may well miss your important message if you don't identify which class you're from.
  • Also remember to sign your full name at the bottom of your message!

Virtual Office Hours:

I love to meet my students! I will be available for "virtual office hours" on Monday from 2-3pm. I have set up a video "conference" link that will allow us to talk face to face using Zoom or type messages in a chat box.

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Required Text:

Meggs' History of Graphic Design (6th edition).
By Philip B Meggs & Alston Purvis, Wiley: 2016.
ISBN: 9781118772058
Print and digital versions available.

Purchase/rent through the JC bookstore,, or any other source you can find. You must use the 6th edition (cover is shown above)! It is your responsibility to figure out how to purchase and get delivery of your textbook.
Important! You don't need any access code to additional online materials -- identified in the bookstore copy as (w/Bind-in Access Code) and there is no need for any extra DVDs or other additional materials.

Note: there is a single print copy of this book on Reserve at the JC Doyle Library (Santa Rosa Campus) but access to it may be very limited. You should plan on purchasing or renting your own copy.

IMPORTANT! This book is required! You will not be able to get through the course without it.

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Hardware/Software Requirements

To take this class in an online format you should have the following:

  • Relatively powerful (reliable) computer: either a PC running a recent version of Windows or Mac OS that can display web pages and stream short videos from the web. It should also have a functioning microphone and webcam.
    If you need a more powerful computer, you can borrow one for a semester on a first-come, first-served basis. Click on this link to access the Library Technology Information Page.

  • Internet Connection: You will need a decent, reliable Internet connection that allows you to read Canvas pages, complete quizzes/assignments, and particularly, to view the online videos.

  • Web Browser: Chrome is the browser recommended for optimal working in Canvas. If you choose to use a different browser, make sure it's a recent update.

  • Internet Plug-ins/extensions: Make sure you have commonly-used Internet plug-ins installed with your browser particularly Acrobat Reader.

  • E-mail Account: Use just ONE e-mail account that you check frequently. Make sure the e-mail account does not get so full that messages are bounced. Do not change e-mail accounts in mid-course unless it's absolutely necessary!
    • You can obtain an e-mail account either by signing up for a JC Student account or by getting a free online account through Gmail or similar service (Yahoo accounts have had some issues in the past so I recommend you avoid them!).
      For more information on JC Student E-mail Accounts please visit: SRJC Information Technology Student Email Support

  • Basic Computer Competency: You won't be required to use complex graphic design programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop but should be able to create, format and save basic word documents/presentations using Google Docs or Slides or equivalent.

  • Good Computer Karma!!


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Weekly Lectures and Assignments

Reading/Watching the Weekly Lecture/Video Pages:

You are expected to read completely through any weekly textbook chapters, Canvas lecture pages, and watch any video presentations. The instruction pages are activated on a weekly basis at noon on Wednesday. Please check the Modules to review the starting and ending dates for each week. I will send out a weekly update message via e-mail with an overview of a particular week's topic/assignments. It will also indicate when the next week's pages will be activated.


The assignments/activities for each week are listed on the Weekly Schedule in the Modules. The due date and points for each assignment/activity are clearly identified. Click on the link for each assignment to read detailed instructions on what you are expected to do. Make sure you complete the assignments on time. Assignments are assigned on a Wednesday at noon and are due MONDAY at 11:59pm for discussion posts and the following TUESDAY night at 11:59pm for everything else. Deadlines are clearly marked.

Assignments will vary from searching for and sharing examples of design styles to actually creating them. Students will not be expected to know (or learn) sophisticated design applications (e.g. Photoshop). Simpler options will be provided. If you are a graphic design student, please be aware that this is a general education course and includes many students who are not graphic design majors. For fairness, some assignments will require all students to use the same applications to create them.

Be sure to read my feedback and comments on your assignments by clicking on the Grades page and the rubric/comment icons next to each assignment.

Late Work Policy:

The due dates for assignments are clearly marked and are due consistently on the same day/time each week. You should start assignments early in the week to avoid missing a deadline. I have so many students in this class that keeping track of late assignments is a real headache. Here is my policy:

  • Assignments, discussions and quizzes will be accepted one week after the deadline. 
    The only exception I make to this late policy is a true emergency beyond your control. You should contact me before the deadline to indicate you're unable to turn in your assignment.
  • Late assignments will lose 5% per day until the assignment closes. This is an automatic deduction through Canvas.
  • Submission links for assignments, discussions and quizzes deactivate one week after the deadline and will not be reopened.
  • Final project and final exam must be submitted on time.
  • Nothing will be accepted after the final day of class.

I'm sorry to have such a strict late work policy but I have too many students to manage very late assignments.

Expectations for Written and Design Assignments:

Since this is a college-level course, written assignments (including discussion forums) should have detailed answers and must be completed using full, grammatically-correct sentences without spelling errors. Type your assignments or discussion postings in a word editing program (e.g MS Word/Google docs) and use a grammar/spell checker if you're not confident about your writing/spelling abilities.

  • Assignments written in "texting" lingo (e.g. "these tutorials r gd lol") will receive an automatic 50% penalty.
  • Written and design assignments generated using ChatGPT or any other AI equivalent are not acceptable.


Quizzes are listed under the Weekly Assignments headings in each weekly Module. All quizzes are multiple choice. You may use your notes when taking a quiz or exam. The quizzes are set to display only your final score when you submit the quiz and while the quiz is still open. After the quiz closes, you can click on your submission to see your answers and the correct answers to the quiz. They are not timed. Make sure you complete them by the deadline.

Exams -- Midterm/Final Exam:

There are no multiple choice style midterms or finals in this class (just short weekly quizzes). A midterm and final project will substitute for any larger cumulative exams.

Forum Participation/Discussion:

We will have regular graded class discussions about the topics presented in the textbook. Your posts should be well-written (grammatically-correct)! No texting lingo/spelling allowed! Discussion posts are due by Monday, any replies/answers due by Tuesday. 

IMPORTANT: Any language, quote or image shared in the discussions must be appropriate for a college class. Please... no political, controversial or adult-only material. Posts containing inappropriate material will be deleted and the student will receive 0 points.

Larger Projects:

In addition to the shorter weekly assignments and discussions, you will work on three larger projects: a Gutenberg-inspired alphabet design, a poster re-creation project, and a final presentation on a famous graphic designer. Specific details about each of these projects will be provided as the course progresses.

Extra Credit Opportunities:

I will offer a few extra credit opportunities throughout the course!

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Participation and Attendance

Participation is essential to an online class. You participate by raising good questions, contributing to the discussions and completing your assignments. If you do not put in the hours required by this course, it will be very obvious from the quality of your participation.

Attendance: You "attend" class each week by reading the textbook chapters and weekly information pages, watching any videos, completing the assignments/quizzes on time and participating in the group discussions. Canvas keeps a student log of your activities that shows the extent of your activities on the class Canvas site. In other words... I can see how much time you're putting into the class!

According to SRJC attendance policy:

  • Students are expected to attend (participate) in all sessions of an online course.
  • Students may be dropped from any class when their absences exceed 10% of the total hours of class time.

Link to SRJC attendance policy online

If you fail to attend (participate) in the class for an entire week without contacting me in any way (or responding to my attempts to contact you), you may well be dropped from the class. However, it is ultimately YOUR responsibility to drop a class. Failure to do so may result in an F grade.

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My philosophy about grading is that "every student starts with an A grade." It is up to you what happens to it during the course.

Your final grade will be based on the points accumulated from your participation and all the work completed during the class. Grading: >90% = A, 80%-89.5% = B, 70%-79.5% = C (or P/NP), 60%-69.5% = D, <60% = F. You should use the Canvas Grades page to keep track of your progress in this class.

Important Note about the Canvas Grades page! Ungraded assignments may show a 0 grade. Please do not assume that you have received 0 for assignments you have submitted. The number will change when I actually grade the assignment -- usually within 1 week. You should be able to check the status of an assignment to make sure you've submitted it.

This class can be taken for a Grade or Pass/No Pass. Be sure to check the deadline for switching to P/NP. Make sure you know whether a grade in this class is necessary for any certificate you are pursuing. To check your grades please click on the Grades link in the Canvas sidebar.

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Online and Course Preparedness

This course is entirely Internet-based so you should feel relatively comfortable using your computer (software and hardware) and should be prepared to work independently. To participate in this class online you need to:

  • Have a reliable email and Internet connection
  • Feel comfortable with basic computer operations and navigating the World Wide Web.
  • Have a single, consistent, reliable e-mail that you check frequently!
  • Know how to send and receive e-mail. Use the same e-mail account for the entire class and make sure it does not become full of messages.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Canvas learning management system used by SRJC
  • Set Canvas notifications so you receive alerts on your phone about homework and due dates

If you need reassurance that you are ready to take an online class, please check the  Distance Education Online Learning page.


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Student Expectations and Resources

This 17-week section will be taught entirely online. The online format offers you flexibility in scheduling however it requires extra self-discipline and motivation.

Your time commitment:

According to SRJC guidelines, you can expect to dedicate approximately 9 hours a week (3 in completing lectures and weekly reading and 6 hours for homework/project assignments) for a full semester 3 unit class (this includes reading/watching lectures and completing assignments/activities). This is the official SRJC formula but may not actually reflect the time you spend on the class. Make an effort not to fall behind with your assignments.

If you fall behind with your assignments, please e-mail me before you decide to drop the class. I'm very willing to help you out.

Student Conduct Standards:

Students must abide by the SRJC Student Conduct Standards. These Conduct standards also apply to acts of Academic Dishonesty. Any act of academic dishonesty, either intentional or unintentional, will result in a grade of "F" on that assignment. You should read the information in this link about students' rights and responsibilities.

Collaborating on or copying of tests or homework in whole or in part will be considered an act of academic dishonesty and result in a grade of 0 for that test or assignment. Students are encouraged to share information and ideas, but not quiz answers or homework.
SRJC's statement on Academic Integrity

Special Needs:

Every effort is made to conform to accessibility standards for all instructor-created materials. Students should contact their instructor as soon as possible if they find that they cannot access any course materials.

If you need disability-related accommodations for this class -- such as a notetaker, test-taking services, etc. -- please provide me with the Authorization for Academic Accommodations (AAA letter) from the Disability Resources Department (DRD) as soon as possible.

If you have a health-related or mental health concern, you can contact SRJC Student Health Services.

All students enrolled in any credit course in the Sonoma County Junior College District are eligible to access services funded by the Health Fee. Professional visits and select supplies are provided free of charge. Cost of care obtained at other healthcare facilities, however, is the student's financial responsibility.

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Important Dates

Please pay close attention to the important dates in this class particularly those to drop and withdraw!

  • The last day to drop without a W is: Sunday, February 4, 2024.
  • The last day to drop with a W is: Sunday, April 21, 2024.
  • Students are responsible for dropping the class.

The final day of class lectures/activities is Friday, May 17, 2024. All regular and/or late assignments are due on that date.

For your final, you will complete a final presentation project due on Monday, May 20th. Feedback to classmates due on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.


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Tips For Enjoying This Class


Get involved in class discussions and share your questions and discoveries!


Think outside the box. Explore new avenues and graphic design topics that interest you.


With an online class you're pretty much on your own on the technical front. Remember to check your computer manuals and online support/tutorials before you contact me. I may not be able to help you solve problems with your home computer.


You create a great class atmosphere when you work cooperatively with your fellow students and with me. Your classmates will appreciate hearing your constructive comments. In addition, I like to receive constructive and positive feedback about how the class is going. If there's a problem I'd like to hear about it. You never know... maybe I can even fix it!


Stay up to date with your reading, videos, quizzes and assignments! Resist the urge to procrastinate!


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