In his June 2014 article “What Can Design Thinking a Offer Composition Studies?” in College Composition and Communication Jim Purdy argues that because design and writing both focus on making meaning instead of mastering “a fixed body of knowledge,” the approach and vocabulary of design has plentiful opportunities for composition. One of these opportunities, John Trimbur asserts is that the materiality of writing is not only a part of an individual’s writing process, but as a wider application to communities, administration, teachers, and corporations. Paired with Purdy’s emphasis on design thinking, my digital poster presentation illustrates how institutions (power structures) have reinforced syllabi design and thus continue to reinforce ideologies through standardized syllabi design. Although there is a significant lack of scholarship that unites the traditionally Technical Communication studies research on document design with Composition’s research in pedagogy and curriculum, there are studies (Yancey, Palmeri, Porter) that contribute to a working knowledge of the ideological values of delivery and writing, which allow further arguments to be made about the document design of syllabi.
Within the overwhelming silence surround the syllabus genre, I've only had a few conversations about syllabi, and those that I have end with the same conclusions: students don't read syllabi, syllabi are dense. I tend to agree, but I have more questions. To me, a syllabus is a cultural artifact that represents the ideologies of an institution, the pedagogy of a teacher, and often becomes a void for conversations on document design. In my own pedagogy courses and practicum experiences, document design of syllabi is not addressed, unless it is to hand of a template without explanation of form, purpose, or function. And so, for this digital poster presentation, I chose to redesign the first page of my syllabus for Composition I: An introduction to analytical arguments, at Auburn University. I chose to focus on the first page of my syllabus for a few reasons. For me, the syllabus does not a mere institutional function alone, but a pedagogical one. I hope to engage students to recognize the document as a rhetorical argument about what and how they are “supposed” to learn. Structurally, the first page of a traditional syllabus is, I would argue, codified enough to have a near instant recognition with students, as well as parodies by CollegeHumor. By presenting a digital poster of a redesigned syllabus, with historical factors, ideological implications, and technological affordances, the interplay of design/composition can continue to explore opportunities of best user for students.