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3035 - Technical Communication & Design Course Descriptions

The following list is alphabetical, by instructor last name. The course offerings below are for the Fall 2016 semester. Check the current Course Schedule.


The dominant perspective of this class is that the processes of writing and design are indistinguishable. In other words, this class will make the argument that creating good, well-functioning, human centered design comes as the result of a process that can also create effective texts. We will also make the argument that text is always designed, even if it’s with the rather boring convention of, say, this syllabus. And that means that all texts and design products are also fundamentally collaborative and rhetorical.

Linking writing and design means that an effective document always goes through some process. The idea that great texts—the great American novel, poems, sets of instructions, anything—are ever created sui generis from some genius’s mind is dead wrong. Formal documents always go through some process of invention, composition, and revision. Of course, this process can be more or less formal, more or less mental, and more or less linear. The process that I’ll ask you to try on will be a weak approximation of the mysterious creation of text, but will include the research, multiple drafts, peer review, individual revision, usability testing, editing, and reflecting continually and recursively.

In this upper-division writing course, we will keep our focus on the title, “Technical Communication and Design.” By this, I mean that we will use “Technical Communication,” or learning how to effectively and persuasively communicate in a professional setting, in order to “Design” a series of documents, like cover letters, resumes, memos, reports, and a number of multimodal presentation formats. Our ultimate design, or where all of this is headed, is a final, all-inclusive project that you will begin working on pretty much during the first few weeks of class. This project is client-focused, meaning that you will be engaging and working with a reallife client with specific needs and wants. You will satisfy these professional needs, and ultimately deliver an end result project to your selected client. We will therefore really focus on the outside world as we work through this class together.
CLIENT PROJECTS, Dr. Rolf Norgaard
A rhetorically informed introduction to technical writing that hones communication skills in the context of multidisciplinary design activities. The course treats design as a collaborative, user-oriented, problem-based activity, and technical communication as a rhetorical and persuasive design art. Taught as a writing workshop emphasizing critical thinking, revision, and oral presentation skills, the course focuses on a semester-long design project for real campus or community clients, and on effective communication with multiple stakeholders. Whereas other writing courses might ask you to “write about X,” this course asks you to draw on writing and speaking “to do X.”

This course is not just about words. It’s also about images, information structures, real-world problem solving, graphic design, document design, and the user experience. It’s about maximizing the efficiency, the effectiveness, and the beauty of the communications you’ll produce in your professional career. It's about writing as a design skill. We will write and design in several key genres of professional and technical communication, including cover letter, résumé, graphic logo, usability test report, and instruction manual. We will lay out each of our major assignments in Adobe InDesign, the industry standard software for graphic design and publishing. We will also study the processes and genres of professional project management. About a third of our class time and coursework will be dedicated to real-world projects for real-world clients. We will generate professional documentation for each stage of a project, including project charters, project plans, time logs, project closing documents, and client satisfaction surveys.
Technical Communication and Design is a rhetorically informed introduction to technical writing that hones communication skills in the context of technical design activities. Students will be treating Design as a collaborative, user-oriented, problem-based activity, and Technical Communication as a rhetorically informed, persuasive skill. Taught as a writing seminar emphasizing critical thinking, revision, and oral presentation skills, the course focuses on client-driven design projects and effective communication with multiple stakeholders.