Document Design

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Course Code
CMNS 3400
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course introduces the basic principles of two-dimensional design, including balance and visual dynamics, layout, publication design, and typography. Students are expected to have prior experience with an industry-standard page-layout software program and some familiarity with graphics software. They will build on their experience to produce small documents and then to create a series of projects suitable for portfolio inclusion. They will gain some understanding of print production technology and procedures, including how to communicate with other print professionals, estimate costs, and deal with digital output.
Course Content

1. Introduction to Design

Students will

  • learn basic print design theory, including page structure, column formatting, typeface relationships, and the use of white space and colour (process and spot)
  • produce a variety of simple one- and two-colour projects, including stationery, invitations, and specialized form letters, using industry-standard software programs
  • become familiar with common design errors and how to correct them
  • become familiar with print terminology
  • become familiar with traditional assembly procedures

2. Applied Design

Students will

  • assess the functionality of software for drawing, graphics, and presentation
  • assess the suitability of different design techniques for a variety of publications
  • analyze design needs of various clients and organizations
  • prepare design elements, text specifications, and graphics in a graphics software program for import into page-layout software
  • investigate rates of and accessibility to professional designers

3. Page Layout

Students will

  • prepare text in a word-processing program for import into a page-layout program
  • examine the basic structure of a page-layout program
  • examine techniques for producing a simple publication in a page-layout program
  • examine and use design techniques for page balance and presentation effectiveness
  • examine and use advanced techniques in page-layout software, including
    • manipulating and integrating graphics
    • creating large initial letters
    • placing pull quotes
    • determining justified and unjustified text spacing
    • kerning
    • using non-standard line spacing
    • spacing headlines
    • wrapping text around even and uneven shapes
    • downloading fonts to a printer
    • printing to file
    • printing thumbnails, crop marks, and reductions
    • producing forms
    • designing templates

4. Print Coordination

Students will

  • examine the stages of preparing a publication for digital output to service bureaus and learn how to coordinate a project through print production, including full-colour separation, spot-colour separation, halftone screens, bleeds, overlays and complex registration, digital and printers’ proofs
  • analyze various paper weights, styles and sizes
  • examine spot and process colour systems
  • analyze the process of printing documents on a variety of presses, including web and four-colour presses
  • obtain estimates on costs involved in a variety of print jobs
  • assess publications at the blueline (or comparable) stage for errors, additions, omissions, etc.
  • assess print proofs for colour, errors, omissions, corrections
  • go to a professional print shop to view specific production issues, such as colour balance, registration, and plate imperfections
Learning Activities

Some or all of the following methods will be used:

  1. lecture/discussion
  2. group work
  3. peer review
  4. lab exercises
  5. projects
  6. instructor feedback on students’ work
  7. individual consultation
  8. presentation (individual or group)
  9. field trip(s)
Means of Assessment

Students are expected to be self-motivated and to demonstrate professionalism, which includes active participation, good attendance, punctuality, effective collaboration, ability to meet deadlines, presentation skills, and accurate self-evaluation.

Evaluation is in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy and will be based on this general format:

Wordmark (logo design) 5%
Stationery package and style guide 10%
Minor project 15%
Midterm exam 15%
Major project (e.g., magazine dummy) 25%
Presentation  15%
Professionalism/participation (as defined above) 15%
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will

  1. be able to identify, understand, and use the basic principles of two-dimensional design
  2. develop advanced skills in an industry-standard page-layout software program
  3. become more experienced users of graphics software programs
  4. understand print production technology and procedures, including how to communicate with other print professionals, estimate costs, and deal with digital output
  5. produce a series of design projects suitable for inclusion in a professional communication portfolio
Textbook Materials

Texts may be selected from current editions of

  • Dean Philip Lem, Graphics Master
  • Jan V. White, Editing by Design

A coursepack of readings will be provided.

Software is available in college labs.  Students are strongly encouraged to purchase subscriptions to the software program(s) taught in this course for at-home practice. 



Acceptance into the Post-Degree Diploma in Professional Communication


A minimum of 45 credit hours including a university-transfer course in English, Communications, or Creative Writing with a grade of B or higher


Permission of the Professional Communication program coordinator


No corequisite courses.


Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for CMNS 3400
Alexander College (ALEX) No credit
Athabasca University (AU) AU CMNS 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU CMNS 241 (3)
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) No credit
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU CMNS 2XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PUB 231 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU CMNS 3XXX (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) No credit
Vancouver Community College (VCC) VCC VCDP 1251 (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023

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Section Notes

CMNS 3400 001 is prioritized for Post-Degree Diploma Professional Communication students. Others are encouraged to request enrolment access by emailing

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