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Module Descriptor School of Computer Science and Statistics

Module CodeCS7029
Module NameVisual Computing and Design
Module Short Title
Semester TaughtSemesters 1 and 2
Contact Hours

This Module is split into two sections:
Part A “Graphic Design” taught by Robin Fuller
Part B “Visual Computing” taught by John Dingliana
Part A (Graphic Design) consists of 11 two-hour lectures over Semester 1. The main course material is delivered through illustrated lectures. These lectures are not circulated as lecture notes. Their function is to stimulate debate and introduce students to discourses, practices, processes and practitioners in historical and contemporary contexts. Students are expected to conduct self-directed study to further their particular interests. This activity is supported through the provision of the bibliography (see below).
Part B (Image Processing and 3D Modelling) consists of 22 two-hour lectures over Semester 1 & 2.

Semester 1 will deal with essential concepts in 2D and 3D computer graphics, with assignments involving creation of models, images and animations using well known visual computing tools, such as 3D Studio Max. Semester 2 will deal with more low-level concepts in imaging, interactive graphics and virtual reality. Assignments in the second semester will involve graphical programming using languages such as Processing.

Module PersonnelRobin Fuller, John Dingliana
Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
Part A (Graphic Design)
Identify key formal elements in graphic design processes and practices
Analyse graphic design and visual cultural products in an informed and structured manner
Evaluate these products in terms of formal (i.e. functional) success and socio-cultural & technological relevance
Part B (Visual Computing)
Identify some of the key theoretical principles and standard architectures underlying modern graphical applications, including details of the common hardware and low-level software used in such systems.
Discuss how low-level fundamental components common to all computer applications come together to produce high-level computer imagery in digital media and interactive graphical programs
Generate photo-realistic images of three-dimensional (3D) environments using modelling and scene-definition software
Employ an industry-standard computer aided tool to create 3D objects and models, modify a virtual camera, animate and render images and videos of complex virtual scene.
Write short computer programs for modifying computer images and generating graphical objects in 2D and 3D
Implement an interactive computer application, that handles input events form the user (such as mouse, keyboard input) to affect graphical output

Implement a basic virtual reality application.

Learning Aims

Part A (Graphic Design)
Introduce students to some of the key formal elements of graphic design practices
Introduce students to some of the major historical and critical debates concerned with graphic design and visual cultural products
To encourage students towards a critical engagement with visual cultural / technological intersections
Part B (Visual Computing)

  • The objective of this course is to equip students with a fundamental understanding of the technology underlying the field of computer images and how this is applied to advanced areas such as geometric modelling, rendering and animation. The module will explore modes of input and output and the limitations and potentials of (graphical) digital media.
  • Through discussion and practical assignments, the module should provide an understanding of the production processes, complexity, tools and challenges involved in production of digital images, animations and interactive graphical experiences, including games, virtual reality and augmented reality.
Module Content

Part A (Graphic Design)

  • Information Design

  • Typography

  • Non-linguistic visual communication
  • Text and image interaction

Part B (Visual Computing)

  • Introduction to computer generated imagery and applications
  • Representation and display of Digital Images
  • Basic mathematical principles used in computer graphics
  • 2D and 3D modelling data structures
  • Percepion and representation of Colour
  • Creating 2D and 3D models and scenes
  • Illumination and Lighting
  • Camera Modelling, Viewing and Projection
  • Texture Mapping
  • Animation 
  • Image Manipulation, Enhancement, Filtering
  • Video processing
  • Procedural graphics
  • Interaction with graphical programs,
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality

Practical components involving labs will use the following applications: 3D Studio Max, Processing

Recommended Reading List

Part A (Graphic Design). Required Reading is in bold

Primers & Handbooks

  • Adobe Creative Team; Classroom in a Book: Adobe Photoshop CS(6). Indianapolis: Adobe Press, 2012. (This title must correspond to the software installed on your computer. Check the software release number before purchasing / borrowing)
  • Adobe Creative Team; Adobe Illustrator CS(6) Classroom in a Book. Indianapolis: Adobe Press, 2005. (This title must correspond to the software installed on your computer. Check the software release number before purchasing / borrowing)
  • Berger, John; Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin, 1990.
  • Campbell, Alastair & Dabbs, Alistair; The Digital Designer’s Bible. London: Ilex, 2005.
  • Dondis, Dondis A.; A Primer of Visual Literacy. Boston: MIT Press, 1974.

  • Jute, Andre; Grids: The Structure of Graphic Design (Pro-graphics). Hove: RotoVision, 1997.

Design Histories

  • Aynsley, Jeremy; Century of Graphic Design: Graphic Design Pioneers of the 20th Century. London: Mitchell Beazley 2001.

  • Heller, Steven and Georgette Ballance (Eds.); Graphic Design History. London: Allworth Press, 2001.
  • Hollis, Richard; Graphic Design: A Concise History. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001.

  • Julier, Guy; The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of 20th-century Design and Designers. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993.
  • Livingston, Alan and Isabella Livingston; The Thames and Hudson Encyclopaedia of Graphic Design and Designers (World of Art). London: Thames and Hudson, 1992.
  • Meggs, Philip B.; A History of Graphic Design. London: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1998.
  • Poynor, Rick (Ed.); Design Without Boundaries - Visual Communications in Transition. London: Booth Clibborn, 1998.
  • Poynor, Rick; Typographica. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2001.

Design Criticism

  • Bierut, Michael (Ed.); Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. London: Allworth Press, 1995.
  • Bierut, Michael (Ed.); Looking Closer 2: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. London: Allworth Press, 1997.
  • Barnard, Malcolm; Graphic Design as Communication. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Crowley, David and Paul Jobling; Graphic Design - a Critical Introduction: Reproduction and Representation Since 1800 (Studies in Design and Material Culture). Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996.
  • Heller, Steven and Karen Pomeroy (Eds.); Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design. London: Allworth Press, 1997.
  • Heller, Stephen (Ed.); Design Dialogues. London: Allworth Press, 1998.
  • Heller, Steven; The Graphic Design Reader. London: Allworth Press, 2002.
  • Lupton, Ellen & Abbott Miller (Eds.); Design Writing Research. London: Phaidon Press, 1999.


  • Design
Baines, Phil & Andrew Haslam; Type and Typography. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2002.
  • Kane, John; A Type Primer. New York: Prentice Hall, 2002.
  • Loxley, Simon; Type: The Secret History of Letters. London: IB Tauris, 2006.
  • Spiekermann, Erik; Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works. Berkeley: Adobe Press, 2002.
  • Triggs, Teal; The Typographic Experiment. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003.
  • Williams, Robin; The Non-designer's Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice: IBM/Mac Edition. Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 1994.

Writing by Designers

  • Fletcher, Alan; The Art of Looking Sideways. London: Phaidon, 2001.
  • Maeda, John; Creative Code. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
  • Mollerup, Per; Marks of Excellence: The History and Taxonomy of Trademarks. London: Phaidon, 1999.

Visual Culture

  • Barnard, Malcolm; Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
  • Barthes, Roland; “Rhetoric of the Image.” Image Music Text. London: Fontana, 1987. (also in: Evans Jessica and Stuart Hall (Eds.); Visual Culture: The Reader. London: Sage 1999.)
  • Evans Jessica and Stuart Hall (Eds.); Visual Culture: The Reader. London: Sage 1999.
  • Heywood, Ian and Barry Sandywell (Eds.); Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual. London: Routledge, 1998.
  • Kress, Gunther and Theo Van Leeuwen; Reading Images - The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge, 1996.
  • McQuire, Scott; Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space in the Age of the Cinema. London: Sage, 1997.
  • Rose, Gillian; Visual Methodologies. London: Sage, 2001.
  • Virilio, Paul and Patrick Camiller (Translator); War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception. London: Verso Books, 1989.
  • Williams, Raymond; Keywords. London: Fontana, 1976.

Information Design

  • Tufte, Edward R.; The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. London: Graphics Press UK, 2001.
  • Tufte, Edward R.; Envisioning Information. London: Graphics Press UK, 1990.
  • Tufte, Edward R.; Visual Explanations. London: Graphics Press USA, 1997.
  • Tufte, Edward R.; Beautiful Evidence. London: Graphics Press UK, 2006.

Photographic Images

  • Barthes, Roland; Camera Lucida. London: Vintage, 1993.
  • Batchen, Geoffrey; Burning with Desire. Boston: MIT Press, 1999.
  • Benjamin, Walter; "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."  - in Illuminations. London: Pimlico, 1999. (also in: Evans Jessica and Stuart Hall (Eds.); Visual Culture: The Reader. London: Sage, 1999.)
  • Cotton, Charlotte; The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
  • Burgin, Victor (Ed.); Thinking Photography. London: Macmillan Press, 1982.
  • Sontag, Susan; On Photography. London: Penguin, 1979.
  • Tagg, John; The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988.
  • Warner Marien, Mary; Photography: A Cultural History (3rd Edition). London, Laurence King, 2010
  • Wells, Liz; “Thinking about Photography – Debates Historically and Now” – in Photography: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge, 2000.Wells, Liz; Photography: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge, 2000.
  • Wells, Liz; The Photography Reader. London; New York: Routledge, 2003.


Part B (Image Processing and 3D Modelling)

The module is not based on a single textbook. The following are recommended readings. Note that the texts are somewhat overlapped in scope.

  • The Computer in the Visual Arts. Anne Morgan Spalter.
  • 3D Computer Graphics: A User's Guide for Artists and Designers. Andrew Glassner.
  • Computer Graphics: Principals and Practice (3rd Edition), John F. Hughes, Andries van Dam, Morgan McGuire, David F. Sklar, James D. Foley, Steven K. Feiner, Kurt Akeley. Addision Wesley Professional (2013)
  • The Computer Image, Alan Watt and Fabio Policarpo. Addison Wesley, 1998.
  • Learning Processing, Second Edition: A Beginner's Guide to Programming Images, Animation, and Interaction. Daniel Shiffman. Morgan Kaufmann (2015).

Processing: An Introduction to Programming. Jeffrey L. Nyhoff, Larry R. Nyhoff. CRC Press (2017).

Module Prerequisites


Assessment Details

Assessed continuous assessment by assignment and lab work is undertaken throughout the year.

Module Website
Academic Year of Data1718