Randall Packer | Course Information

Advanced Web Design

Producing an on-line e-zine

Syllabus - Spring, 2001
Graphic Design
Maryland Institute College of Art

Thursday, 4:00 - 10:00 PM

Randall Packer, Instructor
office hours: Wednesday, 2 - 3 PM
Website: http://www.zakros.com/

On-line Syllabus: http://www.zakros.com/mica

class projects

e-matter production timeline

contact info

e-matter prototype

e-matter design templates

Course Description

Advanced Web Design explores a broad range of issues and topics in the creation of networked art and other on-line forms. The course emphasizes the advancement of conceptual tools essential to critical inquiry and technical expertise specific to the medium's aesthetics and technological properties. It also preprares students for real-world experience in collaborative production methodologies. This semester, students will develop an on-line electronic magazine (e-zine), and will be responsible for all aspects of its production including: research, design, and production. In addition, they will initiate its first content in the form of net artworks and critical projects.


Week 1 : Introduction (January 18)

Review of course objectives, readings, assignments, and projects.

Presentation of the emerging form of the electronic magazine: publications that exploit the political, aesthetic, subversive, and poetic possibilities of the medium.

Salon - Politics, people, news and sex.
Rhizome - Presents new media art to the public, fosters communication and critical dialogue about new media art, and preserves new media art for the future.
Suck - "A fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun."
Feed - An online general interest magazine that covers media, technology, pop culture, science, and the arts.
Switch -
The new media art journal of the CADRE Laboratory for New Media of the School of Art and Design at San Jose University.
Link - Baltimore journal of art and technology that integrates print and electronic media.

Metal and Flesh - Magazine of critical inquiry on digital media from Montreal.


Reading: "Introduction to Net.art," Natalie Bookchin; Eulogy for the Utopian Dream of the Net," Randall Packer (link is in left margin).

Research: Present an on-line publication of your own choosing, not one previously presented in class.

Week 2: The E-Zine and the Digital Aesthetic (January 25)

With the emergence of the electronic magazine, is there a new aesthetic coalescing around the 0's and 1's that are redefining our culture? Since Wired Magazine was launched in January of 1993 touting Marshall McLuhan's proclamations. With the current plethora of on-line publications, a vast and varied dialogue is swirling faster than anyone can keep up. Is there a new digital aesthetic forming from this dialogue? Are new areas of critical inquiry arising from the mass of discussion? What techniques are being created with the digital tools that help us filter and absorb this information?

Presentation of on-line publications.

  Advanced techniques: streaming audio and video.

Reading: Wild from Seclusion: Art and Locality in Baltimore, by Peter Walsh, Editor of Link; choose an article from the on-line publication you presented.

Reasearch:an on-line audio/video interview of your own choice.

Project: On-line Self-Interview, either audio or videotaped, to be used in the bio section of the on-line publication.

Week 3 : The Digital Portrait (February 1)

Utlizing multimedia techniques: audio, video, hypermedia, etc., how is it now possible to portray an individual, an idea, a concept. We will look at several examples in the mainstream and alternative on-line press, including: an Interview with John Travolta on Scientology; a look at the work and ideas of media artist Lynn Hershman, and Lev Manovich's "Little Movies."

Presentation of articles and on-line interviews.


Streaming issues, work on on-line interview

  Begin video portrait of Baltimore.

Week 4 : The Digital Portrait (February 8)
  I will be away in San Francisco for the opening of Telematic Connections. Everyone will use class time to work on your short film-noir of Baltimore, and prepare the video for streaming.

Work on Balitmore portrait.

Analyze works from Telematic Connections.


Week 5 : Digital Architectures + Literary Labyrinths (February 15)

Discussion of the Telematic Connections exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco.

Critique of on-line Self-Interview, Baltimore portrait.

Information design is a critical aspect of any publication, the on-line magazine raises a new set of paradigms resulting from the distributed, interactive nature of the medium. We will focus on the core concept of the e-zine, and how this informs its architectural / informational structure. We will analyze several sites to examine useful formal structures and design approaches for consideration. We will discuss navigational strategies for information design and site construction: organizing the hypermedia environment.


Working in small teams, develop design prototypes for the e-zine: including name, concept, focus, site layout, etc..


The class will then collectively decide which overall design (including individual ideas) will be implemented.

Prepare your personal site for presentation and critique.

Week 6 : Digital Architectures + Literary Labyrinths (February 22)

Presentation of prototypes, feedback for continuation of design process. Critique and selection of publication concept/design.

Presentation and critique of everyone's personal sites.


Complete work on prototypes.


Complete work on prototypes.


Week 7 : Role Playing + Collaboration (March 1)

The most essential aspect of the production process is working in a collaborative team environment. Although each student will work on all aspects of the production, each will be given responsibility for a specific area including: project management (scheduling, acquiring/organizing assets, team communication); art direction (directing the overall concept and integration of design), technical direction (networking, selection of software tools, programming, technical strategies and concepts), graphic design (visual layout), information/interactivity design (information architecture and implementation of interactivity), and editor(s) (selection and editing of content).

Presentation of prototypes and mock-up pages for e-zines.


Advanced technology topics: Incorporating Javascript and applets.

  Begin production work on the publication infrastructure.

Week 8 : Net Topics for Hyperessays (March 8)

Complete brainstorming for the e-zine, review discussion and finalize concept.

Assign team roles (from last week).

With production underway, students will discuss / explore a range of net-specific topics emerging from the publications editorial/conceptual focus, as a springboard for artworks and critical/context projects to be featured in the premiere issue of the site. These topics will include such relevant areas as: Artificial Identities, Information Sprawl, Blurring of Reality, Tele-Presences, Digital Landscapes, The Changing Social Condition. Each student will choose a net topic as the basis for the projects.

Some examples of hyperessays on various media topics include: Rachel Rein's "Artificial Life," an article that was written for the DMZ e-zine my students produced at UC Berkeley in 1997; my HyperTour of Jodi and Grammatron, that was written for the Museums and the Web Conference; Carl Disalvo's hyperessay for the Walker Art Center's Gallery 9, entitled "Space;" and Julie Luckenbach's "Beuys / Logos," also on Gallery 9.


Prototype e-zine. Troubleshoot all remaining site issues for midterm review.

  Work on publication infrastructure. Begin work on critical/context project consisting of hypertextual essay. Prepare net topic presentation.

Week 9 : Concepts (March 15)

Hyperessays presentations: share research-in-progress.

Discussion of concept for publication: historical references to Baltimore's place in the history of electronic communications and the first telegraph message.

Sites for review of Samuel Morse:




A Morse Code "transmitter":


Finalize main design concept / publication title. Presentation of architecture / information preliminary design. Review production timetable and deadelines. Update individual and group assignments.


Individual follow-up critique of personal sites and class projects.

Work on e-zine elements: mock-up pages, logo, splash art, architecture / navigation design / flow chart, etc.


Work on publication. Complete critical/context project.

Week 10 : Critique (March 22)

Critique hyperessay projects.

Finalize concept and information architecture for the site.


Complete hyperessay projects.

  Work on publication infrastructure: design templates, page mockups, artwork and other graphics.

Week 11 : Publication Production (April 5)
  Presentation of templates, mockup pages, artwork and graphics.

Work on publication: assemble and link all pages. Continue refinement of pages and artwork.


Work on publication: further refine pages and begin incorporating content.

Week 12: Publication Production (April 12)

Presentation by the founders of LINK magazine Kathy O'Dell and Megan Hamilton.

Continue production work on the publication.


Work on publication: edit design work and content.


Work on publication: continue editing process.

Week 13 : Critique (April 19)
  Critique of publication.

Final publication production.

  Final publication production.


Week 14 : Final Critique + Beta Test (April 26)

The last stage in the production process is delivering the work to its audience. This requires the final determination of all technical/editorial/production issues to be resolved before the exhibition.

The class will present, critique, and troubleshoot the entire publication including all projects.



  Final testing.

Week 15 : Exhibition (May 3)
  Opening + exhibition of on-line publication and projects.

Assignments and Grading

Class Discussion and Presentation (20%)

Each student is required to participate in class discussion and present net projects and net topics.

Web Notebook (20%)

A Web notebook is maintained throughout the semester. The notebook will serve as a personal journal containing position statements to readings, critique of artworks, and summaries of class discussion, etc. The notebook is a multimedia sketchbook, a place to develop your ideas, experiment with media technologies, and record your observations. The notebook will be graded on the basis of your ability to process and absorb key concepts introduced throughout the course. The notebook needs to be kept up on a regular basis and will be checked weekly throughout the course.


  • Weekly critique of readings and net artworks
  • Incorporate relevant images and links
  • overall concept + design

Publication Work (30%)

Each student will be given a specific role in the publication production and will graded according to their ability to assume and execute all resonsibilities for that area.

3 Projects (30%)

Self-interview, critical/context, and net artwork projects.



Work will be stored on the class server. Zips will be needed to transport material home and for backup.

Internet Access

Everyone is required to have an e-mail account at MICA. You may also have an outside account, but all projects must be done on the MICA server.

Server Account

Accounts will be issued for students to use the class server. A password and user ID will give you access to the server either from the lab, anywhere on campus, or by dial-in from home or work.