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Bad Design, Spring 2022
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Class InformationCurrents: Bad Design
Tuesdays, 9:00am–11:40am
Parsons School of Design
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InstructorsTuan Quoc Pham, phamt@newschool.edu
Luiza Dale, dalel160@newschool.edu
Office hours by appointment
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Course DescriptionWhat do we mean when we say something is badly designed? Is it illegible? Underdesigned? Does it draw too much attention to itself? Does it have something to do with the designer? The audience? How about good design, what does that look like? Is it clear? Simple? Just right?

We often form opinions based on "industry best practices," trends, and social norms that prioritize efficiency for maximum profit generation. Bad Design is a part studio, part reading-and-conversation seminar exploring design that doesn’t conform to the standard. The course will challenge (good) design tropes by surveying the histories and systems in which graphic design exists to situate why we may deem design work "bad." We will investigate the role of locality, legibility, plurality, and lived experience in our design work, while taking the stance that design needs to be self-critical to allow for diverse ways of making.
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Learning OutcomesBy the completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Consider many views of graphic design work that escapes the tradition of Modernism
- Make meaning through form using typography, imagery and interactivity
- Have experience discussing their own work and engaging with their peers'
- Demonstrate an understanding of design within a nuanced field of value as opposed to the binary of good and bad
- Have conceptualized, evolved, and executed three projects from start to finish that critically convey their ideas
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Commitment to Equity and Diversity
We are committed to creating a more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist community at Parsons. We recognize that we must continue to advance our teaching pedagogy and expand our curriculum to address issues of white supremacy, racial discrimination and other forms of systemic oppression.

We come to the classroom from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. It is important to be respectful and empathetic towards others, be open to criticism and engage in new ways of learning. On the first day of class, we will write a Group Agreement that outlines our collective classroom standards for the course. We will be responsible for upholding the agreement throughout the semester.

Land acknowledgment: We are gathered on the unceded land of the Lenape peoples. We acknowledge the long and complex history that has brought us to occupy this land, and we seek to evaluate the ongoing effects of colonialism and our participation in that process. We honor the Lenape community and other Indigenous peoples of this land before us, today, and the generations to come.
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Class TimeClasses will be composed of group conversations, reading discussions, guest lectures, presentations, project critiques, working sessions and in-class exercises.
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ReadingsThere will be 1–2 assigned readings for most classes during the first half of the semester. For subsequent reading discussions, 1–2 students will take on the role of discussion leader(s), responsible to guide our conversation with questions.
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ProjectsThere will be 3 projects in the course. Projects 1 and 2 are individual while Project 3 can be collaborative (1–3 students per group).

Project 1: Manifesto (4 weeks)
Project 2: Map (4 weeks)
Project 3: Guide (6 weeks)
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RequirementsYou will need:
- A computer
- An internet connection
- This class site
- Are.na for researching and collecting references
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Assessment Criteria20% Attendance
20% Discussion contribution/participation
20% Project 1
20% Project 2
20% Project 3
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Attendance, Grading and Work Submission Standards, Program Policies, Making Resources, and University Policies All CD classes adhere to the same program and University policies found here.
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CreditThis course is greatly inspired by the teaching of Laurel Schwulst, Mindy Seu, Rosa McElheny and Willis Kingery. Thank you to our guests Alex Wolfe, Erik Carter, Jacob Lindgren, Liyan Zhao and TXTbooks for your time and generosity. Special thanks to Steven Rodriguez.