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Overview of curriculum

Graduation project 'Slightly Strange Matters' | Sha Yee Jin, Graphic Design 2014, Nominee Department Award, Winner Goedman Award Graphic Design

Image: Graduation project 'Slightly Strange Matters' | Sha Yee Jin, Graphic Design 2014, Nominee Department Award, Winner Goedman Award Graphic Design

The Graphic Design programme has a curriculum focusing on three domains of knowledge and ability: an artistic domain, a theoretical domain and a professional-social domain. In some cases, the domains are directly recognisable in the courses (e.g. theory and professional preparation). Other courses focus on more than one domain. For example, Design and Typography both have an artistic and a theoretical dimension, which are inextricably linked together.

Artistic technical domain

The four pillars of the programme (Design, Interaction, Image and Typography) are of a conceptual nature. Design centres on the examination, organisation, editing and visualisation of information and controlling processes of information transfer. As the name implies, the discipline of Interaction focuses on interactive processes designed for new media and other contexts. Image focuses on the creation, editing, deployment and organisation of images and the creation of concepts in which images play a role. The visual form of texts plays the central role in Typography, both independently and in relation to image. In Coding classes, students gain basic knowledge in programming and technical competences. They are introduced to the characteristics of algorithms, functions and loops and the possibilities for applying them in the design process.

At the beginning of the second year, the notion of ‘courses’ is gradually abandoned, and supervision in the completion of assignments in various specialisations becomes more important. From this point on, there is a strong relationship with the professional social domain. In the second and third year, students choose between two electives at the beginning of each year. In the Letterstudio, letters are researched in relation to typography. Playlab includes an experimental research programme that searches for the boundaries of the discipline. The Design Office was created as a studio in which students work in teams on special assignments for actual clients, often in the cultural field.

Theoretical domain

The department’s theoretical programme establishes an exchange between the student’s work and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of the current graphic design within its artistic, historical and social context. The first year focuses on contemporary graphic design as a significant part of visual culture and new media. The second year is devoted to theory in the history of design. Philosophy is the focal point of the third year, with attention to the relationship between graphic design and social issues. In the fourth year, the theory teacher provides guidance to students as they write their theses, which are linked to their graduation projects.

One important goal of the theory programme is to teach students to position themselves in relation to the work of others, to form opinions and to admit when personal feelings and taste are involved.

The Reading Group forms another part of the domain. It is organised once a year with the goal of engaging students intellectually with challenging texts. The topics discussed cover everything from design and media theory to anthropology and ethics.

In addition to the theoretical programme offered by the department, students take Academy-wide courses in art theory and academic skills, and they can participate in the Academy’s Studium Generale. Students may also take courses in other departments or at Leiden University, within the framework of the Individual Study Track (IST).

Professional social domain

What is the social significance of graphic design? What are your ambitions as a graphic designer in society? What do you need to do in order to achieve it? These questions are discussed throughout the programme, with the goal of preparing students for their future profession. During the propaedeutic year, this is accomplished in a playful and explorative way. In the subsequent years, assignments mimic realistic situations. There is contact with the professional field, the public and clients. Some projects take place outside the Academy, while others are derived from professional practice. In addition, all students are required to complete internships.

In the fourth year, the focus is very explicitly placed on the students’ future professional practice, with a Career Orientation course, assistance in compiling a portfolio and the graduation projects. During these activities, the consequences of the students’ choices are examined. For example, students must ask themselves questions concerning the type of designers they would like to become, whether they would like to work for firms or independently, and what would suit them best. Possibilities for postgraduate education are also discussed. In the final year, students are expected to present themselves during evaluations as designers and justify their personal opinions.


Study programme overview

Propaedeutic year

The first year is an adventurous exploration of the student’s qualities in various aspects of graphic design. These qualities are explored with challenging assignments that appeal to the student’s curiosity and creativity. Smaller assignments are alternated with larger assignments, taking the students to the far corners of their field. Considerable emphasis is placed on open-mindedness and the joy of working. Students try out different ways of working and acquire an initial indication of their visual abilities and the value of their ideas.

In this way, students gradually move towards the development of their own visual language and visions. In the first year, it is important to create a large body of work that provides confidence and creates resilience that will be useful during the rest of the programme.

Throughout the year, students complete assignments for which they must make use of the workshops. In the final assessment, students must answer the question of whether graphic design is suitable for them, and if they are suitable for the profession. They should be able to specify clearly the elements of the profession that are of primary interest to them.

Points of departure

  • The introduction to the field is both practical and theoretical. 
  • The creative and intellectual development of the student is central. 
  • Scheduled courses are offered parallel to each other. They focus on particular aspects of the profession and the culture, both substantively and technically, and they broaden the frame of reference. In addition to scheduled courses, two project weeks take place in the propaedeutic year: a departmentwide week for all years, an Academywide course for all first-year groups and an excursion week. 

Study programme components

  • Design
  • Image
  • Typography and Letters 
  • Interaction
  • Drawing
  • Theory: Current Visual Culture
  • Academy-wide: Art Theory and Introduction to Science


Year 2

In the second year, students work on a series of challenging design assignments. The emphasis is on expanding their understanding of the profession and strengthening their qualities as designers. Ample space is reserved for research. The assignments address a variety of issues, including the concepts of public space and audience groups. There are realistic and fictional, optional and compulsory assignments. During the year, the courses taught are replaced by supervision by different teachers in joint assignments. Each teacher covers a specific area of expertise: Design, Image, Typography or Interaction. Students have the opportunity to discuss their work with different teachers. They also take the Letterstudio, Playlab or Design Office course, and they formulate their own Individual Study Trajectories. The theory programme is devoted to the history of graphic design within its cultural and social contexts, establishing a relationship with the work of the students. The students also focus on the presentation and exhibition of their work.

Points of departure

  • Expanding the understanding of the discipline 
  • Strengthening the students’ personal qualities as designer 
  • Greater focus on research 
  • Supervision by teachers with different specialisations in joint assignments 
  • Choice between Letterstudio, Playlab and Design Office 
  • Individual Study Track as a tool to add breathing space or depth to the study programme 
  • Career preparation projects, in the context of classes, as well as the Individual Study Track 
  • Organisation of exhibitions and presentations

Study programme components

Design Assignments with supervision in

  • Design
  • Image
  • Typography
  • Interaction 
  • Design Theory 
  • Elective: Letterstudio, Playlab or Design Office 
  • Technique: Coding 
  • Individual Study Track 


Year 3

The third year also focuses on complex design assignments. In this year, the emphasis is placed on the relationship between graphic designers and society. This is reflected in the theory programme, the assignments and the internship. One of the points of departure for the course is that students gain increasing control over their tracks as the programme progresses, and much is expected of them in the third year. Students are largely responsible for organising their own supervision, and they have considerable freedom in how they approach the assignments. For example, they can decide to increase their focus on designing for new media, to centralise the unification of text and image or to approach assignments typographically. The curriculum emphasises interdisciplinary collaboration and multidisciplinary knowledge. By making optimal use of Playlab, Design Office, the Letterstudio and the Individual Study Track, students can broaden their knowledge, specialise and acquire additional skills and techniques. The thirdyear theory programme teaches philosophy, and it is devoted to reflection on current social themes. Its aim is to help students develop a vision on their personal responsibility as a designer and to support their ideas of designing according to their social visions.

Points of departure

  • After the first year’s emphasis on the discovery of student’s qualities, and the second year’s focus on deepening their understanding of the discipline, the third year concentrates on the relationship with society. 
  • The courses continue to fuse together. In the second semester, the assignment teachers supervise a large assignment with a socially relevant theme. 
  • The students choose Letterstudio, Playlab or Design Office. 
  • The Individual Study Track serves as a tool for adding breathing space or depth to the study programme, and career preparation projects take place within the framework of the Individual Study Track.

Study programme components

Design Assignments with supervision in +

  • Design 
  • Image 
  • Typography 
  • Interaction 
  • Theory: Philosophy 
  • Elective: Letterstudio, Playlab or Design Office 
  • Technique: Coding 
  • Individual Study Track

Year 4

This year is entirely focused on the final examination and the internship. The first semester is exploratory in nature, with students working on various design assignments involving both visual and contentbased elements, which could serve as precursors for the central theme of the graduation project. The final phase commences in the second semester. Students are motivated by deadlines, and they must work hard to be able to present enough work of a sufficient level to pass to the final phase. The theoretical part of the final year comprises the thesis, which provides the theoretical preparation for the graduation project. Students also prepare for the final examination and their future professional practice, and they are assisted in constructing their portfolios.

Points of departure

  • The focus of the final year is on the position and positioning of students as graphic designers within their disciplines and society. 
  • The entire year is devoted to the final examination; from the start of the year, students work on projects with which they can graduate.
  • The Individual Study Track serves as a tool for adding breathing space or depth to the study programme.
  • Students graduating with letter projects make use of supervision from the Letterstudio.

Study programme components

Graduation projects with supervision in

  • Design
  • Image 
  • Typography
  • Interaction
  • Theory: Thesis
  • Career Preparation
  • Technique: Coding
  • Individual Study Track 

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Last updated: 2016-09-08


   
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