COMM 225: Digital Media 1

Morgan Schwartz

office: Nugent 560, Room A
tel: 1-212-774-4865
email: mschwartz AT mmm DOT edu


Section 01 Wednesday, 10:00 am - 12:50 pm

Nugent 556


Course Description

Digital and interactive media permeate virtually every aspect of our society--from information delivery and product marketing to education and entertainment. In this course you will learn practical and critical skills necessary to become a technically proficient and cognitive digital media maker. Literacy in any medium is the ability to both access (read) materials created by others and to generate (write) materials for others. In this course you will learn to “speak” the language of digital media and to become conversant with the computer as an expressive medium. Through hands-on exercises and projects, you will be introduced to creative approaches to media production and to a range of software. The format of this class is designed to bridge theory and practice. We will explore contemporary issues including: digital imaging, the computer as a medium, typography, copyright, sound and moving image, and web design. We will concern ourselves with “how” and “why” the digital world is constructed the way it is. Students will be challenged to deconstruct this world and to develop an ability to analyze and critique the cultural implications of digital media in our lives.

  • Prerequisite: WRIT 101

Learning Goals

A successful student will develop the following skills by the end of the semester:

  • Use a Macintosh computer, Photoshop (digital imaging) and Dreamweaver (for web design) to generate media.
  • Understand the function and relationship of computer hardware, operating systems, input/output devices and the Internet.
  • Generate media that is critical and cognizant of a larger context (social, political, historical, and/or economical).
  • Develop an appreciation and understanding of the production process.
  • Successfully find solutions to technical problems.
  • Give and receive constructive feedback in a group setting.
  • Use feedback given to others in the generation of new work.
  • Develop, present and articulate creative ideas in both written and verbal formats.
  • Analyze your relationship with digital technology, the role it plays in your life, in your work,
    in our society, and in the world.

Textbooks and Materials

USB Flash Drive (4-8 GB) - OR - portable Hard Drive

all required readings will be available online or handed out in class

Your enthusiasm, curiosity and willingness to learn.

optional technical texts:
Technical books become out of date quickly; I recommend finding an appropriate online resource. Many tutorials (of varying quality) are available without cost online. Good video tutorials are available from Adobe. More advanced and complete tutorials specifically selected for this course are available at for $35. w3Schools offers great resources for coding (HTML, CSS, XML, PHP, etc.).

optional history/theory texts:
The Reconfigured Eye by William J. Mitchell
Multimedia - From Wagner to Virtual Reality edited by Randall Packer & Ken Jordan
The New Media Reader edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Nick Montfort

Grade Weights

Participation: 20%

A large amount of class time will be dedicated to group critiques, team projects and class discussion. I encourage you to take an active role in contributing to make our class a fun and dynamic place to be.

Weekly Assignments: 55%

This is where its at - you can't learn web development by osmosis or wait until the end of the semester to cram for an exam. Digital Media production involves a complex spectrum of techniques and software. If you do the assignments each week you will do well. If not, you will fall behind rapidly. Weekly exercises are due at the beginning of class the week after they are assigned unless noted otherwise.

Final Project: 25%

This group project integrates many of the skills you will learn this semester. Each team will be assigned a "client". You will perform an analysis of the client's existing website. Using this information, the clients goals and requirements and other research, you will design and build a new website using HTML and CSS.


  • Warning - this course demands substantial work outside of class time to complete the projects. Unless you already own an Apple computer with the relevant software, you should plan on coming into the Digital Media lab for an additional 3 hours every week.
  • Attendance is essential to succeed in this class. The skills and techniques taught are cumulative - they build upon previous ones. Missing just one week can make it very difficult to catch up. You will also note that class participation makes up a sizable percentage of your final grade - if you are absent you cannot participate and your grade will suffer.
  • Save different versions of your projects and save often. Make back-ups of your files.
  • Work in the lab with a friend - when learning new technology, 2 brains are usually better than one. You are welcome to work on your assignments at home but many students use the Multimedia Lab in room 556. Lab hours will be posted after the first week of classes. Students may not use the lab when another class is in session. If the lab is locked during regular lab hours you may get a key from the Security Desk.
  • Ask for help!!!


Water/liquids are a excellent conductors. You can be shocked if you are touching water that touches electricity. Be careful with drinks around the computers!

Carpal Tunnel
Computer keyboarding, typing and use of the mouse are among many common activities that have been identified as contributing to repetitive stress induced carpal tunnel syndrome.

Eye Strain
Staring at a glowing monitor for extended periods of time can cause headaches, eyestrain and problems with your eyesight. Remember to take frequent short breaks by looking away from the monitor and focusing on something in the distance, or close your eyes for a moment. Your eyes need a break!

Attendance Policy

Attendance will be taken in each class. You are allowed one unexcused (no questions asked) absence, after which your final grade will drop substantially with each absence. In the event that an extraordinary circumstance will require you to miss a class, please let me know ahead of time, by calling me, or by email. Missing more than 2 classes for any reason will reduce your final grade by one level (i.e., from a B to B-) as the work cannot be made up. Lateness up to 15 minutes counts as half an absence. If you are more than 15 minutes late you are counted as absent.


Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments for this course must either enroll in the Program for Academic Access or register with the Office of Student Support Services. For any accommodation, the instructor must be presented with either a letter from the Assistant Director of the Program for Academic Access or an Accommodations Card from the Office of Student Support Services during the first week of classes.

Academic Honesty Policy

MMC fosters an academic community where students and faculty work together to create a learning experience that imparts knowledge and forms character. To achieve this, the College requires all members of the community to adhere to the policy of Academic Honesty that can be found in the Student Handbook, the College Catalogue and on the College website.


Week 1: September 8

In class:

  • Course Overview - Focus on experiential and active learning, problem solving and life skills
  • Introduction to Computers & Mac OS - Dock, Desktop, Server, RAM, ROM, Hard Drive, Processor, Ergonomics
  • Layout Basics - Composition, Focal Point, Focus, Scale, Color, Contrast, Rhythm, Dynamic
  • Photoshop: Layers & Transformation - Layers, Duplicate Layer, Transform (Scale, stretch, squash, rotate, translate), Alpha/Transparency, Blend Modes, Saving, File Types

Week 2: September 15

In class:

  • Review Reading - Labels/Captions, Assemblage, Insertions, Deletion, Substitution, Cropping/Framing, Composites, Record/Document, Communication, Identification
  • View “Retouched Photos” - Ethics, Responsibility, Representation
  • Digital Imaging Concepts - Resolution, Pixels, Color Wheel, Inputs/Outputs, Analog vs. Digital
  • Photoshop: Digital Imaging - Variations, Levels, Clone Stamp, Airbrushing, Dodge & Burn
  • Scanning

Read for today:


  • Collect 1 physical (analog) image of your favorite celebrity that is scratched/damaged [you can provide the scratches]

Week 3: September 22

In class:

  • Review Reading - Who is involved in the re-touching process? What are the responsibilities/ethics associated with the profession? What are the similarities/differences to cosmetic surgery? What role does digital technology play in our understanding of body and body manipulation?
  • View Example Composite Images
  • Copyright - Copyright vs. Plaigarism, Fair Use, Creative Commons, copies & distribution, derivative works, “tangible form of expression”, Protection, Purpose/Origins
  • Photoshop: Compositing Basics - Selections, Masks, Copy & Paste, Replace Color, Patch

Read for today:


  • Image Repair

Week 4: September 29

In class:

  • View & Discuss Digital Cosmetic Surgery Assignments - Believability/Lack of Evidence of Tampering, Process/Choices, Composition, Focal point
  • Exercise: Finding & Matching Perspective
  • Photoshop: Faking It - Distort, Creating Shadows


  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Bring Materials for Self-Portrait

Week 5: October 6

Meet at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at 10:30 am

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is located on Museum Mile, at the corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Current Exhibition:
National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?


  • Self-Portrait

Week 6: October 13

In class:

  • View & Discus Self-Portrait Composite Images - Believability/Lack of Evidence of Tampering, Process/Choices, Composition, Concept
  • Introduction to HTML - Tags, Attributes, File Structure, HTML Grammar, Naming Conventions
  • Write HTML Page: body, head, title, img, a, p, br

link to HTML cheat sheet

Read for today:

Week 7: October 20

In class:

  • Introduction to Dreamweaver - Setting up site/Managing Site; Images & Links; Tables (cell, column, row, padding, spacing, border); Save for Web
  • Discuss Website Project and Process
  • Planning: Purpose/Mission, Content, Audience, Client, Writing, Editing, Information Architecture
  • Design: Research-Mockup-Revision cycle
  • Implementation: Templates, Testing, Make “live”
  • Design Research - What is the website's mission and purpose? What goals would you like a website to help you reach? Who is your target audience? What do you know about the audience? What are their aesthetic and informational needs/desires? How can we find out more details? Who are your competitors and partners?
  • Establish Teams


Week 8: October 27

In class:

  • Mockup Basics - Resolution, Color Scheme Choices/Options, Integration of Logo, Maintaining Identity, Navigation
  • Site Maps
  • View Web Design Examples

Read for today:


  • 1-2 Creative Brief for Niche, your final project

Week 9: November 3

In class:

  • Introduction to Cascading Stylesheets (CSS): Styling Text - Why Style?, Internal Vs. External Styles, Syntax, Selector, Property, Value
  • View & Discuss Mockups - Composition/Layout; Focal Point; Color; Compliments organization and mission; Clear Structure; Fulfills recommendations
  • Typography Basics - Serif, Sans-Serif, Concord, Contrast, Conflict, Size, Color, Cases, Style, Weight, Alignment, Readability, Legibility, Fonts, lorem ipsum
  • Information Architecture and Information Hierarchy - Strategies to guide your audience through information
  • Meet with Design Teams: Work on Revised Design

Read for today:


  • Usability Study
  • Sitemap
  • Mockup - 1st Draft

November 10 - NO CLASS - Advising

Week 10: November 17

In class:

  • Review Styling Text Exercise
  • From HTML Pages to HTML Sites - Best Practices, Linking Pages, Organization
  • Digging Into CSS - Cascading Rules, Box Model (Height, Width, Margin, Border, Padding), Float, Class, ID, Styling HTML Tags, background, Starting from templates

Read for today:


  • Collect Materials for client Site (edit text, photos, etc.; create necessary graphics)
  • CSS Styling Text Exercise #1
  • CSS Exercise #2 (done in class)

November 24 - NO CLASS - Thanksgiving

Week 11: December 1

In class:

  • HTML Implementation - Creating Templates; Comments; Making a Site Live; Testing In Multiple Browsers on Multiple Platforms
  • Meet with Design Teams
  • Continue Developing CSS Mockup


  •  * Final Website - 1st draft

Week 12: December 8

  • Refining your templates
  • Adding media - video, sound

Week 13: December 15

In class:

  • Meet with Design Teams
  • Site Testing


  • Final Website - 2nd draft

Week 14: December 22 NOTE: LAST CLASS

In class:

  • Final Presentation of Sites