02 August 2013

Building a Blended Class: Graphic Design Term 1

Too literal?
This coming year I'm going all-in on blended learning through Canvas. I plan on taking advantage of the format and platform to give students more choice in what they do with my class. During the first term, students are guided through an introduction unit, followed by elements & principles of design, web design, vector graphics, raster graphics, and architecture. During the second semester, students can choose from a variety of units that focus on parts of previous units. Read on to see an outline of the first term. Second term outline coming soon.

Term 1: Design Introduction, Limited Choice
This is something I learned from user interface design: you must limit the amount of choice that goes into an experience. (It's one of the reasons I never go to Subway.)

During the first term, every student works in the same unit at the same time. Students are given some choice in which assignments to complete in order to finish the units, but otherwise are limited to the plan.

The almighty pen tool, my symbol of design.
Unit 1: Introduction
I have four main purposes for this unit:

  1. Give students a quick, easy, fun taste of design. Show them the liquify tool in Photoshop, text in Illustrator, interior design in Floorplanner. I'd rather have them experience a preview of the class rather than just listen to me explain it.
  2. Pre-assess design skills. I'm going to give them the assignment to design a cover for a journal. They can use whatever they want: crayons, Microsoft Word, Paint, etc. I can check their prior knowledge and get a sample to compare their final work with, which demonstrates to myself and my superiors that students learn things in my class.
  3. Go over rules & procedures. It has to happen, but I do this a little bit later to help the information stick. At this point they've turned in a few assignments, they've used the computers, so the official procedures will have a place in their brains.
  4. Make sure they can use a computer right. There are a few terms and shortcuts that are crucial for designers to understand. I'll also force some file organization and naming on them.

Unit 2: Elements & Principles
Here are a few assignments I use to give students practice with the elements and principles of design:
  • album cover using line, repetition, and rhythm: use only the line tool and stroke weight to create a cover for an album, using repetition and rhythm to make it feel musical
  • shape logo: use only simple shapes and the pathfinder tool in order to create a logo mark for a specified brand
  • circle balance: arrange a bunch of given, colored circles in order to make it visually balanced on a page
  • value emphasis: draw several of the same shape on a page, changing only the scale and value (greys) in order to create the feeling of being pulled to a single spot
  • shape+repetition=pattern: draw a shape and repeat it over and over, organizing it all into a pattern
  • triangle art colorize: students are given a piece of triangle art that is all the same color, and they will change the values to make it look three dimensional

Unit 3: Web
I use Weebly both for my teacher site and for students to create their own sites. At this stage, they're really just doing the basics: creating new pages, adding headers and footers, uploading a favicon, etc. I do this early so their site can be up and running for later assignments when I make them do blog reflections.

Unit 4: Vector
By this point, students have actually had a lot of experience with creating and editing vector graphics in Illustrator. This unit will round out that knowledge and explicitly cover how tools work. Here are a few assignments:

  • monster selections: use only the selection tool to move, scale, and add color to the different parts of a monster in order to create your own monster
  • pen tool trace: use the pen tool to practice drawing straight and curved lines on objects
  • simple gradients: create simple yet neat backgrounds for designs with linear and radial gradients
  • alignment, spacing, and arrangement: use these essential tools to appeal to the OCD of design
  • anchors: use the direct selection tool and the convert anchor point tool to draw more complex vector shapes like hearts and the Nike swoosh

Unit 5: Raster
I teach vector before raster because, for some reason, I found that students had a much harder time transitioning from raster to vector than the other way around. Sample assignments:
  • paintbrush: learn how to change the size of the brush, as well as the hardness and overall shape, and draw something (anything) with those brush skills
  • simple mask: do cheesy things with masks like a single colored flower in a black and white image
  • filters: play with various filters, choose three
  • footprints: use the clone stamp to cover up someone's footprints on what was otherwise a pristine beach

Unit 6: Architecture
This doesn't belong in graphic design, but it does belong in design, and students love it. Home Designer has mostly been wonderful, just trying to make it work since we upgraded to Windows 7. I created very simple assignments to baby-step students into designing whole houses:
  • walls: draw exterior, interior, and invisible walls to finish off house designs
  • doors and windows: front doors, french doors, closet doors, garage doors, and windows added to their design
  • floors and stairs: learn how to create new floors, and how to draw stairs and make sure they reach those floors, with auto-stairwells
  • House Wizard: a feature specific to Home Designer, it gives you room boxes to combine, and when you say the word, it draws walls and even guesses where to put doors
  • basic house: students finally create a simple house from scratch
Term 2: More Choice, More Specialization
I'll create a separate post to go into detail, but right now I'll just say that within each of the above units are two to five specialized units. Stay tuned.


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