John Caserta
Four session workshop that used drawing to teach HTML and CSS. This page contains 482 words and is filed under teaching

Web Programming

This three-session workshop combines the tactical skills needed to structure web pages with a looser more playful compositional mindset. Students are introduced to the structural elements and properties of HTML and CSS through hands-on demos, in-class exercises and take-home assignments. Tight technical HTML drawings in week one give way to full-screen abstract compositions in week two. Week three incorporates interaction, introducing CSS3 transform, animation, and other user-controlled properties. The final assignment for week four will allow you to combine what you learned in the first three weeks.

Although written with HTML/CSS, the assignments are inspired by the contemporary and historical print works of Bradbury Thompson, Karel Martens and Paul Elliman. Paramount is that students become attuned to the vocabulary and possibilities of graphic form in the digital age. The digital age, similar to the era before in its capacity to precisely arrange or playfully experiment.

Course particulars

  • Wkshp: Web Programming; RISD GRAPH-3188
  • Spring 2016, 1:10–6:10pm, Fridays, DC 404
  • 1 credit elective
  • Instructor: Asst Prof John Caserta,; DC105, Mondays 10:30am–1:30pm
  • TAs: Brian Hicks (session 1); Marie Otsuka (sessions 2 and 3)

Course objectives

  • Be introduced to HTML and CSS syntax to help conceptualize future projects
  • Encourage use of the browser as a place for experimentation
  • Introduce both analytical and playful working methods
  • Be introduced to instructions-based making — HTML being one of many coding methods
  • Be comfortable editing existing themes or websites
  • To learn how to find answers online to coding problems
  • Learn to work collaboratively in an open-source model


Week One: Concrete Forms

Week one emphasizes the strategic and deliberate construction of space on a web page. There is a certain mindset and process in making what you’ve sketched/imagined.

  • Assignment 1: Drawing a flag
  • Assignment 2: Draw found objects

Week Two: Abstract Forms

Week two encourages a different mindset. How can you work with the code and the browser to discover designs as you make.

  • Assignment 3: Abstract compositions
  • Assignment 4: Patterns

Week Three: Active Forms

Motion is an incredibly important part of a site. Here you learn CSS properites for movement and how to activate events using jQuery.

  • Assignment 5: Movement and interaction
  • Assignment 6: Responsive animation

Week Four

  • Review assignment 6
  • Lecture: From sketch to code
  • In-class activity: Putting it all together
  • Possible future assignments

Software needed


40% Attendance
40% Completion of all assignments
20% Risk-taking/quality of end forms:
  • You are expected to experiment, iterate and form innovate designs with the coding that you’ve been shown. Because work from previous sessions is available, you are able to appropriate code, but in service of your own ideas and forms.
  • Missing one class without permission fails the course
  • Although we are “wired” throughout the workshop, avoid being plugged into Facebook, email, etc.

Index of everything


Interim Dean of Architecture + Design and formerly Department Head of the Graphic Design Department at Rhode Island School of Design. Founded The Design Office, a workspace for designers, in 2007, and ran it until its closing in 2021. Hear an interview that covers my teaching and design career. Read an overview of my work from The Noun Project. This site is updated regularly and outputs to a book with Bindery. Get in touch via email.