A Bit of Graphic Design

One of the biggest challenges I face as a teacher, particularly a teacher of computer science and graphic design, is how to make student projects interesting enough and complicated enough that they will need to invest substantial time in how it’s done.  Not every graphic design project is equal, of course, and not every single project takes an equal amount of time.  But they all require time and investment of attention.

The Emerald TabletThis one took about three hours.  The whole time through the work, I was attempting to show students how you start from first layers and work down to detail — in this case, the stars came first, then the layout of the crossing bands of the hectogram, then the background layers, then the text, then the small symbols at the angles of the heptagram, then the seals of the the planets, and so on.

It was fun to do.

The thing that I most like about it was that it was formed of so many other elements and pieces.  I kept point out to students who complained, “They don’t have the shape that I need” that this means that they weren’t yet thinking with vector graphics.  (“Now you’re thinking with portals!” I said to one kid who’d played that game a lot.” Sometimes our design work is subtractive; sometimes it’s additive. Sometimes it involves thinking about how this shape or that shape gets cut or appended or sliced or covered-over.  Sometimes getting text to wrap around the corners of a star doesn’t work the way we want it to do.

Sometimes we make errors in how we lay things out, and we have to go back and undo our work to get things moving in the right direction again.  Or, we have to save multiple versions of the same document to compare and contrast results and direction, see how we want to take things toward a desired aim.


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