School of Library and Information Studies

LIS 596: The Medium Relays the Message: The Value and Process of Design in Communication

Course Outline
Fall 2016

Instructor: Kevin Zak
Phone: (780) 905-1145
Class times:  October 14-16, 2016 (13 hours) Friday: 6:00 p.m.9:00 p.m., Saturday: 9:00 a.m.5:00 p.m., Sunday: 9:00 a.m.12:00 p.m.

Course description:
The creation of effective visual communication in print and online media in an increasingly dense and competitive visual environment is paramount to reaching new, as well as established audiences. This course will introduce basic elements and principles of design, the process of design thinking, and how visual representations of information, data, or knowledge are created. Whether working solely with in-house resources, or with a professional graphic or web designer, this course is valuable for librarians wanting to create the greatest impact with their messages to individuals, groups, and communities.

Course objectives:
Upon completion of the course, a student should have an understanding of:

  • the design process
  • what to consider when choosing a designer for a project, and what he or she would require to be an effective part of a team in creating communication materials
  • basic design principles, including selecting colour and typography, and the expressive qualities they can bring to a communication

Measurable Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs):

This course supports several of the SLIS Learning Outcomes, but in particular:
  • Outcome #3: demonstrate critical thinking, analytical capacities and problem-solving skills.
  • Outcome#5: communicate effectively and professionally.
  • Outcome #9: examine the impact, importance, and limitations of technologies in personal, professional, and social contexts as well as in library and information studies settings.
  • Outcome #10: be aware of the need for continuing professional education and develop and maintain collegial relationships with fellow professionals.

Design thinking process; design principles; creative thinking; typography; role of a designer

Through lectures, group activities and discussions, demonstrations, and online video examples.

Course Relationships:

No pre-requisite courses are required.

Required Text / Readings:
Bell, Steven J. “Design Thinking.” 
Brown, Tim. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review.
Recommended Text / Readings: (optional)
Berger, Warren. Glimmer: How design can transform your life, and maybe even the world: Featuring the Ideas, of Design Visionary Bruce Mau, Toronto: Random House, 2009.

Assignments and Weighting:
Participants will identify and analyze a new and/or unfamiliar library product or service; then concept an appropriate approach for raising awareness of this product or service utilizing information collected in the user analysis. 100% of grade determined by assignment.

School of Library and Information Studies Grading Statement:

Grades reflect professional judgements of student achievement made by instructors. These judgements are based on a combination of absolute achievement and relative performance in class. The instructor should mark in terms of raw scores, rank the assignments in order of merit, and with due attention to the verbal descriptions of the various grades, assign an appropriate final letter grade. Grades are calculated in accordance with the SLIS Grading Procedure.

Academic Integrity:
The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these stands regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behavior (online at and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in supsicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresntation of facts an/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offense and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

Students should also be mindful of the SLIS Copyright Policy.

Inclusive Language and Equity:
The Faculty of Education is committed to providing an environment of respect for all people within the university community and to educating faculty, staff and students in developing teaching and learning contexts that are welcoming to all. The Faculty recommends that students and staff use inclusive language to create a classroom atmosphere in which students’ experiences and views are treated with equal respect and value in relation to their gender, racial background, sexual orientation and ethnic background. Students who require accommodations in this course due to a disability or chronic health condition affecting mobility, vision, hearing, learning, or mental or physical health are advised to discuss their needs with Student Accessibility Services.

Recording Lectures:
Audio or video recording, digital or otherwise, of lectures, labs, seminars or any other teaching environment by students is allowed only with the prior written consent of the instructor or as a part of an approved accommodation plan. Student or instructor content, digital or otherwise, created and/or used within the context of the course is to be used solely for personal study, and is not to be used or distributed for any other purpose without prior written consent from the content author(s).