Design can be a foreign concept to young students in rural
Illinois. Unlike those who live in more urban areas, these students are not
surrounded by professional advertising campaigns in their daily physical
environment. What good design is around them, they often don’t recognize as
something that was done by a designer. The “Design For The Future” workshop was
created as a pilot for a potential larger outreach event through AIGA St. Louis.
It was loosely modeled after an event held by AIGA Memphis in 2009.
The goal of these workshops is to introduce design concepts
and discuss employment opportunities to middle school students. During the
first class period, the workshop leader presented on design principles, outlining
the basic differences between art and design. Communication, hierarchy,
structure and style were among the key concepts emphasized. Following
this presentation, a brief was assigned, encouraging students to put these design
principles to use, to think about visual metaphors and to create engaging copy.
The workshop was conducted in junior high art classrooms
with limited technology, so computer use was not an option.
Since both the 2011 and 2012 pilots were conducted in April,
near Earth Day, the poster brief encouraged students to convince their peers to
take action to help “Save the Earth.” With only two forty-minute class periods
available, it was important that the students developed their concept and
completed their sketches, copywriting and basic poster layout during the first
To facilitate this process, the students were given a
variety of stock images that related Earth Day. Example themes included recycling
and composting, riding a bike, using solar energy, turning off the lights
and preserving natural habitats. Students were also given printouts of letters in
various sizes and fonts. These image and text handouts were intended to be used
as both drawing references and brainstorming guides. However, before the
students were given the handouts or began any sketches, the workshop leader led
them in two 120-second brainstorming sessions. During these quick sessions, the
students were asked to think of words and phrases that related to “Saving The
Earth.” This brainstorming activity helped produce original ideas,
despite the fact that source images were also provided.
After helping the students with their creative concepts and
pencil-drawn layouts, the workshop leader provided simple coloring utensils to work on the posters. The students used the second class period to fine-tune
their visual metaphors and finalize their poster designs. Unfortunately, there
was not time within the two designated class periods for students to formally present their designs to the class. However, following both pilot
workshops, the junior high art teachers displayed the students’ final Earth Day
poster designs in the school’s hallway.
The students that participated in the workshop were very engaged in the
activity and many had pertinent questions about the design industry. According to Nancy Snyder, a teacher at Hillsboro
Junior High, “This activity provided my students with real world applications
of design lessons and a chance to meet a working professional. It was a great
break from the routine!”
We believe the workshop would fit nicely in two 80-minute classes
periods. With only two 40-minute classes to complete the assignment, many of
the students chose to bring their poster home between classes in order to have
more time to execute the details. In addition, one-on-one time between the workshop
leader and each student was valuable in the mentoring process, as it helped
facilitate original concepts and copywriting. Depending on the number of
participants in the future, we think it would be helpful to have multiple professional
designers available to serve as mentors in the conceptual process.
This workshop was built for a junior high audience, but it
could also be adapted for early high school. The subject of the “call to
action” poster should be crafted to fit the interests, age group and cultural
context of the participants. Given the number of public schools that are no
longer able to fund art classes, this workshop could also be tailored as a
creative writing project for an English class.
The AIGA student group, AIGA Greenville College, plans to
use this workshop format to conduct a similar activity at the Simple Room—which offers
a wide variety of programming for youth in the Greenville, Illinois community—this
coming school year.
Since these workshops were held in public school
art classrooms, the educational facility was asked to provide all necessary
drawing utensils and tools.
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