Com 320: Visual Communication

Spring 2018 • 3 credits
Goertzen 1 • Sec. 1: MWF 8:10, Sec. 2: MWF 9:10

Instructor: Lisa Waananen Jones
Office: Murrow 209
Office Hours: By appointment
Phone: 509-335-5229

Course Overview

In this course, students will learn about how we see and perceive images, and apply visual principles to create compositions for web and print publication. Students will explore the history, ethics, research and technology of news images to understand why some visuals stand out among everything we see to have a lasting impact in our lives and in society.

In weekly assignments and two large projects, students will analyze images, take photographs, create web and print products, and edit media using Adobe software to practice visual communication skills. This course requires students to go beyond a comfortable, everyday familiarity with visuals to think critically about how we understand and construct our visual world.

Materials & Resources
• Digital camera (smartphone or better)
• Digital storage device (such as USB drive) or cloud storage (such as Dropbox)
• Readings and book chapters provided in class (no cost)
• Strongly recommended: Discounted digital access to New York Times and Washington Post

Assignments in this course require the use of Adobe Creative Cloud software, including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. You are not required to have personal access to this software since you will have access in our classroom and during open lab hours, but personal access is recommended if you anticipate scheduling conflicts with open lab times or prefer to use your own computer.

Please ask if you would ever like book recommendations for any topic covered in this course!

Murrow College Course Learning Goals
The requirements of this course are directly related to the three Murrow College Student Learning Outcomes.

Select University Policies

Copyright (2018) Lisa Waananen Jones
This syllabus and all course-related materials, presentations, lectures, etc. are my intellectual property and may be protected by copyright. Selling class notes through commercial note taking services, without my written advance permission, could be viewed as copyright infringement and/or an academic integrity violation, WAC 504-26-010 (3)(a,b,c,i). Further, the use of University electronic resources (e.g., Blackboard) for commercial purposes, including advertising to other students to buy notes, is a violation of WSU’s computer abuses and theft policy (WAC 504-26-218), a violation of WSU’s Electronic Communication policy (EP 4), and also violates the terms of use for the Blackboard software program.

Discriminatory Conduct Statement
Discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct (including stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence) is prohibited at WSU. See WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct (Executive Policy 15) and WSU Standards of Conduct for Students.

If you feel you have experienced or have witnessed discriminatory conduct, you can contact the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) and/or the WSU Title IX Coordinator at 509-335-8288 to discuss resources, including confidential resources, and reporting options. (Visit for more information).

Most WSU employees, including faculty, who have information regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are required to report the information to OEO or a designated Title IX Coordinator or Liaison. (Visit for more information).

Academic Integrity Statement
Washington State University, a community dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, expects all Academic integrity will be strongly enforced in this course. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010(3). It is strongly recommended that you read and understand these definitions:  

Violation of academic integrity on any assignment will involve (i) an academic penalty ranging from a minimum of both a zero on that assignment and the reduction of a full letter grade on your final grade to failure of the entire course, (ii) filing of case with the Office of Student Conduct, and per university regulations, (iii) inability to withdraw from the course. Instructors may consider mitigating circumstances and have some latitude in assigning sanctions. In addition, the Office of Student Standards and Accountability may impose other punishments, including expulsion from the university.

Some assignments in this course require students to follow professional standards for journalism ethics. Violating these standards (by fabricating sources, intentionally misidentifying sources, presenting staged photos as candid, etc.) is cheating and will be treated as an academic integrity violation.

Reasonable Accommodation Statement
Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center.

Campus and Classroom Safety Statement
Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for an active shooter incident. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).

Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU. For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight video and visit the WSU safety portal.

First Week Class Attendance (Rule 72)
Students who do not attend class during the first week of the semester will likely be dropped from the course. Students with extenuating circumstances should notify the Office of Student Affairs. Valid reasons for missing class do not relieve the student of their responsibility for that missed work.

Academic Regulations, Rule 34a
Students may only repeat a course graded C- or below one time at WSU during fall or spring semesters. Additional repeats are allowed from another institution or at WSU during summer terms or by special permission of the academic unit offering the course.

Select College & Course Policies

University Communication with Students
All official WSU email communication must be sent to students’ WSU email address. Absolutely no communication will be sent to external addresses (e.g., Yahoo, Gmail, and so forth). It is the student’s responsibility to check WSU email at least daily and contact CougTech to promptly resolve any email account issues.

Late/Missed Work
Deadlines are crucial for communication professionals, and they are crucial in this class. One minute late is missing the deadline. Failure to meet a deadline will lead to a lower grade, and may lead to failing the assignment. The standard penalty for late work is a 20 percent deduction per day up to two days past the deadline, after which the work will receive a zero. Penalties may occasionally be adjusted at the instructor’s discretion for extenuating circumstances. Deadlines are not flexible except in the case of documented family or personal emergency discussed with the course instructor before the deadline.

Class Participation & Absences
Your participation is expected and essential for this course. Attendance is crucial for your learning outcomes since this course involves in-class activities and discussions, and your presence is valuable for your peers in the class. Quizzes and in-class activities cannot be made up for credit except in cases of personal emergency or prearranged absences in accordance with Academic Regulation 72. Students with more than 9 absences (the equivalent of three weeks of the semester) will have a final grade reduction and may fail the course. Students who miss class are responsible for keeping track of their absences and contacting the instructor to find out about any updates or announcements.

Instructor Communication & Office Hours
Communication by email is welcome and encouraged. You can expect to get a response to any email within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend and breaks. All email sent to the instructor must be sent from the student’s official WSU email account. Emails from the instructor to the whole class will also be available under “Announcements” in Blackboard.

Students are welcome to meet with the instructor during posted office hours, though it is often helpful to send an email ahead of time about what you want to discuss. To meet at a different time, email the instructor to set up an appointment.

Original Work
Students may not submit any work previously created for other courses, internships or other activities. All work must be original and created for the purposes of this course. Any overlap with topics or examples used in other classes, or any other conflict of interest, must be discussed with the instructor before submitting the assignment. Violating this policy will be considered an academic integrity violation.

All students in this class are expected to work and act as communication professionals, and are expected to follow professional standards and ethics in all assignments.

Sensitive Course Content
This course involves viewing and discussing important visuals from history and current events, and many images may involve difficult and uncomfortable subjects. Images may depict violence, discrimination, death, nudity and hurtful stereotypes. Students who are concerned about the personal impact of viewing or discussing particular types of images should speak with the instructor early in the semester.

Labs & Technology
Students enrolled in Murrow College courses in Pullman have access to computer labs equipped with Adobe software outside of class times. Students must not count on access to labs beyond the posted times, and should plan ahead to make sure unexpected closures do not affect coursework.

This class meets in a Murrow lab that includes computers and other equipment. All classroom technology and personal devices (laptops, phones, etc.) may only be used for course assignments and activities as directed by the instructor. Habitually using your screens for purposes unrelated to this class is disrespectful and disruptive, no matter how discreet you try to be. If you know you will be tempted to multitask, remove the possibility of distraction. Mindfulness is a valuable life skill to practice.

Form of Instruction
The instruction for this course is a combination of lectures, assignment reviews, group discussions and in-class activities. During most weeks, Fridays will be a skills day for hands-on learning related to the week’s assignment.

Presentation materials and readings are posted each week on the course website:

Occasional emails will be sent out with announcements and answers to common questions that may come up. A copy of each email will be archived on Blackboard under “Announcements.”

Grades are based on a point system, with a total of 600 points for the course. Final grades will be determined by percentage (scores on the edge between two letter grades will be rounded up):

A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
93+ 90-93 87-90 83-87 80-83 77-80 73-77 70-73 67-70 60-67 Below 60

All assignments will be judged on accuracy, clarity and application of course principles. Additional evaluation criteria will be specified in individual assignments.

Assignment requirements and deadlines will be described on the course site, along with requirements for submission. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of all described requirements and ask questions if any aspects of the assignments are unclear.

Weekly Assignments (20 points each; 240 points total)
Weekly assignments involve a variety of activities related to that week’s in-class instruction. Most assignments involve both a media component (such as taking photos) and short written responses. Instructions for each will be posted on the course website.

Exams (70 points each; 140 points total)
Two exams will check knowledge and comprehension of course concepts from lectures and readings. The format will be primarily multiple-choice and true/false. Exams are the Fridays of Week 6 and Week 14.

Midterm Project (80 points)
Each student will analyze an influential photograph or image in a written paper and give a summary presentation to the class. This is due the Monday of Week 7.

Final Project (140 points)
Each student will create a photo essay on a particular theme, published on a webpage and on a poster. This is due the Monday of Week 15.

See the full course schedule here.