ART548 MFA Graduate Seminar in Communication Design: History & Theory II, Camilla Torna, Spring 2020 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ART548 MFA Graduate Seminar in Communication Design: History & Theory II, Camilla Torna, Spring 2020

We approach the current shift of paradigm in visual communication by focusing on three areas of expertise: LEGIBILITY READABILITY USABILITY, therefore our methodology is called LRU. The three areas line up conceptually with Vignelli’s SEMANTICS, SYNTACTIC, PRAGMATICS, and historically with the visual literacy before the printed book, with the Gutenberg era, and finally with the new ways of reading that we are experiencing right now.

The student will focus over each area one semester at a time in the first three terms, and will be free to finalize a related personal research in the fourth. Each semester will be mapped per the who, the what, the how – and, of course, the why of design theory. In this Academic seminar, MFA students will create a collection of SLIDES (images + text) each week on assigned readings / selection of slides for the Final review.


In his Canon, Massimo Vignelli quotes Mies van der Rohe:“God is in the details,” as the essence of syntax, the discipline that controls the proper use of grammar in the construction of phrases and the articulation of a language, Design. The syntax of design is provided by many components in the nature of the project, for instance, how pictures relate to each other and how the parts relate to the whole. There are ways to achieve all this that are correct, as there are others that are incorrect, and should be avoided.

Syntactic consistency is of paramount importance in communication design as it is in all human endeavors.
Correct visual syntax is the focus of the semester.

Guest Lectures

  • Virtuitaly
  • Elena Lombardi
  • Arianna Papini
  • Roberto Innocenti

Field Trips

  • Biblioteca Nazionale
  • Fondazione Primo Conti


Week 1

Tue JAN 14
McCloud, Understanding Comics, Kress Van Leuwen 1-120

Week 2

Tue JAN 21
MFACD_ACAD_S02_the hero
Duarte, Resonate + articles

Week 3

Tue JAN 28
MFACD_ACAD_S04_narrativeart 2D
Kress & Van Leuwen 120-end
John Berger Ways of Seeing pp 129-164
Bolter + Grusin Remediation pp 3-14

Week 4

Tue JAN 4
MFACD_ACAD_S04_more on storytelling
Ellen Lupton Design is Storytelling
Jennifer Van Sijll Cinematic Storytelling

Week 5

Tue FEB 11
MFACD_ACAD_S05_narrativeart 3D
Lev Manovich, Augmented Space
Nick Sousanis, Unflattening

Field trip: VIRTUITALY

Week 6

Tue FEB 18
MFACD_ACAD_S06_birth of the book
A Social History of Media

Week 7

Tue FEB 25
Murch, McCloud, Madden


Week 8

MIDTERM BREAK for undergraduates (February 29 - March 8)


Week 9

Tue MAR 10
MFACD_ACAD_S08_the illustrated book
Bang, McMullan

Week 10

Tue MAR 17
Guest lecture: ROBERTO INNOCENTI about his work

Week 11

Tue MAR 24
MFACD_ACAD_S09_designing news and breaking the grid
F. Franchi, Designing news

Week 12

Tue MAR 31
EMOD SESSION Visualizing for Organization Development

Week 13

Tue APR 7
EMOD SESSION Visualizing for Organization Development

Week 14

Tue APR 14
MFACD_ACAD_S10_non designers army
Duarte, Slide:ology

Week 15

Tue APR 21
Final Review

Required Reading

In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading. Note: It is not necessary to purchase the books below. They are available for loan or can be consulted in the SACI Worthington Library.

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Harper Collins, 1994.
ISBN: 9780060976255 (Retail price: $23.99)

Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, Routledge, 2001.
ISBN: 9780415106009 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Nancy Duarte, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010.
ISBN: 9780470632017 (Retail price: $29.95)

Molly Bang, Picture This: How Pictures Work, Chronicle Books, 2016.
ISBN: 9781452151991 (Retail price: $22.99)

Francesco Franchi, Designing Now. Changing the World of Editorial Design and Information Graphics , Gestalten, 2015.
ISBN: 9783899554687 (Retail price: $78)

Nancy Duarte, Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, O'Reilly, 2008.
ISBN: 9780596522346 (Retail price: $34.99)

Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez, Illuminate: Ignite change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols, Portfolio / Penguin, 2016.
ISBN: 9781101980163 (Retail price: $32.00)

Edward Tufte, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Graphics Press, 2006.
ISBN: 9780961392161 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Robert Klanten, Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language, Gestalten, 2011.
ISBN: 9783899553758 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Ellen Lupton, Design is Storytelling, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2017.
ISBN: 9781942303190 (Retail price: $17.95)

Jennifer Van Sijll, Cinematic Storytelling, Michael Wiese Productions, 2005.
ISBN: 9781932907056 (Retail price: $24.95)

Nick Sousanis, Unflattening, Harvard University Press, 2015.
ISBN: 9780674744431 (Retail price: $22.95)

James McMullan, Revealing Illustration, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1981.
ISBN: 9780823045495 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Will Eisner, Theory of Comics and Sequential Art (pdf)

Jay David Bolter and RIchard Grusin, Remediation
ISBN: 9780262522793 (Retail price: $33.95)

Lev Manovich, Augmented Space (pdf)

Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media, Polity Press, 2009
ISBN: 9780745644950 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Johanna Drucker, Graphesis, Harvard University Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780674724938 (Retail price: $26.00)


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