What better time to write about teaching now that students and teachers are back to school?
After designing materials for Villa Joseph Marie High School, I got the opportunity to teach a graphic design class to a group of seniors. I love to teach. It’s one of the best ways to learn new tools and relearn concepts. When students ask “how?” and I don’t know the answer, we figure it out together.
The textbook the class used covered design basics, but I wanted to make it fun. So I consulted with Gabrielle Russomagno, former head of Germantown Academy’s Upper School Art Department and longtime teacher. Gab felt it was important to “make it about them” in order to engage my students.
I came up with a curriculum and assignments that would teach design concepts as well as Adobe CC—specifically Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. The assignments were to design an invented book cover, a dream movie poster, a typographic poster, and an invitation to their graduation party.
The invented cover (for a “book” created by them) enabled students to find imagery, retouch, and choose typography in addition to creating the underlying story. Some students spent their time retouching imagery—cloning out an unwanted window, perhaps—while others wrote amazing plot summaries for their back covers. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed as the covers came to three-dimensional life using Photoshop mockups.
Before creating their own dream movie posters, we looked at examples of movie posters and watched trailers so students would have some language with which to express and review artwork. We discussed how effective posters are relative to their films, preparing students for their own work.
For the typography poster project, I limited my students to six font families to be used in an abstract manner, enabling them to examine all of the characters and glyphs in detail. Given the freedom to create abstract shapes with letterforms, students flourished. They bled edges, varied the orientation and size of the letterforms, used glyphs as shapes, and overlapped and combined shapes in new ways. One student took part of her lunch period to work on the project. She was hooked, and it showed in her final poster.
I enjoyed my Villa students. They are a talented group of writers and artists who became proficient with design programs. While I taught them, I also learned from them—to take the time to see more clearly what it is I do every day.