There are many ways that a class such as “Creating History in New Media” might be structured. It might emphasize database design and deployment; it might concentrate on creating visualizations, or it might stress the uses of interactivity. This iteration of the course emphasizes visual communication—both graphic design and information architecture—for the web. By its nature the class Download
HIST 697 Syllabus PDF
is an applied history course in which the twin goals are to gain familiarity and facility with the design tools and concepts that underpin digital history design. As a result, the course is designed as an intensive exploration of the adaptation of history to a digital environment. Although the central goal of the course is development of an original, digital history project of professional quality, the course will also examine “best practices” in digital history, the problems and possibilities inherent in digital history, and issues in information, technical, and aesthetic design. Finally, the course will experiment with what interactivity might bring to digital history.


The texts (of one kind or another) serve three purposes: 1) to provide you with the background in graphic design and usability; 2) to introduce you to some texts that are intended to promote some “right brain” thinking or provide inspiration; and 3) to furnish you with a modest technical, reference library. We will discuss some of the books briefly, some in depth, and some not at all, but they all should be read either in toto or in small bites.

  • Kim Golombisky & Rebecca Hagen,
    White Space is Not Your Enemy
  • Johanna Drucker,
    Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge
  • Robin Williams,
    The Non-Designer's Design Book, 4th ed.
  • Lesa Snider,
    Photoshop CC Missing Manual
  • Ellen Lupton,
    Type on Screen

All the books are available at the campus bookstore or from vendors of your choice.


Blogs have become an important element on the web and something that you’ve already done in Clio Wired. Rather than have a group blog or design a blog from the ground up, you’ll be doing something a bit different. There are two options that have proven durable and easy. (Why not one of the free services like Blogger? Because I have experienced enormous problems with downtime, trolls, and spam in previous semesters.) 

You can obtain a Plus- or Unlimited-level subscription to Typepad, a blog. The cost is around $10-$15/month, depending on your choice of service. The best thing to do is sign up for a free trial; this will furnish you with two free weeks. At the end of the semester, you can cancel your subscription. Or, you may discover that you like blogging so much that you retain your subscription. The advantages of TypePad are ease of use, the option to customize your design, and the its array of widgets.

Alternatively, you can use WordPress, a free blogging application. You can do one of three things: install WordPress at your own ISP, sign up for a blog at WordPress (free), or use a Wordpress hosting service ($). The WordPress application is free, but the installation of the software can be challenging on your own ISP, and you will need to contact your ISP to ensure that the necessary software is in place. Be aware that most free web page areas do not support CGI or MySQL or charge extra. I do not recommend doing your own installation unless you have some solid computer skills and access to a sophisticated ISP, but there may some in the class who can avail themselves of this venue. In the past, students have signed on with WordPress or other inexpensive hosting service. WordPress also has a large collection of widgets and is rightly famous for its ease of use.

A word about choosing a design for your blog. There are a number of designs suitable for history, but please avoid anything on a black or dark background with light or white type. Known as “reversing out” among graphic designers, this format is very difficult to read. If you elect to use TypePad or a WordPress template, avoid the special interest design or media designs unless you will be using the features of a media design template extensively. Be sure to enable comments and the RSS feed so that you can access your classmates’ blogs using a newsreader. This will save you an enormous amount of time. Or, you can simply use the “Students” list on the website.; browsers

Because this course will introduce you to standards-based, accessible design, you will need several browsers to test your web work. This, of course, brings me to the good news. Standards-based design is, on the whole, much more tractable than its predecessor, convoluted table-based design, and no one is using IE 6 anymore! The HTML5 and XHTML code is much easier to write and cleaner. The bad news is that Internet browsers carry the baggage of the Browser Wars and, as result, interpret CSS, the web presentation language, in a number of different ways. (This is especially true of Explorer 6.0.) What to do? You should download at least two different browsers.

Mac people should acquire Chrome, Safari (latest version), or Firefox (latest version); Wintel folk should also obtain the latest versions of Chrome and Explorer IE. Opera on both platforms is also good and available for free. If you elect to use Firefox, there is a handy plugin, Web Developer Tools, that provides a means to look at your CSS in different ways. If you use Safari, there Firebug Lite; if you use Chrome, there is Developer Tools.


Class participants will also need an image editor. For those who envision using new media as an ongoing part of their history graduate work, Adobe Photoshop CC is a very attractive option: an student subscription rate that is very reasonable—$19.95/month. For those who see their digital work as occasional, Adobe Photoshop Elements (12 for both Mac and Win) is an extremely powerful program that, except for some advanced color capabilities, has the same features as Photoshop CC. If you use Elements, please understand that there will be some techniques that the software cannot manage. One of these is Zoomify. Elements sells for around $79.99 or in combination with Premiere for $119.99. Be aware that the instructor will be using Photoshop CC in class.

Clio 2 students will also need an HTML editor. Adobe Dreamweaver has become the standard (and the application installed in the lab). Dreamweaver is also part of the Adobe CC subscription, so you can get both programs for $19.95/month. In fact, you can acquire all the Adobe products for $19.95 under the terms of a Student CC subscription.

Participants will also need FTP Client is software that allows you to send files to the server at your Internet Service Provider (ISP). There are plenty of free clients out there. As a Mac user, I prefer Transmit. It is incredibly easy to use. My colleagues who are Wintel folks recommend these: WinSCP, FireFTP (both platforms), and FileZilla (both platforms). I find FileZilla’s interface vexing, but others love it. If you are not familiar with using an ftp client, practice or get help before class.

Finally, class participants will need to subscribe to for the duration of the course. Some lessons, like font embedding and HTML5, are especially effective. A subscription also allows class participants who want to learn something that no one else in the class wants to. These pathfinders can satisfy their interests without distracting those who just want to get the doggone captions under their images. Please note that a subscription is a class requirement.