• Classes are mainly on campus, with a few online sessions (see schedule).
    Link for online participation: https://aalto.zoom.us/j/61405307592

    This course is an introduction to contemporary theories and discussions within visual communication design. Special attention is paid to the nature of knowing and knowledge in different domains, and the notion of designerly and material knowledge. Relevant theories in other fields beyond design theory are also discussed, along with their potential contribution to design practice.

    In addition to lectures and discussions in class, the course consists of working in independent reading groups, where thematic course literature is explored through reading, writing and conversation.

    For complete course information, see the Syllabus and/or the links on the menu.

    The course is led by professor Arja Karhumaa, who you can reach at arja.karhumaa@aalto.fi or 040 570 7777.

  • Classes are mainly on campus, with a few online sessions (see below).
    Link for online participation: https://aalto.zoom.us/j/61405307592

    Week 1

    TUESDAY 14th Sept 9.15–17
    Space: Design Factory, Stage
    led by ARJA & AMELIE 

    • TOPIC: Course introduction. How does learning happen on this course? What is discourse and what to do with it?
    • Course practicalities + Ice breakers
    • Establishing principles of Reading Group work.
    • CLASS EXERCISE: Mapping questions together. Listening to each other. Relay interview.

    WEDNESDAY 15th Sept 9.15–12 
    Space: Design Factory, Stage
    led by AMELIE 

    Read in advance: - Intercept from the Academy, Interview of New Academy by Mika Savela, Finnish Architecture review, issue 2/2018

    • CLASS EXERCISE: Your practice. What do you do when you do what you do?
    • ASSIGNMENT Introducing the text installation assignment for reading groups.

    Week 2

    TUESDAY 21th Sept 10.15-12.00   NOTE! Exceptional time
    Space: online, https://aalto.zoom.us/j/61405307592
    led by ARJA

    Read in advance:
    Mills, Sara (1997/2004). Introduction. In Discourse. Routledge. (25 pages + you can skim chapter 3 in the same pdf if you get interested)

    • LECTURE: Discourse. Authorship. Practice (Part I). Discussion.

    WEDNESDAY 22th Sept 9.15–12 
    Space: U3
    led by ARJA

    • LECTURE: Discourse. Authorship. Practice (Part II). Discussion.
    • INTRODUCTION to Reading I: Discourse and authorship in design practice.
      The group meeting and summaries are to be accomplished before Tuesday 28th.
    • Flinga board: Practice

    Week 3

    TUESDAY 28th Sept 9.15–12 
    Space: online, https://aalto.zoom.us/j/61405307592
    led by ARJA & AMELIE

    WEDNESDAY 29th Sept 9.15–12 
    Space: U3
    led by ARJA

    • LECTURE: Visual communication as episteme. Discussion.
    • INTRODUCTION to Reading II: Design and knowledge. 
      The group meeting and summaries are to be accomplished before Wednesday the 6th.

    Week 4

    TUESDAY 5th Oct 9.15–12
    Independent work

    WEDNESDAY 6th Oct 9.15–12 
    Space: U3
    led by ARJA

    • UNPACKING Reading II: Design and knowledge.
    • INTRODUCTION to Reading III: The (new) materiality of design. The group meeting and summaries are to be accomplished before Tuesday the 12th.

    Week 5

    TUESDAY 12th Oct 9.15–12 

    Space: online, https://aalto.zoom.us/j/61405307592
    led by ARJA

    • UNPACKING Reading III: The (new) materiality of design. 
    • LECTURE: Introductions to new materiality

    WEDNESDAY 13th Oct 9.15–12 
    Space: U3
    led by AMELIE

    • Groups meet individually with Amelie. Discussing the assignment and reparing for the text installation. 

    Week 6

    TUESDAY 19th Oct 9.15–17 
    Space: U3
    led by ARJA & AMELIE

    • Feedback session on the course work so far.
    • ASSIGNMENT Groups working on their text installation files.

    WEDNESDAY 20th Oct 9.15–12
    Space: U3
    led by ARJA & AMELIE

    • Final group talks and discussions.
    • Planning the installation building + opening on 1 November, and dissembling on 12 November.

  • Reading groups:

    A Holiday Team: Veera Kesänen, Hares Bassil, Nina Grönlund, Eero Urala

    Bread: Petra Zajácz, Paula Rautanen, Aziza Lo, Katri Astala

    Chandelier Discourse: Elina Ahonen, Juha Koivusalo, Noa Joulin, Pihla Lemmetyinen

    De-: Ulla Eronen, Markus Grönlund, Muniba Rasheed, Laura Soini

    Enjoyment Book Club: Aino Salo, Anastasiia Balagurova, Iisa Pappi

    Fantastic Fudge: Sofia Mejia, Pinja Mäentaka, Anjori Tandon, Anna Mäkelä

    Giant Cerebrums: Milja Komulainen, Veera Kemppainen, Adelaida Avila

    H: Jen Sanderson, Ossi Kannosto, Kai Nordfors, Aleksanda Czupryna

    The reading groups are an opportunity to read, write and discuss various themes all with your peers. Your reading group will discuss provided thematic literature in three different meetings. After the group meetings, each theme will be unpacked in class.

    Your group will organise meetings independently but according to this schedule:
    Reading I: meeting before unpacking on Tuesday 28 Sept
    Reading II: meeting before unpacking on Tuesday 5 or Wednesday 6 Oct
    Reading III: meeting before unpacking on Tuesday 12th Oct

    Your group

    Think of a name for your group that starts with your group letter. This is just for the fun of it and the purpose for easy identification.


    Establish a simple blog for your group online. The platform can be chosen freely. Send a link to Arja.


    Your reading group will have three meetings during the course to discuss the provided literature together. Reserve two hours for each meeting. Think of spaces that would work best for having a conversation on what you’ve read. The liveliest discussions often occur in informal and cosy spaces: libraries, cafes, homes.

    Introductions + summaries

    For each meeting, both an introduction (600–1000 words) and a summary (any length) will be shared in the blog. The introductions are published 24 hours before the meeting and read by all group members before meeting. Summaries will be published before the following unpacking class.

    IMPORTANT: In all blog posts, always state clearly 

    - introduction or summary

    - the number/theme of the reading

    - your name and date of publication

    For example: Introduction, Reading III The (new) materiality of design) by Arja, 14 Sept 2021

    In addition to text, introductions and summaries may include images, illustrations, diagrams, video etc. 

    The course of a meeting

    - Before a meeting, all group members read the literature provided for this session AND write an introduction each.

    - 24 hours before the meeting, introductions are published in the blog and everyone reads them before the meeting.

    - In the meeting, everyone has all the provided literature at hand (on screen or on paper).

    - After the session, everyone will prepare an individual summary of the ideas they developed during the discussion, and publish it in the blog before the unpacking class.

    After the meetings

    In unpacking classes, prepare to tell about the work of your reading group to others. You do not need any presentation materials, but make sure you are prepared to share for example your most interesting findings, most burning questions, most difficult topics, etc. of your previous meeting.

    Doing your introduction

    - The introduction is to be published in the blog 24 hours before your meeting. 
    Important! Always state clearly: introduction or summary, the number/theme of the reading, your name and date of publication.

    - Already when reading, make notes of things that are interesting, exciting, difficult, problematic or otherwise notable.

    - When possible, get acquainted with information on the writers and the backgrounds of the texts. Make use of a dictionary to clarify words and concepts relevant to the text but unfamiliar to you.

    - The introduction should not be a synopsis of the texts. Instead, you should compile themes that interest you and your thoughts about them. You can bring forth questions, opinions, provocations, critical ideas and suggestions for topics of discussion. The point is that your introduction would raise and inspire discussion.

    - The introduction should be around 800–1000 words and can also include images/diagrams etc. You can use subheads.

    Doing your summary

    - The summary is to be published in the blog before the unpacking class. 
    Important! Always state clearly: introduction or summary, the number/theme of the reading, your name and date of publication.

    - When in the meeting, keep constant notes. Don’t rely on your memory: It’s useful to write down your thoughts immediately after the meeting. You can record the meeting if you want, but note that transcribing the audio is slow. 

    - The idea is to write down the gist of the discussion from your own point of view. What did you bring home from the discussion? Did you get answers to any of your questions, or even more questions? Did the discussion change the ideas you got from the text and how?

    - There is no assigned word count for the introduction. The main point is to write down and reflect on the most important findings you got out of the group discussion.

  • Reading I: Discourse and Authorship in Design Practice

    1. Chapter 2: Authority, ownership, originality (p. 29–54) (25 pages) from Bennett, Andrew (2005). The Author. Routledge.

    2. Rock, Michael (1996): Designer as Author

    Further reading (entirely voluntary):

    Reading II: Design and Knowledge

    1. Pages 16–48 from: Drucker, Johanna (2014). Graphesis. Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Harvard University Press. (32 pages)

    2. Mills, C.W. (2008/1958)) The Man in the Middle. In Summers, John H. (ed.) (2008). The Politics of Truth. Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills. Oxford University Press.  (10 pages)

    Further reading (entirely voluntary): 


    Reading III: The (New) Materiality of Design

    1. Vossoughian,  Nader  (2017). Workers of the World, Conform!  (6 pages)

    2. Raff, Jan Henning (2019). Theories to understand graphic design in use: the example of posters. In Triggs, Teal & Atzmon, Leslie (eds.). Graphic Design Reader. (8 pages)


    Further reading (entirely voluntary):

    New Materialism(s). Entry by Kameron Sanzo (2018). in Genealogy of the Posthuman: www.criticalposthumanism.net
  • Introduction from Coole, Diana & Frost, Samantha ((2010). New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Duke University Press.
  • Bogost, Ian (2009). What is Object-Oriented Ontology? A definition for ordinary folk.