Designing an Advanced Design Course

I am attempting to catch up on a little bit of blogging. This last semester, I prepped and taught a new (to me) course titled “Digital Design II.” Digital Design I and Digital Design II are both upper-division electives for strategic communication that in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

I’ve been teaching design courses in Gaylord College since 2013, but they have always been introduction to the fundamentals of design and (mostly) Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign). They were also designed for students with little-to-no experience.

Though it is a ton of work, I genuinely enjoy the opportunity to design and develop a course. You are working off a ton of assumptions on your first go, and, as such, I’ll do my best to try to narrate both what I was thinking while designing and how the course actually went.

Designing the Course

Given that Digital Design II requires the pre-requisite of Digital Design I, I was excited to think about how I could use the course to build on top of the students prior knowledge from the previous term. I also went in with the assumption that students would have likely taken a design class prior to Digital Design I because those classes were listed as prerequisites. So I started with the design question of what would I teach Strat Comm students who already had two semesters of design?

To inform my design, I got a hold of the syllabus from Digital Design I to ensure that I was building off of the previously learned skills. I also looked at my roster to get a better sense of the students backgrounds. While rosters don’t give you a ton of detail about the students, they do list the students’ majors, which can give me some information into their backgrounds as I started to build their learner profile. Finally, I mapped the curriculum for

After doing some research, I landed on the idea that I would build a project-based course that didn’t teach tools such as Photoshop or Illustrators in isolation, but would gradually scaffold students towards integrate the tools to complete the project. Additionally, I wanted them to experiment with more front-edge technology tools such as artificial intelligence and 3D staging.

Every time I go through the process of designing a new course, it’s like being back in the lab. Pedagogically, this class wasn’t a giant leap from what I’ve done with previous classes such as PR Publications and Advertising Copy and Layout (now titled Advertising Design and Visual Storytelling and separate from the copy class). But it allowed me to integrate a few new tools and workflows that even I hadn’t played with a ton over the last few years. This included the use of Adobe 3D Substance Stager for 3D modeling, Figma for interactive design, Scratch for game design, and ChatGPT for copywriting. I also had big dreams to teach Bootstrap as a mechanism for web design, but, as always, I designed more assignments than class time allowed, and I inevitably nixed it.

Below is some of the project prompts as well as example work from students with links to their project reflections.

Text Manifestation Movie Promotion Project


Using Adobe Photoshop, this project will develop advanced typography skills to develop a movie poster with corresponding social media promotion pieces.

The movie poster for the animated film, Frozen, leverages a technique where the design of the title words, “frozen,” mimic the literal meaning of the word. In this case, the word appears covered in ice and has a similar blue-ish hue. Decide on a fictional, but similar, movie title for a new animated feature films from Disney and design the title to mimic its name. Examples include: clouds, grass, reflection, neon, water, glass, etc. The final poster will show an understanding of advanced typography and layer techniques including layers styles such as drop shadow, glows, and bevels, character and paragraph styles, and text paths.

Turning a word to a movie poster by Robert Harris

InDesign Brochure Project


For this assignment, you will use Adobe InDesign, stock photos, and ChatGPT to create a brochure.

Students will create a product brochure for Cloth, a fictional eco-friendly clothing brand.

Fashioning a Brochure by Emma Shealy

Energy Drink Design Project


For this assignment, you will design the can of a fictional energy drink product for Dunkin. The objective of this assignment is to provide students with the opportunity to design a can label for a fictional Dunkin Energy Drink. Students will use Adobe Illustrator to create the label and Adobe Dimension/Substance 3D Stager to do a 3D mockup.

3D Software Takes Design To The Next Level by Erica O’Brien

Mobile App Project


In this assignment, students will design a mobile app for a restaurant located on Campus Corner using Figma. The app should include a home page, a menu page, and a location page. Each menu category should have three items. Consider adding other features such as a reservation button or a gallery of food images.

(App)etizing Design by Emma Shealy

Brand Activation Project


For this assignment, you will design an experiential marketing brand activation for an upcoming or recently released streaming movie or series such as something on Netflix.

A brand activation is a marketing technique that creates an interactive and engaging experience for consumers, often with the goal of building brand awareness and loyalty. They can take many forms, including events, pop-up shops, and digital experiences. At conferences such as SXSW, brands often use activations to stand out and make an impact in a crowded and competitive space. These activations are designed to provide attendees with an immersive and memorable experience that showcases the brand’s values, products, and services. By creating an emotional connection with the audience, brands can build a loyal following and generate positive word-of-mouth. Additionally, these experiences often generate social media buzz and media coverage, amplifying the brand’s message and extending its reach beyond the conference attendees.

Students will use digital design tools to create a multi-sensory experience that showcases the brand and encourages consumer interaction.

Bringing Barbie to Life by Erica O’Brien

Featured Image: Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash