Chambered Nautilus

The chambered nautilus, one of nature’s wonders. Its spiral can be generated using the Fibonacci mathematical sequence. The Fibonacci sequence and the visual patterns and shapes it leads to — such as the golden ratio and spirals — were appreciated by the ancients for their beauty, but no one can explain why they are manifested so clearly in nature.


This course about visual communications will try to boost your “visual literacy.” The emphasis will be on how we use visual phenomena to communicate. The message will be as important as the medium. We’ll review theories of visual communication, delve into how visual messages are made and produce a portfolio of our exploration. Effort will be more important than artistic talent.

Course objectives

The ability to communicate visually has become increasingly important in a society where people get most of their information from television and the Internet.

The student who successfully completes this course should be able to:

  1. discuss the main principles of media literacy and use those principles in analyzing visual texts.
  2. explain the theories of Gestalt and semiotics.
  3. apply the theories of Gestalt and semiotics to media such as photography, film, games, books and the Internet.
  4. critique visual texts using the main theories of visual communication.
  5. discuss how visual texts are produced.

Learning activities

Be an active participant. Ask questions and volunteer comments. Read the assignments in the text book and supplemental materials, and read anything related to the course content you find that interests you. Take risks in sharing your experiences and your discoveries with the class.

The principal learning activities:

Required materials

  1. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1994: Harper Paperbacks).
  2. Other readings as assigned.

See instructions for preparing your portfolio.

COJO 232 Facebook group

You have been invited to join a private Facebook group for COJO 232. From time to time I will ask you to post some of your work to this page. You should feel free to post anything else that interests you in the area of visual communication, especially images or video. Be sure to post the details of the image and your analysis of it.


Let it be known from the start that all of you will receive A’s if you do A work. We’ll have no grading “on the curve” for this class. The flip side, of course, is that if you all do F work, you’ll all get F’s. With that in mind, realize that you’re not competing and that you have much to gain by cooperating.

Your performance will be measured by these activities:

  1. Tests, 40 percent: You’ll take several quizzes in the next six weeks that will cover language skills and lecture materials.
  2. Comprehensive final: 10 percent. The final is really a chance to make up for not doing well on the previous tests.
  3. Class exercises, 35 percent: You’ll receive assignments to find or produce visual artifacts and evaluate them critically. Top grades go to those who apply what they’ve read and learned in class.
  4. Portfolio, 5 percent: You’ll keep all of your class work in your OneDrive folder. This includes images and movies you believe will interest the class. You’ll turn in assignments when asked for evaluation. Take pride in your portfolio! Keep it up to date and orderly.
  5. Class participation: 10 percent.