DESCRIPTION: Studio, six hours; outside study, nine hours. Completion of preparation for major and upper division core courses required. Selected topics in visual communication and image explored through variety of approaches that may include projects, readings, discussion, research papers, and oral presentations. Topics announced in advance. May be repeated for maximum of 15 units. Letter grading.

BRAND LAB: Professor Rebeca Méndez’s Special Topics course taught as ‘Brand Lab’ is dedicated to the development of design media arts research and strategy in the areas of organization, culture, and identity. This hybrid seminar/studio studies how complex organizations are defined by their public identities, and how those identities can be strategized and designed. This course furthers the development of Design Media Arts as both an intellectual and a professional discipline. The first weeks of the course are dedicated to design research and the rest of the course to design practice. Brand Lab is structured to cover the following phases of identity development: research, strategy and planning, communication strategy, implementation guidelines, and design development of specific communication material in all appropriate media: web, print, and environment. Each Brand Lab course is organized around a unique set of issues and themes. This class is predicated on the belief that making is a form of thinking and that research and design are allies. The readings, class discussions, interactions with visitors, field trips, prototyping and demos are all essential features of the class. Original research on the positioning and communication strategy of a given organization will yield a rigorous form of cultural history and analysis. The course interest is not merely to further the practices we study, but to employ design and design research as a means with which to intervene in the social and political life of the organization engaged. Research methodologies are intrinsically critical and will lead us to understandings of considerable intellectual value to those with a stake in study of organizational culture and identity.

SKILLS: Gain understanding on the multiple phases and skills of brand development, design and integration. Learn to synthesize complex ideas into compelling visual messages and how those messages are appropriately modulated when migrated into various media. Continue to develop a sophisticated and mature design lexicon and presentation abilities.

ACTIVITIES: The main activity is to develop from beginning to end one single branding project, from concept to design and production. Each student presents their work and receives group critique once a week. Class discussion is of great importance in this course.

ATTENDANCE: It is required for you to attend each class. This class will cover a great amount of material in a short period of time. There is little, if any, way to make up for a lost class. You are responsible for work due on the day you are absent and for assignments given on the day you missed. An emergency or illness is the only acceptable excuse. Please notify us both (T. A. + me) of your intended absence prior to the class meeting. If you are 15 minutes late you get a tardy. Every tardy is a half grade point down on your final grade. If you are later than 15 minutes, you are welcome to join the class, but you’ll be marked absent. Each (un-excused) absence will result in one full grade letter down (A+ to B+). Three unexcused absences will result in a failed grade in the class (F).


GRADES: Your work in this class will be evaluated on the basis of the following, with each category weighted equally: class participation, presentation (quality of craft, skills, finish), and exploration and resolution of projects. The final grade will be determined by averaging all the grades in combination with attendance. Extra credit opportunities are available during the term. DMA LECTURES: Your attendance is required in at least 3 lectures offered by DMA during F2017 quarter. The class T. A. and/or I will record your attendance.

OTHER: Please remember to silence and put away your cellphone. Kindly refrain from sending and receiving, texts and e-mail during discussions. Please no food, drinks are ok. The success of this class—and the community of which you’re a member—relies on discussion and participation in critiques. Speaking about your work and your fellow designers’ work, will develop critical and crucial skills to analyze, judge and further your own work. This conversation and critical discourse are essential to the practice. If anything is unclear or the course isn’t going well for you, please communicate this as soon as possible.


1: Research week 1 & 2

2: Findings / Positioning week 3

3: Concept / Ideas week 4

4: Creative Direction / Communication Strategy week 5

5: Design week 6–7

7: Production week 8 – 9

8: Final Presentation week 10


At the core of your profession is ‘analysis’— sustaining a critical mind. Thus, immerse yourself in your subject matter to acquire deep understanding. Approach your research from multiple points of entry—aesthetic, literary, scientific, psychological, philosophical, political, social, etc… Organize your research so that the entirety of the subject at hand is accessible to you. You can organize it in a binder, or in a blog, or taped all over the walls, or all of the above.


During this phase core findings are identified and you define the ’Brand Positioning.’ The positioning document is a 1–3 page document that serves as a creative brief to inform the visual identity, and describes your mission, vision, core values and goals. It answers the questions ‘What Do You Say’ (brand strategy / positioning), and ‘To Whom Do You Say It’ (target audience). The question ‘How Do You Say It’ is developed during the following phases.


Allow for the research to speak to you—listen and observe patterns, possible relationships (both, congruent and incongruent). In other words, through observation and play, allow ideas to emerge. Each idea is a pool of visual potentialities. Explore ideas, imagine what ‘it’ can be and make notes, both verbal and visual. Ideas are the images of thought. Ideas are stories. What is the story you will tell? Foster serendipity by exposing yourself to the visualization of your research, to imagining and daydreaming, by trusting your intuition. When patterns emerge, tend to them. Create a special board or web page for this ‘potentiality’ and go deeper into researching its voice, look and feel.


In this phase, you define the event and its surroundings, the mise en scène, the ethos — character, mood, feeling, essence, principles, rationale, attitude, voice, looks — of your idea. If in your idea there is a horse, here is where you choose it to be an Appaloosa, for it’s semiotics — the signs and the symbols, their use and interpretation. This is when you create mood boards — a physical manifestation of what the research looks and feels like, and of what your thoughts and imagination looks and feels like. Take photographs, cut magazines, draw, collect materials, textures, abstract forms. Literally paste them up on your walls, and you may classify them by kind.


The creative direction determines an overall direction whereas in this phase, you become more specific. If in your story there is an Appaloosa horse, what color and size are the dots on what tone of light hair of its pelt? Is the typography upfront and severe, or upfront and serene, what font? If the idea is about emptiness, what does that specifically look/feel like? In this phase you edit your mood boards to arrive at the desired and appropriate aesthetic, poetics, mechanics (dynamics), semiotics, etc…. You commit to a vocabulary of expression—of visuals, sound, movement, etc…. You refine your decisions and you simplify, but make sure you do not weaken the vitality of the idea.


How is the idea going to reach its audience? How and when will it launch? How will it stay relevant and vibrant? What is the point of enunciation? What is the appropriate media to disseminate these messages, this story, this myth? Is the message to be enacted in an art intervention, or an advertising campaign, or a virus on the Internet, or all of the above?


During this phase you design the specifics (with exactitude) of each one of the elements of your visual vocabulary, from graphic elements—color palette, typography, logotypes, symbols—to photography, videography, and illustrations. You also define your spatial, material and auditory elements.


During this phase you will continue to refine the design and you will produce each one of your elements. Research thoroughly all production methods that are appropriate and relevant for your piece. Most important is to plan ahead and be realistic of the amount of work you can produce with good craftsmanship. Production is key for the success of a piece. So many great works end up destroyed by poor production.


Research onto dissemination strategies is critical for those entrepreneurial artists and designers. Fostering partnerships with already established distribution organizations, i.e. D.A.T. for book distribution, is recommended.