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ARCHI 135-5155:  Digital Tools for Designers (Virtual/Online) - Syllabus

Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill Campus • 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Associate Professor:

  • Grant Adams
  • Email:,
  • Phone: (925) 456-4355
  • Office Hours (Via Zoom by appointment):  M 7:30-9:00am, W 2:00-3:30pm


Required Text

There are no required texts this semester.

Recommended Text

The Digital Tools for Architects Handbook” by Grant A Adams (

Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design” by Kristin Cullen

There are a number of helpful guides to the software we will be covering in class that are available in local bookstores, but no specific book is recommended.  I will point out additional resources as we go along and post them to the resources page of the class website.  Searching Google for help is also highly recommended.

Class Schedule

  • You can view the course calendar on the website for a general guide to topics discussed and assignment/exercise due dates.
  • Lecture
  • Lab
    • Each week, you will attend a mandatory “lab check-in”
    • 9:00-9:30am, 9:40-10:10am, or 10:20-10:50am on Monday or Wednesday
    • On the first day of class, email with your top 3 choices for “check-in” times.
    • Attendance will be taken and be part of your participation grade for the semester.

Course Description and Objectives

This is an introductory course that focuses on using computers and software to create photographic representations, graphic presentations and layouts, typographic design, and three-dimensional modeling.  The emphasis is on establishing basic and intermediate level skills for designers to utilize computer software to produce developed designs and presentations.

Course Objectives/Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the use of computers and digital methods of production in architectural representation.
  2. Apply tools and methods utilized in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
  3. Manipulate digital images using menus, modes, layers, and tools.
  4. Apply filters to manipulate digital images and renderings.
  5. Operate basic peripherals for acquiring and producing images, including scanners, printers, and digital cameras.
  6. Apply basic fundamentals of CAD drafting to architectural renderings.
  7. Construct three-dimensional digital models utilizing appropriate organizational and representational techniques.

Software covered in this class will include:

  • Graphic Design Software:   Illustrator
  • CAD Software:   AutoCAD
  • Layout Software:   InDesign
  • Photography Software:   Photoshop
  • 3D Modeling Software:   SketchUp


  • Lab exercises will be worth 20% of each student’s overall grade.  The exercises are designed to be completed in about 2 hours and focus on building fundamental skills.
  • Exercises will be due on Sunday at midnight on the week they are assigned unless otherwise noted.  Late work will be marked down (see late work policy).
    • For example, Exercise 101 & 102 will be due in the first week of class by Sunday at midnight (1/30 by midnight).  I would highly recommend posting them to the course website on Monday & Wednesday each week as this will keep you on track for the semester.
  • Exercises have a pass/no pass grading system.
    • Feel free to experiment and even if something doesn’t turn out how you want, you will still get credit for your work.  If you did not finish during the 2-hour time allotment, turn in what you completed even if it is not finished, you will still get credit for it.


  • The assignments are larger projects that will often require work outside of our designated lab time.  The assignments will combine multiple skills and investigate methods of graphic layout, presentation, and modeling.  These assignments will collectively be worth 40% of your overall grade for the course.  You may elect to improve your assignments and submit one re-grade for each assignment.
  • Assignment due dates will be announced in class and will appear on the course calendar.
  • Assignments will be due at midnight on the day they are due.  This day is not necessarily a Sunday like exercises, check the calendar!  Work not posted on the website by midnight will be marked late (see late work policy).


You are allowed to submit 1 regrade for each assignment.  This regrade can be posted at any point during the semester and should have the assignment number and “Regrade” or “Resubmit” in the title of the post.  I will not process the regrade until the end of the semester.


The final project for the course is a digital portfolio of your work which will include each of the assignments given in the course and may include work completed outside of the course.  Specific instructions will be given as the semester progresses.  The final portfolio will be worth 30% of your grade.

A word of caution... students who wait until the last week of the semester to work on their portfolio rarely do well on this final assignment.  Plan ahead & work on it as the semester progresses.  Consider visiting during office hours to have me red-line your progress.

Course Participation

  • After each exercise and assignment, you will be required to give constructive feedback to three of your classmates using the course website comments section.
  • This is required to help each student grow and mature in their design process and abilities.  It will also help you articulate why something is “good” or “bad”, which is an essential skill in the architectural world.
  • This will be part of your participation grade for the course. (Participation is worth 10% of your final grade)

Grading, Midterm & Final

There is no midterm or final test in this class, however, you will be asked to put together a portfolio at the end of the semester (see description above).  Below is a breakdown of the grading for this course:

  • Exercises: 20%
  • Assignments: 40%
  • Final Portfolio: 30%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Total: 100%


  • You will be working on your own computer this semester.
  • Basic Computer Requirements:
    • PC/Mac are both OK!  If you plan to run software natively (rather than through DVC provided remote desktop/virtual machine), then you should be aware some software is  “better” on a PC.  You can also use Parallels or BootCamp on a Mac if you wish.
    • 20-50gb of free space on your hard drive.  If you don’t have this space, buy an external drive or flash drive to store your coursework.
    • 8gb of RAM (minimum) - I would strongly recommend your computer have at least 16gb of RAM.
    • A stable, strong internet connection.  Most modern “at home” internet will be sufficient.  Cell-based internet or tethering is not recommended for simultaneous Zoom and Remote Desktop/Virtual Machine access.
  • No work can be stored on Remote Desktop / Virtual Machine.
  • You will use Microsoft OneDrive extensively this semester to sync and backup your work.  It is realistically the only good way to get content on the remote desktop machine.
  • Please be careful to safeguard your files as losing them (and consequently your assignments and work) is not acceptable.  We will discuss backup solutions in class.
  • A digital camera or phone is also required for the course.  If you do not have access to one, please email me and we will make other arrangements.


  • DVC provides all Students in this course with a license for the Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, InDesign & Illustrator) which will allow them to install the software directly on their machine.
  • AutoCAD has a free student version that can be installed on a student’s comptuer though some students prefer to use the remote desktop system to avoid watermarks.
  • SketchUp has a free online version which is insufficient for the course.  You will need to use the remote desktop or invest in a student license ($55/yr).


Professionalism means that you are expected to present yourself, your ideas, and projects in a manner that reflect positively on your ideas towards the academic environment and the future expectations of the architectural working world.  This includes respecting basic working world values such as punctuality, organization, and commitment to work, but also the opinions of others, respect for other students and faculty in the class, and respect for tools and facilities.  These expectations also include understanding and following values related to the production of high-quality work, upholding standards of craftsmanship and presentation, and respecting standards of academic honesty and integrity.

Letters of Recommendation:

Each year a number of students ask for letters of recommendation for scholarships and/or applications.  If you wish to have me write a letter on your behalf, you must do all of the following:

  1. Receive an A in one of my classes.
  2. Send me a written request by email 3 weeks prior to the due date of the letter and
  3. Send me a digital portfolio of your architectural work that includes work from outside of my classes and
  4. Send me an outline of your qualifications for this scholarship/application.
  5. Send me all required paperwork for scholarship/application, filled out & signed.
  6. You must waive your right to view your letter if possible.
    • I ask this because it is my belief that letters of recommendation should be addressed and delivered sealed to the evaluation/selection committee.  I believe these committees respect sealed letters and give them a higher value than unsealed letters.

You will then be responsible for reminding me on the following schedule by email or in person.  2 weeks, 1 week, 5 days, 2 days.  I will send you a confirmation that I have sent the letter once it is done.

If any of the above conditions are not met, I will not write your letter.  Scholarships and applications are serious and should not be taken lightly, you should prepare in advance and not rush them at the last minute.

If I have already written you a letter and you wish to have an additional letter (or have it addressed to someone else) I would be happy to do it with only 1 week of notice.  Requirements 2-4 (unless you want the body of the letter changed) do not need to be met.

General Guidelines for the Class

  • Attendance in the assigned weekly “check-in” is mandatory.  Please keep up on your work and set aside the required hours each week to complete coursework.  Time management will be critical for students in this virtual setting (for all courses)!
  • Remember, This course has a minimum total time commitment (lecture & lab) of 6 hours and 10 minutes plus outside “homework” time each week!
  • If more than three assignments are not completed within the semester, you may be dropped from the class or receive an F.
    • Please note:  This is a college class.  You are responsible for your own destiny & success.  If you want to drop the class, do it yourself, and don’t rely on someone else to do it for you.
  • While I will be available for small group help during the “check-ins” or during office hours, please consult the website, your handbook, other classmates, or friends first if you have difficulty with exercises or assignments.
  • I strongly suggest you take notes in your handbook on each tutorial as I demonstrate it (either live or recorded).  This will help you to remember how to complete difficult steps.  Frequently students will bring up my recorded lectures and follow along, “step by step.”
  • My lectures & lab demonstrations will be posted on YouTube.  Visit www. to see all of my videos.
    • Note:  Your class (Archi 135) lectures all are in the 100s & Archi 136 lectures are the 200s.  You can also view previous semesters’ lectures if you want.
  • All work completed/posted during this course will be posted on the course website under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Late Work Policy

  • Late assignments and exercises are graded down by 10% (one full letter grade) for each 4 calendar days it is late.
  • Assignments turned in after 16 calendar days late will receive a maximum of 50% of the value of the assignment.
  • Assignments not handed in will receive a 0.


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