Course: ART 121 – Intro to Graphic Design Theory and Process
Grade Level: College Students (Ages 18-50 in class)
Class Time: 3 hrs. once a week
This week we will take an in-depth look at the research phase of designing a project. Students have discussed the design process in general and now we are starting to explore each stage in greater depth. The goal of the week is for students to understand why research is important for a graphic designer and how they can use it to make a project better. We will cover popular techniques for research like mood boards, focus groups, and word mapping. Students should be able to use these techniques in their own projects by end of the class.
- Evaluate the process of creating graphic design and working in the profession.
- Describe how a graphic designer gathers the necessary information about a project and what information might appear in a client’s design brief.
- Differentiate between types of virtual and actual research that contribute to a successful design project.
- Discuss the strategies graphic designers use to define the problem to be solved in a project.
- Give an example of each of the techniques used to record research in visual formats.
- Outline the steps of the research process that lead to creating a graphic design.
Students should be able to define the following terms by the end of the week:
- Focus group
- Mood boards
- Observational research
- Positioning chart
- Unique selling proposition
- Word mapping
Access to Lab with Apple computers
Reading for Week (completed before the start of class)
Chapter 4: Researching a Graphic Design Project in Guide to Graphic Design by Scott Santoro
Students can either read the book, listen to the audio file of the chapter, or use the interactive reading experience online.
Begin by announcing the topic for the week. (Students should have completed reading for the week prior to class) Lead a discussion about the importance of research. Ask the students the following questions:
- When you begin any type project that will involve research of some sort, what is the first thing you do? What is the first thing you did when you started the first project for this class?
- Does it depend on what you are researching, i.e. a new car to buy versus a school assignment?
- What do think the most important thing is to do when researching?
- Why is research important to the success of a project?
- How can research make your current project better? What type of research might you want/need to do for the project?
Review with students the main topics of the chapter. Provide examples of each one from the real world. Provide examples from my personal professional experience to show students how designers really use these techniques in the field. Questions and discussion is encouraged during this portion of the class.
Present the activity for the week, Research in Process (see below for details). The activity is designed for students to put to use the material covered in class this week to increase their understanding of the material. I will also show the examples for each part of the activity. I will make sure the students know what pinterest is and how to use it. I will demonstrate how to use the online word mapping software. The last thing I will do is put students into groups. Groups are chosen at random by students counting off. This helps encourage the students to mix with classmates they may not otherwise talk to. I will be observing while the students are in the lab and offering assistance and answering questions while they are in the lab.
End class with groups presenting their summaries, mood boards, and word maps. The class will then discuss how effective they feel each group’s research was given the design brief and the examples. We will also wrap-up with students reflecting on how they can use these techniques for their own projects and why they are so important to successful graphic designers.
To put the skills they learned this week to use, students will conduct typical research for a design project. Students will be given a design brief for a fictitious logo project, Cordog Bleu. The students will use the design brief to begin the research process. Students are encouraged to explore both dog food as a product and the competitors of the client. Students will be placed in groups to better simulate a real work environment as well as to improve their team work skills. They will use the design brief to complete the following:
Write a short paragraph (4-5 sentences) about what direction you would plan to go if were actually going to make a logo for the company. It should include reflections on the company and their product. You may also want to conduct some research by looking at competitors to see how you might want to differentiate their logo from the competition. You also want to look at the given examples of logos they like. For example: I plan to create a logo that reflects the upscale aspect of the client’s market by including rich colors.
Mood boards are a collection of images that represent the direction you plan to go with a project. They should include colors, images that might represent the target audience, images that represent the feel you want for your design, and images that may inspire your design. Using the below information, you need to create a mood board for the logo design. The paragraph you wrote should serve as direction for this step.
To do this, you need to sign up for pinterest (pinterest.com – unless you already have an account). Pinterest is free. You need to post at least 15 items to the pinterest board you create.
Example a client sent to me: http://www.pinterest.com/philomathkid/logo-ideas/ (Does not represent this project)
The last step in your research process will be to create a word map. Word maps involve brainstorming words that you associate with the company and their products. You will create a word map using http://www.text2mindmap.com/. It is free to create the word map. Start with dog food company in the center and then create words from there. You can keep branching off at different levels. You need to have a minimum of 50 words on your word map. (Shows students the example I am posting below.) When you complete your word map, click the download button. Chose the download image button. This will download an image to your desktop (or other location).
Upon completion of the activity, groups will present their summaries, mood boards, and word maps to the class for review.
Example Word Map
Design Brief – cordog_bleu_design_brief
Expected Activity Outcomes:
- Students learn how to read and utilize a design brief.
- Students demonstrate their understanding of mood boards and word maps as part of the research step of a design project.
Students’ ability to successfully complete the week’s activity and present to the class. The students will be provided with feedback as to how closely the students meet the needs laid out in the design brief. I will also offer feedback as to areas they could improve on in the future.
After class, I will take a moment to reflect on how the class went. I look for what students had the most trouble understanding to adjust those aspects. I also evaluate how interested the students are in the material. I want the students to engage with the material.
Rational for Lesson Plan
This week’s materials focused on preparing students for a 21st century learning environment. Renee Hobbs sets forth five core competencies (Hobbs, 2010) essential in this new learning environment. The competencies are: access, analyze, create, reflect, and act. I have demonstrated these with my lesson plan in the following manner:
This concept is demonstrated in my lesson plan by showing students real-world examples and demonstrating to them how they can create their own examples of the material talked about in class. The main activity for the class encourages the students to seek out information through a variety of sources. The students will use the internet to complete the research and two specific online sources, pinterest and text2mindmap, to complete the portions of the activity. They are only provided with a general framework for conducting their research. The rest is up to them to decide what they need to look up and where they will find the information. Students will work with their peers, randomly selected, to allow for varied opinions and insight.
Students are asked open ended questions at the beginning of class to get them thinking about how they currently approach the topic as well as the benefits of the project. Student must analyze both the terminology and concepts from the course to complete the activity. They must also analyze the design brief provided to them to complete their project. They must research the target audience, the product, and the competition to make decisions on what to include on their mood boards and word maps as well to write their summaries.
Students create mood boards and word maps based on their analysis of the design brief. This allows them to demonstrate understanding of the material in an active format. It also gives them real-world experience that they can take to their future careers.
Students reflect on their current thoughts and attitudes towards research at the start of class. The students must explain why they made the decisions they did to complete the assignment. It’s always interesting how different the solutions can be based on the same starting point. They also reflect at the end on their success with the material and their ability to successfully create a mood board and word map based on a design brief. Students are also encouraged to offer critique on their classmates work with the goal of students thinking critically about the material.
This one was not as easy to incorporate as some of the other competencies. The students can put what they learn to work in the world when working as graphic designers. These techniques will also be applicable in a future project where they will have to come up with their own design brief as well as research a project from scratch. Future courses will also demand these skills from students.
In general, the course is hands on and designed to give them real world skills that they can use in their future skills. I work to encourage them to think and seek information, a necessary set of skills to be successful in their future careers.
Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action. Washington D. C.: The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program.