GDES-420 spring 2022 / Prof. David Ramos, American University Design


Design Capstone

Course description

GDES-420 Design Capstone (3 credits): Students engage in the research, conceptualization, design, and execution of multifaceted, multi-component, and cross-media complex design projects. Students also devote time to the preparation of senior portfolios. AU Core Integrative Requirement: Capstone. Usually Offered: spring. Prerequisite: GDES-400 or GDES-405.



The goals of this course are to:

Learning outcomes

On completing this course you will be able to:

AU Core Capstone banner

In this course, you will develop the following skills and knowledge:

  • Application. Build on prior knowledge, skills, or dispositions in a new context.
  • Synthesis. Identify and execute a significant project that addresses a substantive disciplinary or professional concern.
  • Reflection. Articulate the knowledge, skills, or dispositions gained during the student’s undergraduate education or used in the project.

Structure and time

American University has moved classes online for January 2021. For the month of January, this course will run in a synchronous, online format. We’ll meet using a combination of Zoom (for audio/video chat) and Miro (as an online whiteboard).

As of the start of the semester, the rest of the course is planned to run in-person. That may change as events unfold.

Dates and times

All dates and times are Washington, D.C. local time.

Tools, materials, and reading

Reading and information sources

There is no required textbook, though reading materials may be assigned over the course of the semester. The design program strongly encourages participation in AIGA and other professional organizations. The instructor may require attendance at design-related events.

The regular reading of at least one graphic design publication is critical for awareness of issues in design, and is a requirement for this course.

Collaboration and communication tools

Policies and expectations

Projects and grading

The course schedule, assignments, and these percentages may change.

Process and due dates

Projects in this class build through iteration. You will need to turn in evidence of your process, so keep versions of your files and paper sketches as they progress. Projects not seen in progress during previous classes will receive a failing grade.

Grading scale

Attendance and the classroom

Come to class, on time. It is better to show up late than not to arrive at all. You can miss one class, for any reason, without penalty. Additional absences or missed class time will count against your course grade; final grades drop by 4% for each unexcused absence.

Grounds for excused absences are illness, religious observances, family emergencies, and military or jury service. (If you’re sick, stay home.) You do not need to provide a note, but you must let me know by email.

In the classroom, conduct yourself professionally, in a way that shows respect for your fellow students, your instructor, and the material. Do not record audio or video; if you need a recording, your instructor will arrange for one.

Citations and academic integrity

You’ll need to provide citations for every piece of work that you didn’t make yourself. This includes text, images, ideas, and code. It includes images that you edited, images that you traced, and even images that you merely used as references for your own illustrations. Citations can appear within pieces or as separate documents. Use APA, MLA, or Chicago citation formats.

Standards of academic conduct are set forth in the university’s Academic Integrity Code. See your instructor if you have questions about academic violations described in the code, as they apply in this course.



The best way to reach me is through email (; I typically check email on weekday mornings.

University services

American University offers an array of support services.