Course Description

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English 487/687: Multi-Touch, Interactive eBooks and the Future of Publishing
Dr. David Blakesley (
Office: Strode 616; Phone: 765.409.2649 (c)
Office Hours: T-Th 11-2 (in Strode 616 or 1941 Studio) and by appt.
Twitter: dblakesley
Text Message: 765-409-2649 (use it!)
Gmail address: (for Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)

English 489/689
Spring 2013
T-Th 9:30 – 10:45 am
MATRF Lab, Daniel 409
Clemson University

Course Website

Course Location

Early in the semester, most of our class meetings will be in the MATRF, Daniel 409. As projects begin, individuals and groups may also work in the 1941 Studio for Student Communication, which is currently being transformed into a high-end production and design studio geared toward publishing high quality print and digital publications. Unless the course calendar indicates otherwise, class will begin in the MATRF. Access to the MATRF During Open Hours: Students may use the MATRF facility and equipment during its open hours throughout the semester. If you do want access, however, there’s a required materials fee of $45, which can be paid by check (payable to Clemson University) or cash to Kristin Sindorf in the English Department main office, Strode 801.

Course Readings

The primary readings for the course will be from the three required course texts, each available at the Clemson University Bookstore. The course calendar specifies what should be read and when.

Joel Katz, Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design (Wiley, 2012); ISBN: 978-1118341971

Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things (Basic Books, 2002); ISBN: 978-0465067107

Edward R. Tufte, Envisioning Information (Graphics Press, 1990); ISBN: 978-0961392116

Digital Readings: This will be distributed electronically via Dropbox, the course website, our Feed Aggregator, a shared folder in Instapaper, and other sources. t will include timely articles on information design, interface design, visual communication, and more. Although not all feed articles will appear on the course calendar, you should read thee feeds regularly at our site's feed aggregator and via the blocks on the front page of the course site. Required readings will be listed on the course calendar at least a week in advance of the due date.

Course Goals and Objectives

This course is designed to give students in-depth knowledge and experience in information design, data visualization, and information architecture, with extensions to the new field of interaction design. Course projects will teach the principles and practices of design, visual rhetoric, and visual analysis and will involve developing digital and print-based projects designed for publication on the Web or in print. At least one project will teach the principles of interaction design useful for creating apps for smart phones and tablet computers. Another may involve designing an interactive exhibit in which information design, usability, accessibility, user-experience design, and human-computer interaction may play a significant role.

The course is offered in the MATRF lab and on occasion in the Production and Design Studio in the Pearce Center for Professional Communication to allow for hands-on learning, collaboration, and design practice. Students will also gain experience useful for securing future internships or positions with local publishers like Parlor Press ( or the Center for Electronic and Digital Publishing (CEDP).

Prior experience with Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver) and software that allows for data integration (Word, Excel, Google Docs) will be helpful but is not required at the start. Students may need to learn some coding with HTML and CSS.


Further details about each of these project will be discussed in class and linked from the calendar.

  1. Reading Responses: You should complete ten (10) reading responses during the semester. Starting Week 2, I want you to respond to questions or readings listed on the calendar with one short (200- 300-word) semi-formal response posted to your blog at the course website. These responses will need to be posted by class time on the due date. I will usually give you five to ten minutes at the start of every class meeting to write comments on the posts of others and to compose new responses of your own. Some topics will be open. I would also like you to write a minimum of three (3) comments and replies every other week. These can be shorter posts that ask questions, comment, elaborate, or link. These follow-up comments and replies should normally be no more than 150 words, but length ultimately depends on the nature of your response. I will reply to some of your responses but not all. (20% of course grade.)
  2. Bi-Weekly In-Class Learning Modules: These modules will help you become proficient with the software and hardware useful for producing and testing high quality design documents using data and information that is provided to you. You’ll be given specific challenges or tasks that apply principles from the course readings. There will be five (5) modules over the course of the semester. Some will be completed in the MATRF, but others may require you to work in the 1941 Studio or at another location. (10% of course grade.)
  3. Individual Project: There will be four individual design projects, each tied to a specific chapter in Designing Information: 1) Qualitative Issues: Perceptions, Conventions, Proximity; 2) Quantitative Issues: Dimensionality, Comparison, Numbers, Scale; 3) Structure, Organization, Type: Hierarchy and Visual Grammar; and 4) Finding Your Way? Movement, Orientation, Siutational Geography. Each project will involve conceptualization, production, design, and user-testing. At the end of the semester, you’ll present at least on of these projects during the Showcase in the new Publishing and Design Studio. (10% each; 40% of course grade.)
  4. Collaborative Project: In groups of two or three, you’ll work with a client to develop an information graphic, poster, book cover and interior design (print or digital, such as an iBook theme), website theme, or other significant interface that presents complex and important information effectively. Early in the semester, you’ll form groups based on interests and experience, then research possible clients and projects, settling on one by the end of Week 5. You’ll then plan, develop, and produce the project, allowing for peer and client review along the way. By Week 10, your project will be nearly complete, with only fine-tuning and final production/distribution issues remaining. Each group member should contribute significantly to the success of the project. Graduate students will act as team leaders. Each group member will contribute to a team project log. (20% of course grade.)
  5. Showcase: At the end of the semester, we will host a Showcase in the 1941 Studio. The class will plan the event together, and each person will play a role at the showcase. Work will include development of poster or other interactive, visual displays for attendees. (10% of course grade)


Reading Responses 20%
Bi-Weekly Modules 10%
Individual Projects 40%
Collaborative Project 20%
Showcase 10%

Grading Criteria and Process

To earn full credit for reading responses and bi-weekly modules you will need to complete all of them and, in the case of reading responses, actively respond to your peers on the course website. Your reading responses and replies should show that you’re engaged with the topic and open to new possibilities and ideas. Bi-weekly modules, because they must be completed during class, cannot be made up. The criteria for evaluation of the individual and collaborative projects will be spelled out on the full description of each. For the collaborative project, you’ll be asked to complete a Collaborative Project Evaluation Form and submit it privately to me on or before the project’s due date. For the showcase, you’ll be expected to participate actively in its planning and to present your work for the semester during the event.

You’ll receive oral feedback along the way throughout each project (in or out-of-class) and a grade on the individual projects after they’re completed. Individual projects may be revised once for further review, with the qualification that the revision be submitted within one week of their return to you.


Attendance is required at all scheduled meetings. Three absences may result in your final grade being lowered by as much as a letter grade. More than three absences can result in a failing grade for the course. Excused absences will only be granted for religious holidays or university-sponsored events, provided you make a written request to me no less than two weeks in advance and that you complete any required work before the due date. Being excessively or regularly late for class can also be counted as an absence. Note: If the instructor is late to class, you only need to wait fifteen (15) minutes.

Academic Integrity

Clemson students and their instructors are expected to adhere to the community and ethical standards for behavior and academic integrity at the University:

"As members of the Clemson University community, we have inherited Thomas Green Clemson's vision of this institution as a "high seminary of learning." Fundamental to this vision is a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn the trust 2 and respect of others. Furthermore, we recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form."

"When, in the opinion of a faculty member, there is evidence that a student has committed an act of academic dishonesty, the faculty member shall make a formal written charge of academic dishonesty, including a description of the misconduct, to the Associate Dean for Curriculum in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. At the same time, the faculty member may, but is not required to, inform each involved student privately of the nature of the alleged charge."

Unless otherwise noted in assignment guidelines, you should not submit work for this course that has been submitted for a grade in other courses.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who need accommodations should make an appointment with Arlene Stewart, Director of Student Disability Services, to discuss specific needs within the first month of classes. Students should present a Faculty Accommodation Letter from Student Disabilities Services when they meet with instructors. Student Disability Services is located in G-20 Redfern (telephone number: 656-6848; e-mail: Please be aware that accommodations are not retroactive and new Faculty Accommodation Letters must be presented each semester.

In Case of a Campus Emergency

In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances. You can acquire updated information from the course website, by emailing, texting, or calling me using the information provided on this course description, or by contacting me through the English Department at (864) 656-3151.

Late Work

The majority of missed class assignments cannot be made up. If a serious and unavoidable problem arises, however, you should contact me in writing prior to the deadline to determine whether or not an extension for the work will or will not be granted.