01 The Visual Language

The Visual Language

Close All Laptops Please

In future lectures, only the back half of the class may use their laptops.

Close all laptops please

Andrew Hawryshkewich


Leila Aflatoony


Emily Ip


Email Rules

What you must include

  1. Email requirements for response:
  2. Your full name
  3. The course number (IAT-110)
  4. Your student number
  5. A clearly articulated question


What to expect

Photograph of doll standing in a classroom gazing off into the distance

In-class Discussions

When we hold in-class discussions, when it is time to come back to the group please make sure to wrap up quickly. Students who continue talking after the lecture has resumed will be penalized participation grades.

The Course Concept

Welcome to the 'What SIAT is' course. This course should give you an overview of what visual communication design entails, and with it, the larger ideas behind SIAT.

WARNING: Not a software course

We will provide an introductions to some software and resources for tutorials, but that is all.


Your lovely neighbourhood learning system

Andrew opens Canvas now.

Course Content Site

For when you can't access Canvas

Most course content will be also available at iat110.andrewh.ca


Worth 65% of your grade.

Read the project description

90% of projects errors are because the instructions were not followed.



Worth 10% of your grade.

Final Exam

The final exam is a part take-home, part in-class exam. It will be completed over weeks 12/13 of the course.

Worth 15% of your grade.


Your participation grade will consist of "weeklies" which are introduced in lecture, and either completed in-lecture or before the lecture following.

Worth 10% of your grade.

Participation Tools

If you have access to a smartphone, tablet or laptop with a camera, please bring it to use for in-class participation.

Make sure that the devices you are bringing is able to connect to the 'SFUNET-SECURE' wi-fi connection by going to xpressconnect.its.sfu.ca to set it up.

You Will Need


Please make sure that you have one for next week. Part of your participation grade will require that we can check a sketchbook regularly.

Photograph of a sketchbook on a table with a pencil beside it


The SIAT grading scale

A+ > 95%
A > 90%
A- > 85%
B+ > 80%
B > 75%
B- > 70%
C+ > 65%
C > 60%
C- > 55%
D > 50%
F < 50%

'A' = Exceeding

A friendly reminder

Please do remember that to receive an A you must exceed our expectations on a project. Rubrics will be provided to help you understand our expectations.

WARNING: Regular participation is required for good grades



You may take 10 minutes to partake in the natural wonders of SFU Burnaby.

The Visual Language

Becoming Critical

Start looking at the world with a critical lens

A pair of cats with one sticking out its tongue

Understand Applications

Where can this become useful?

The Medium is the Message

(Insert yawn)

The Medium is the Figure

This is what you pay attention to

A glass of mint tea on a table

The Context is the Ground

This is the background; often the stuff you ignore

A blurry glass of mint tea on a table

Figure + Ground

Figure without ground becomes difficult to discern; ambiguous.

Three towers overlapping, making it difficult to discern which is in front

Intentional Figure +Ground

Visual communication is about being intentional and purposeful in our visual designs or messages.

Figure + Ground is Not Just Visual


You may take 10 minutes to stretch, consume the caffiene and, or, dance.

The McLuhan Medium

A medium is an extension of a human.

A cat staring at it's own image on a tablet

The Extension of Eyes

A camera extends our vision.

Visual Tools

Tools you already have at your disposal:

Tools you will need at your disposal:

Visual Thinking

Using the visual tools, thinking necessitates four steps:

  1. Look
  2. See
  3. Imagine
  4. Show


Collecting and filtering

Take in this photo, all of it. Consider:

A photograph of people walking across a windy field with some papers blowing away as a result Jeff Wall's A Sudden Gust of Wind (1993)


Selecting and clustering

What do you see in this photo?

A photograph of people walking across a windy field with some papers blowing away as a result Jeff Wall's A Sudden Gust of Wind (1993)


Seeing what isn't there

What do you imagine the message of this photo is?

A photograph of people walking across a windy field with some papers blowing away as a result Jeff Wall's A Sudden Gust of Wind (1993)



Do we all see the same thing?

Jeff Wall's A Sudden Gust of Wind (1993)

Context (Ground)

How does it change things?

An old Japanese illustration of some people walking across a windy field with some papers blowing away as a result No. 35 of the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (1832)

Participation: Notice What You Ignore

  1. Sketch what you notice.
  2. Look.
  3. Sketch what you don't.
  4. Reflect.

How to Submit Participation

Andrew will now demonstrate how to submit your participation for this week, but the steps usually will involve:

  1. Open Canvas
  2. Go-to 'Discussions'.
  3. Select the 'Notice What You Ignore' discussion.
  4. In the field under the discussion, type in your answer.
  5. To attached a photo of your sketches, select 'Attach' from under your answer.
  6. Submit!

For next week

Please remember!

  1. Complete your participation for this week
  2. Start to get critical of the world around you
  3. Bring a camera and, or, mobile device to next week's lecture!

Next lecture is about why we fail.

How to Contact Andrew