Middle School Graphic Design Activities

Graphic design often includes text as well as images.

Graphic design covers a wide spectrum of visual media. According to editor Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, graphic design is "a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas." Graphic designers create advertisements, book jackets, posters, product packages and many other items where visual impact is important. Graphic design activities for middle schoolers will introduce students to some of the ideas and techniques that graphic design artists use.

1 Image-Based Activity: Environmental Awareness Poster

In this graphic design activity, each middle school student will design an 18-by-24 in poster that communicates the idea of environmental awareness. Have the students discuss ideas and elements that are relevant, such as recycling, reducing waste or reducing energy use as well as how they can communicate their ideas using only images. Limit color to three adjacent colors on a color wheel, such as yellow, orange and red, plus black, white and one complementary color, such as blue. Begin with sketches, and create a painted poster using tempera or acrylic paints, or have students finalize their works using a computer design program.

2 Text-Based Activity: Name Design

Have students create graphic design images using their names. Each student should come up with an idea for drawing the letters of her first name using a surprising or unexpected element instead of using conventional letters. For instance, someone who likes animals might produce each letter as a different animal taking the shape of each letter. The finished format works well on 12-by-18 in white paper using colored pencils. This project can also be done in the school's computer lab.

3 Image and Logo Design Activity: Full-Page Magazine Advertisement

Poggenpohl says that graphic designers often produce designs for products and advertising using created images, photographs and text. Have students look through magazines to find a full-page advertisement to work with. Using the elements they see in the professional ad--such as line, color, layout, logo and text--have them design an ad for a different product of their own invention. Students should include an advertising slogan. The finished project should be 9-by-12 in. Media could include watercolors, colored pencils, computer images, markers and paints.

Rose Guastella is a professional artist and teacher from Kitsap County, Wash. She has been writing educational materials for schools since before 1990. Guastella holds a Master of Arts in liberal studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has contributed several articles about education and plant biology to various websites.