Ridding your room of monsters

Via Flickr:

In our graphic design workshop on Sunday, the kids designed a bunch of posters that were intended to show kids younger than them how to get rid of monsters — in their closets and under their beds. We eventually added in a section for “witches” too, because one attendee’s sibling is apparently afraid of big, pointy-hatted witches. But this was one of our rough drafts of the poster.

I may have to make this.

We also talked about the importance of planning your work ahead of time, and thinking about the content of your poster. If I had been thinking about it, I would have given them some blocks of text printed out at the standard printer’s sizes — 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 18, 24, 36, 48, 64, and 72 points — so that they could practice moving blocks of text around, and seeing how much of a page they fill at different sizes with the same number of words….

Monsters under the bed The feedback from parents has been great. Most parents have said their children loved the workshop.  The theme was playful enough, and the workshop wasn’t like school at all, where they had to do things only one way.  They had lots of choices, it was ok to make mistakes, and they all heard positive things about their possible designs.   Most of the kids developed at least three or four possible designs that they liked, and everybody went home with a radically different poster.

Out of our eight attendees, though, I heard four variations on this conversation:

Kid: My poster isn’t very good.

Me: Why’s that?

Kid: My lines aren’t straight like yours // my letters aren’t as good as yours // my layout is too squashed for the page // my monster is ugly // [insert your reason here].

Me: Well, I’ve been at this slightly longer than you have.  Have you thought about any of this before?  Lettering? Or whitespace on the page? or penciling your plan first? or making some thumbnail drawings first?

Kid: No…

Me:  Relax, then.  You’ll get the hang of it.   This is only the first time.  You’ll get better with practice, and by thinking about this stuff.

Kid: (more cheerfully) OK.

And I wonder if this isn’t exactly the attitude that I need to instill in the young artists and graphic designers and creators and builders and designers and makers at my school. They expect all their work to be awesome, right away.  They’re used to it being all awesome, right away. Refrigerator-worthy, every time!   But in truth, not every design measures up to that kind of standard.  Not every design is going to be that perfectly executed. There are always challenges in the arrangement of letters, of symbolism, of graphic elements.   And yet, you need to try out a lot of designs before you figure out what works, and what doesn’t.  You need mentoring and guidance, and a community of colleagues.  You need a guild.

A guild.  And I’m thinking this is what I want to do with the Design Lab at my school.  I want to have apprentice designers, artisan designers, and _______ designers, where pre-K through 2nd grade are the apprentices, and the artisans are 3rd to 5th grade, and the 6th through 8th grades are the _____________ designers.  And we the teachers get to be atelieristas… the keepers of the studio.

One of my colleagues left me a drawing of a panda today.  I was thrilled.  She loves words, but she’s not so enamored of pictures or drawing.  I asked, “what made you try drawing a panda?” She told me that she picked up one of the books by Sachiko Umoto (this is one in the series), and was thrilled to see how easy it was to draw the simple pictures in those books.  She told me it was a chance to learn how to draw for her.  “Plus,” she said, “I saw one of our more stressed-out students relax completely while drawing. And I realized, wow, that kid really needs this.  And my next thought was Wow, I really need this. And my next thought was, Wow, we as a school really need this.”

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