ART 49598 • BFA Thesis Class Syllabus • SPRING 18

Intro to Thesis

Course Description

Advanced design seminar in which students develop a sustained individual project in a major area of concentration (print, Internet, multimedia). This semester-long project is designed to encourage extended development and the synthesis of communication skills and related design disciplines. The final requirement for BFA graduation, the thesis project will be presented in an exhibition and in written presentation to faculty. Prereq: completion of all major requirements for the BFA. 6 cr./6 hr.

The syllabus and weekly handouts will be posted on the web site as PDF files at:

Links and e-handouts are posted on DropBox organized by week

If you are absent, you are expected to download the assignment from the website.

download the BFA Thesis Syllabus

download the BFA Thesis Agreement

Course Content

The Thesis should represent a significant body of independent creative work. It can take many different forms or combinations of forms: print, publication, Web, interactive multimedia, or animation. The specifics will vary greatly from project to project.

Course Objectives

• to formulate a personal creative research project in an area of students’ interest

• to describe, analyze and critically assess that project in written proposals and project briefs.

• to research the creative context of the project and explore multiple solutions.

• to produce all of the creative components of the project, using original materials.

• to document the creative development of the Thesis project in a process book

Syllabus may be revised during the semester depending on the needs of the course.

Policies and Grading


You must pass the 10th week review to continue in Thesis.
A passing grade in Thesis is A or B ONLY.

  • quality of concept, 20%
  • visual design, 30%
  • execution of design and installation 30%
  • written and oral communications 10%
  • professionalism, 10% [participation in class, meeting deadlines, communications]


Any act of academic dishonesty will be dealt with by applying the most stringent penalties permitted.
Cheating includes but is not limited to receiving help during exams and submitting homework without properly acknowledging persons who assisted you.

Please read the Policy on Academic Integrity posted on the CUNY website with URL:

Statement on Academic Integrity, The CUNY Policy on Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own. The following are some examples of plagiarism, but by no means is it an exhaustive list:

  1. Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source.
  2. Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source.
  3. Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source.
  4. Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.
  5. Internet plagiarism includes submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, and “cutting and pasting” from various sources without proper attribution. The City College Faculty Senate has approved a procedure for addressing violations of academic integrity.

THESIS Requirements

    The FIVE Thesis rules:
  • 1. Everyone presents EACH week.
  • 2. Everything you present has to be PRESENTATION quality.
  • 3. You must document ALL of the versions of your work each week in a process book, using a personal template.
  • 4. You must be ready with ALL artwork on the exhibition installation date.
  • [work submitted for critique should reflect a MINIMUM of 9 hours of lab time per week.]
  • 5. You must take 8 installation photos of your project in the gallery and include them [color corrected and edited as needed] in your book and Flash drive or CD/DVD documentation.



Planning begins the semester before the Thesis semester when the student proposes a project. It’s essential that the student start the Thesis semester with a clearly defined concept. Your project proposal must be approved before the start of the Thesis semester.


At the first class meeting, we will discuss your project proposal.
For week two, the proposal should be expanded to at least 2 pages and more fully describe the project. It should include:

  • an expansion of the proposal into a fully detailed description of the project. [abstract + proposal]
  • outline of the proposed research, reference/source material and reading list or URLs
  • examples of the ideas informing and methods of achieving your proposed research
  • description of media, materials and technical processes involved
  • outcomes envisioned: what might be the final production pieces?
  • images, diagrams, or other supporting materials
  • consider the current design context of their proposed project. CLEARLY describe your concept, possible design styles and alternate approaches and include reference materials/inspirations.


In the research stage, the student collects material that is relevant to the project; this includes both content research and design research. Research material can be drawn from books, magazines, web sites, videos, films, DVD/CD-ROMs, exhibition documentation, etc. Keep notes and document the research process; this documentation will become part of your archive.


Thesis projects are expected to show a high degree of originality. Students are expected to shoot their own photographs (where possible) and entirely create the graphic elements of their projects.

**You must credit your sources in writing, in your proposal and documentation book.
See the College plagiarism policy for penalties for handing in work that's not your own.


Students will develop a designed visual template for both text and sketch documents, so that all materials have a consistent appearance.

Students are expected to document all stages of the Thesis project; i.e. to format at presentation quality, sketches, notes, research elements, concept descriptions for later inclusion in the Thesis book.

All notes, sketches, templates etc. should have your name, the date and a version number.


The design stage occurs in conjunction with the above research. The student makes sketches and drafts that explore different facets of the design project. Students are expected to present multiple alternative concepts/solutions and be prepared for extensive revision.


At the 10th week of the semester, students’ work-to-date will be reviewed. At this stage, any student who has not made significant progress on their Thesis project will be dropped. Planning for the BFA exhibition will begin at this point.


Some time around mid-semester, students move to the production phase of the project. This will include executing the approved designs, dealing with technical and integration issues, and beginning the final assembly of the Thesis materials.


The Thesis project is completed, and final portfolio is submitted on the 15th week. Projects will be exhibited in a student-organized BFA exhibition on dates indicated.


Thesis has an extensive writing component, including the proposal, case studies, text for web site, animations or other production pieces. All text must be clearly written, grammatical and free of proofreading errors.

Students having difficulty with logic or organization can work with the TA, and/or will be referred to the Writing Center. If necessary, a student may be asked to postpone thesis and take a semester of writing to correct the problem.



CORPORATE IDENTITY or ADVERTISING: at least 12 different completed designs, ads or collateral material. Poster design projects should include at least 8 design components.

BOOK or MAGAZINE DESIGN: at least 15 pages of content. Projects must be fully printed and bound.


WEB PROJECTS: incorporate a range of different media (images, animation, sound, scripting, interactivity), over at least 12 pages or screens. Web projects must be fully functional on-line, either through our web server, or from an outside web site provider.

INTERACTIVE MULTIMEDIA PROJECTS: for interactive projects, include a range of media (as for Web projects), extending over at least 15 screens. Interactive multimedia projects must be presented on Flash drive or DVD/CD-ROM and be fully tested and functional. They must include cover graphics and user instructions and must be cross-platform, i.e. work on both Mac and PC.

ANIMATION AND DIGITAL VIDEO PROJECTS, 3D: for motion graphics or animation projects, develop at least 3-5 minutes of original video material. For 3D projects: sketches of models, storyboard, script/storyline, examples of painted textures, sound, prints of rendered frames, 1 minute animation with titles. Presented either on Flash drive or DVD/CD-ROM, or as streaming video.

All screen-based projects should include collateral materials: DVD/CD cover graphics, poster, screen prints, labels, accompanying brochure or other items TBA.

Documentation of project materials:

All projects must include documentation of the entire work process, including written proposals and briefs, sketches, page or screen templates, grids, storyboards and final pieces. Documentation will be in book form AND on Flash drive or DVD/CD-ROM.

Each student must submit 8 [color-corrected and edited] photos of their thesis installation [shot int he gallery while the exhibition is on.

Presentation of project pages

Design a document template that includes your name, date of item, version/revision number. [Week 1 project]

Use .5 (minimum) margins, develop a placement grid, using fonts and design elements consistent with the style of your project. Keep the name/date info unobtrusive. This format constitutes the ‘identity system’ for your thesis and will be used for the weekly documentation book.

Weekly Links

Assignment sheets are given out each week. For previous weeks, go to the website.

Week 1: February 1 [PDF]
  • first thesis proposal
  • initial research
  • design of page format

See Writing References [Thesis Paper Style Guides, Articles on Writing, Copyright]

Week 2: February 8 [PDF]
  • revision of thesis proposal
  • inspiration page
  • first sketches

Week 3: February 15 [PDF]
  • second sketches
  • writing workshop

Week 4: February 22 [PDF]
  • final thesis brief
  • third sketches

Week 5: March 1 [PDF]
  • fourth sketches
  • production schedule

Week 6: March 8 [PDF]
  • production planning
  • revise roughs, process sketches

Week 7: March 15 [PDF]
  • additional design revisions
  • start production

Week 8: March 22 [PDF]
  • list of thesis elements
  • production continues

Week 9: March 29 [PDF]
  • production continues


Week 10: April 12 [PDF]

A significant body of work must be completed by week 10 or students will be asked to drop Thesis. Last day to withdraw is 4/19.

Week 11: April 19 [PDF]
  • installation layout
  • start final printing/fabrication

Week 12: April 26 [PDF]
  • outline final thesis paper
  • continue printing/fabrication

Week 13: May 3 [PDF]
  • continue printing/ fabrication

Week 14: May 10 [PDF]


  • archive book of the thesis process, containing the abstract, documentation, prints and Flash drive or DVD/CD-ROM
    and include all of your final project files.
    [this is separate from any book design in your exhibition]
  • installation of Thesis work at the BFA show.
  • completion of the written Thesis.
  • submit 8 [color-corrected and edited] installation photos of your project in the gallery.

Final Production and Gallery Installation

INSTALL: Saturday May 19th, 10 am

EXHIBITION: Monday, May 21-Friday, June 1st, 2018

RECEPTION: Thursday, May 24th, 5-8pm

FINAL THESIS PAPER due by email: June 28th

DEINSTALL Friday, June 1st 2:30pm, all documentation due


Students must prepare and submit a portfolio presenting the results of the Thesis project.

Portfolio components include:


Minimum 8 page written project summary which will include:

  • a statement of the Thesis goals/purpose
  • a description of how those goals were pursued
  • an assessment of the final results.
  • a critical discussion of historical and/or contemporary
  • examples relevant to the project should also be included.


The Thesis images should be high-quality prints that either document the project or are the product of the Thesis project.

The nature of these images will depend on the kind of project undertaken. If the Thesis is a web or multimedia project, then the images document the project, and they should consist of screen shots from different parts of the project together with short written descriptions.

If the Thesis is a print project, then the images themselves are the Thesis. In this case, they may be presented in a separate portfolio at a size that is appropriate to the project. These images should provide a clear presentation of the Thesis project.

Research Documentation:

The research and development material should document what the student did during the preparation of the Thesis project. Research material could include print-outs of relevant web sites, photocopies of book pages, magazine tear sheets, and reference images.

Development material should include sketches and design drafts that were produced during the production process. It’s important to document the stages of your project through a series of progressive design sketches.

Flash drive or DVD/CD-ROM

The Flash drive or DVD/CD-ROM should contain electronic versions of the Thesis material. Contents will vary based on the kind of Thesis project undertaken If the Thesis is a web or multimedia project, then the Flash drive/DVD/CD-ROM files are the distribution media for the Thesis.

For a print project, the Flash drive or DVD/CD is an archival record of your files. If the project is a print project, then the disk should include source files and reference images. It is not necessary to turn in every file or sketch, just final versions of the important ones. The disk should have cover graphics, be tested for errors and should be fully ready for use.

  • Take eight [8] installation photos of your project in the gallery, and include them in your book and on the DVD/CD. Make sure they are color-corrected and retouched as needed.
  • You can borrow equipment [lights, tripod, camera] if needed from the DOC checkout.


All of the materials should be presented together in a folder. We prefer a black Itoh-type book with clear plastic sleeves that can hold letter-sized sheets. Be sure to design the spine of your book and include a cover sheet with your name, the date and title for your project.

Certain projects may call for other formats, such as large-format prints or 3D formats.

PRESENTATION FORMAT—binder folder with:

  • plastic sleeves
  • cover graphics for folder and CD
  • inkjet prints of weekly presentations showing the development of the project
  • installation drawings
  • list of thesis elements
  • production schedule
  • 8 installation photos
  • Enclosing envelope if there are items that aren't contained in the plastic sleeves

Students must archive their project by providing EDM with a copy of the thesis book + digital files. No grade will be awarded without this documentation.




Visual Research, An Introduction to Research Methodologies in Graphic Design, Ian Noble and Russell Bestle, Ava Academic, 2004. [strongly recommended]

One Step Ahead: Editing and Revising Text, Jo Billingham, Oxford Press, 2002.

Design Research, Brenda Laurel, MIT Press, 2003.

Design, Writing, Research, Ellen Lupton and J. Abbot Milleer, Kiosk, 1996.

Looking Closer, Critical Writings on Graphic Design (theory), Bierut, Drenttel, Heller, Diamond ed., Allworth Press and AIGA, 1994.

Graphic Style, Victorian to Post-Modern (design reference), Heller & Chwast, Abrams, 2000.

Design Studies, Theory and Research in Graphic Design, Audrey Bennett ed., Princeton Architectural Press, 2006.

A Designer's Research Manual: Succeed in Design by Knowing Your Clients and What They Really Need (Design Field Guide), Jennifer Visocky O'Grady, Ken O'Grady


Logo Design That Works: Secrets for Successful Magazine Design, Lisa Silver, Rockport Publishers. (print)

Designing Corporate Identity, Pat Matson Knapp, Rockport Publishers. (print)

Magazine Design That Works: Secrets for Successful Magazine Design, Stacey King, Rockport Publishers.

The Anatomy of Design, Steven Heller and Mirko Illic, Rockport Publishers, 2007.


Packaging Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Creating Packages, Candace Ellicott, Sarah Roncarelli

Package Design Workbook: The Art and Science of Successful Packaging, Steven DuPuis, John Silvav


Web Redesign: Workflow That Works, Kelly Goto, Emily Cotler, New Riders. (screen)

Type in Motion, Innovations in Digital Graphics, Jeff Bellantoni, Matt Woolman, Rizzoli. (screen)

3D Graphics and Animation, Mark Giambruno, New Riders. (screen)


Metropolis, I.D. Magazine, Step-by-Step Graphics, HOW Magazine, Communication Arts, Graphis Magazine, Adbusters, GOOD Magazine.


Picture Collection, New York Public Library [for print images, not copyright-free]

See also royalty-free image collections, like, but be sure to properly credit any images used



Final Production and Gallery Installation

INSTALL: Saturday May 19th, 10 am

EXHIBITION: Monday, May 21st-Friday, June 1st, 2018

RECEPTION: Thursday, May 24th, 5-8pm

FINAL THESIS PAPER due by email: Thursday, May 28th

DEINSTALL Friday, June 1st, 2:30pm, all documentation due

The gallery must be returned to an exhibition-ready state with all walls touched up, floor swept, pedestals stored and all BFA work removed.

FINAL VERSION of the Thesis paper is due by December 14th, by email.

All materials [process book, installation photos, DVD or Flash drive documentation, and all other prints or files must be handed in by deinstall or a failing grade will be posted.]