Category Archives: Resources

Something From Nothing: Part One


Design Sprinting Workshop

Design Brief

This workshop and the dynamic use of design sprints are meant to expose first- year novice graphic design students to an open process of visual exploration. The workshop suggests a free-form process of exploration as a viable methodology to simultaneously ask questions, and solve complex design problems. Students are asked to examine concepts of the situationist dérive methodology as it pertains to graphic design. The dérive, envisioned as a playful-constructive behavior, is a tool promoting exploration and engagement through chance and opportunity. This project will first generate free-form drawings based on thematic prompts. The unedited collection then become the source material from which subsequent design solutions are governed using additional methods given at intervals through the project. Lastly, students are asked to react, reflect, and repeat the process as needed to generate additional collaborative content and collectively produce a multiple-authored thematic publication.

Project Justification

Visual Brain Dumping is a common technique associated with the traditional verbal activity of brain-storming. A “visual” brain dump utilizes the visual medium to quickly convey complex relationships. The general process begins with a predetermined set of drawings rendered in a small time frame. Working quickly the process should generate a selection of alternate views on a common theme, choosing to create additional sketches rather than refined drawings.

An alternate ideation process is sprinting. Sprinting is a technique that forces a series of com-positions in a fixed time frame. Each concept is less precious allowing an increased freedom of exploration. The design sprint is a methodology common to the concept of ‘design thinking’ in which the process of design is used to anticipate and solve problems common to users and specific members of an identified audience. Traditional design sprints use five co-dependent stages; empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and testing.

Something From Nothing workshop approaches the sprinting process in an alternative manner. This workshop is inspired by the Mistakes on Purpose workshop facilitated by Laurie Rosenwald. Participating in this workshop as a graduate student at MICA I immediately saw the experiential benefit of this methodology. Laurie’s views of this process are to encourage mistakes; “mistakes are what newness and freshness comes from.”

“this experience loosened up my uptight intellectual mindset like nothing else.”

-Ellen Lupton

Quote from – Mistakes on Purpose: Laurie Rosenwald

My ideas of design, and pedagogy as a design educator, embrace Laurie’s approach to the creative act of making. Influential designers such as Lucian Bernhard, Alexey Brodovitch, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Wolfgang Weingart, Chip Kidd and Mike Perry influence my views. Each designer includes non-digital, hand drawn artwork into their design process and methodology.

Professional designers and creatives debate the need to generate all forms within a project. In fact, collaboration across a diversified skill set is the key to uniquely innovative multi-discipline forms of communication. This workshop incorporates the drawings and illustrations for the entire class to collectively draw from. While each student is responsible for drafting their own solutions they also can pick up other students initial efforts. The workshop is not a popularity contest to see whose work get used more, but how drawing styles and solutions can be remixed to form alternative meaning.

Learning Outcomes

  • Examine fundamental design principles associated with typography & illustration
  • Investigate formal visual principles such as scale, balance, hierarchy, rhythm, color, and diagrammatic relationships
  • Encourage the inherent symbiotic relationship of technical skills with visual and critical thinking
  • Identify the differences of writing, hand lettering, and type design through the creation of letterforms, alphabetic character sets, numerals, monograms, signs and symbols
  • Introduction to ‘design thinking’ methodology, creative ideation, problem solving, visual abstraction, and concept development
  • Acknowledging a reductive historic timeline of graphic design identifying practitioners which shared a similar visual vocabulary to the self expression concepts of sprinting
  • Introduction to the theory of a kit of parts through a collaborative image library
  • Merging hand drawn concepts to digital solutions
  • Hand drawing tools, visual style, and techniques unique to design sprinting and larger practice of creative concepting and ideation
  • Introduction to Adobe® digital applications, tools and production techniques through hands on tutorial
  • Examination of several broadly defined media genres; each representing a cross disciplined approach to professional practice and content delivery systems unique to graphic design
  • Creative self-expression and personal explorations in the creation randomized content
  • Exposure to collaborative content generation through publication design

[Workshop PDF File]

Workshop Resources



  • Drucker, Johanna. The visible word: experimental typography and modern art, 1909-1923.
  • Lupton, Ellen, and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.
  • Lupton, Ellen. Thinking With Type: a critical guide for designers, writers, editors, & students. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 2004.
  • Lupton, Ellen. Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.
  • Millman, Debbie. How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer. New York: Allsworth Press, 2007.
  • Perry, Michael. Hand Job: A Catalog of Type. Princeton Architectural Press. 2007.
  • Samara, Timothy. Drawing for Graphic Design: Understanding Conceptual Principles and Practical Techniques to Create Unique, Effective Design Solutions. Rockport Publishers. 2012.

Something From Nothing: Design Sprints

Part Two: Student Samples


Day One: anonymous Content generation

Using alternative drawing mediums (other than a pencil and pen) create a drawing based on a given theme, category, or subject matter. The time frame will be between 3–5; 10-15 minutes. Random topics such as: letterforms, alphabets, animal forms, vegetables, patterning, textures, people, portraits, indexical signs and symbols, and geometric shapes will be announced. Alternate ideas of randomness will be encouraged. Drawings may be exchanged, borrowed or stolen.

Day Two: final work in progress

On the second day of the scheduled workshop, participants will have created a series of design “sketches” of semi-finalized designed ephemera. Choose a design medium and concept of your choosing. Add depth and breadth to your initial ‘sprinting’ compositions. Do not add any other illustrations beyond those generated in class by yourself or classmates. Consider augmenting content:

  • Write text/copy
  • Adding support text
  • Photography
  • Typeface
  • Color
  • Texture


Collaborative Group Project

The third session is about creating a collaborative publication project using the first two days as a model for content generation. A collaborative project is considered and determined by the class. A rewarding collaborative project may take the form of a book, zine or other publication. Suggestions, mediation, and direction will be provided to guide the decision process. Topic, subject matter, duration and rules of engagement will be determined as a group. Once the project and subsequent topic or theme has been determined, the class will be broken down into two to three person groups, which are directed to work as a collaborative team to generate all the content necessary to fulfill the project goal. Each team will then submit their contributions for collation. Publication can remain in a digital format, but must be ready for publication or dissemination across social media platforms/channels.

Adobe Illustrator Celebrity Portrait


A print made by the silk-screen process.

Silk–Screen Process

A print made using a stencil process in which an image or design is superimposed on a very fine mesh screen and printing ink is squeegeed onto the printing surface through the area of the screen that is not covered by the stencil. Each imprint, or application of color, is printed above its previous layer. Separate artwork is generated and applied to individual screens, each carrying their own unique color blend. Typically flat, and opaque color is represented and specified through the Pantone Matching System (PMS). Unlike professional offset printing, silk screen inks lay flat and offer no transparent blending of color.

Project Three: Part One

| Project Three: Part One

Project 3: Reductive Portrait
Illustrator Project —1.1

Appropriating The Master Appropriator

Pulling from his background in skateboarding graphics, Shepard Fairey is a modern master of reductive design-based art. Using a similar process throughout his body of work, he has managed to create an impactful and recognizable style that has found a home in areas ranging from street art and graffiti to presidential campaigns. We will be using his work as a base of inspiration for this assignment.

Your first task is to seek out a relatively high resolution photograph of a famous person to use as reference. You will be working on an 11”x 17” layout (portrait, not landscape), so plan to crop/resize your image to fit. Much like Fairey’s famous Obama poster (the HOPE poster), you will reduce your image to four (4) color planes. Each color plane should exist on its own layer in the ILL file. Place the photo on the bottom layer, so you can see it as you trace over it. For an added challenge, you can incorporate a small amount of text into your final portrait.

You will be turning in TWO final files. The first is the original drawing. The second is the original drawing with textures and effects applied to it. This will be introduced further in Project 3 Part 2. 
We’ll look critically at both.

Work in layers. Since you are using only 4 color fields, make sure each color field is on its own layer. Remove the original image from the file for turn-in, but be sure to turn it in together (just not as a flattened layer).

Alternate Tutorial; for thinking about, and working with, Vector portraits

Adobe Illustrator: Celebrity Portrait

| Project Three: Part Two

Project 3: Alternate Textures
and Patterns
Illustrator Project —1.2

Pattern & Texture alternative

For Project Three Part Two you will be examining the use of texture and pattering to effect and alter your current portrait. Illustrator has strong editing tolls. Adding textures from alternative sources can change your designs quickly. Adding raster based PSD files into illustrator files can create supper dynamic richly texture images. Knowing how, and when, to use what file type is essential. You will be looking through the graphic collections offered by Media Militia to alter your design by adding texture and pattern.

You will be turning in TWO final files. The first is the original drawing. The second is the original drawing with textures and effects applied to it. We’ll look critically at both.

Examine several of the Media Militia artwork collections. Determine which is appropriate, and with its addition, can enhance your portraits. Download any of the collections (or all of them for future usage)

  • Examine what type of media files contained in the collection. There can be; eps- AI file type, vector AI file type, png-PSD raster images, often in black and white or RGB, these files most often have transparent backgrounds; JPEG files.
  • Both vector and EPS files can be used directly in Adobe Ill. You can change the color, weight, and scale proportions freely.
  • PNG, JPEG and other image files can be manipulated with limed editing possibilities in AI, or…
  • PNG, JPEG files can be opened and altered in PSD for greater control.
  • Files can be turned into greyscale, then converted to monochromatic bitmap files types; lastly, saved as a TIFF file, which allows greater color control within AI.

Use existing outlines and color shapes as clipping masks and layer the new artwork in/onto your existing artwork.

  • Copy outlines or main color fields
  • Add a layer;
  • Place your new artwork
  • commnd– “F” or ‘paste-in-place’ your outline, which will shortly become a vector clipping mask for the placed imagery
  • Select both the outline & the image
  • Choose Object >clipping path – your image is now inset into the artwork.
  • Under layers you can access the clipping mask, and/or the placed image independent from each other
  • Use color to create subtle color shift, white to reverse out from main artwork
  • Examine transparency or layering blending for subtle color shifts
Alternatively — you can add or create AI patterns of icons or other graphic elements to inlay into your portraits. For example: you could create a vector peace sign and apply it as a pattern.


Media Militia is an online resource of patterns, textures, PSD brushes, AI (vector) illustrations. Each library contain different file types which can be used to enhance and change your portrait. Several of the libraries are more versatile than others; some more stylistic. Ultimately it is up to you to use them in subtle ways, and retain creative control without taking too many of the borrowed visual properties.

Media Militia — Freebies



Anatomy of a Grid


First Things First Manifesto 2014

EYE-Mag-FTFM_issue33Eye Magazine
Eye, #33, Autumn 1999

••• — — — •••

First Things First Manifesto 2000


Thirty-three visual communicators renew the 1964 call for a change of priorities

We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, art directors and visual communicators who have been raised in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable use of our talents. Many design teachers and mentors promote this belief; the market rewards it; a tide of books and publications reinforces it.

Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and imagination to sell dog biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents, hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers, butt toners, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what graphic designers do. This, in turn, is how the world perceives design. The profession’s time and energy is used up manufacturing demand for things that are inessential at best.

Many of us have grown increasingly uncomfortable with this view of design. Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and brand development are supporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages that it is changing the very way citizen-consumers speak, think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.

There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention. Many cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programmes, films, charitable causes and other information design projects urgently require our expertise and help.

We propose a reversal of priorities in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must expand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by other perspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages and resources of design.

In 1964, 22 visual communicators signed the original call for our skills to be put to worthwhile use. With the explosive growth of global commercial culture, their message has only grown more urgent. Today, we renew their manifesto in expectation that no more decades will pass before it is taken to heart.

Jonathan Barnbrook
Nick Bell
Andrew Blauvelt
Hans Bockting
Irma Boom
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Max Bruinsma
Siân Cook
Linda van Deursen
Chris Dixon
William Drenttel
Gert Dumbar
Simon Esterson
Vince Frost
Ken Garland
Milton Glaser
Jessica Helfand
Steven Heller
Andrew Howard
Tibor Kalman
Jeffery Keedy
Zuzana Licko
Ellen Lupton
Katherine McCoy
Armand Mevis
J. Abbott Miller
Rick Poynor
Lucienne Roberts
Erik Spiekermann
Jan van Toorn
Teal Triggs
Rudy VanderLans
Bob Wilkinson
and John P. Corrigan (added post-publication)



Last year the Canadian magazine Adbusters took the unusual step of reprinting a manifesto, ‘First Things First’, written 35 years ago in London by Ken Garland and signed by 21 other visual communicators. As it turned out, Garland knew nothing about this renewed interest in his call for a ‘reversal of priorities in favour of the more useful and more lasting forms of communication.’ Adbusters had come across the manifesto in a back issue of Eye (see ‘There is such a thing as society’ by Andrew Howard, Eye no. 13 vol. 4) and felt that its sentiments had become ‘more, rather than less relevant’ today.

After that, things started to move. Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters, showed the issue with ‘First Things First’ to the late Tibor Kalman, who said: ‘We should do this now. ‘They met Ken Garland himself at their Vancouver HQ. Little by little the idea of a new version of ‘First Things First’, updated and rewritten for the twenty-first century, began to take shape. Garland gave the project his blessing, but left the writing and organization of new signatories to Adbusters. Earlier this year [1999] the magazine’s art director, Chris Dixon, read out a preliminary draft during a packed lecture at the Royal College of Art.

As the new version and list came together, other magazines were approached to see whether they would act as co-sponsors of the initiative.


‘First Things First Manifesto 2000’ is being published in its entirety, with 33 signatories’ names, in Adbusters, Emigre and the AIGA Journal in North America, in Eye and Blueprint in Britain, in Items in the Netherlands, and Form in Germany. A poster version will be designed by Adbusters and dispatched to design schools around the world.

The aim is to stimulate discussion in all areas of visual communication – in education, in practice, in the organizations that represent design’s aspirations and aims – as well as outside design. The changing relationship of advertising, graphic design, commerce and culture poses some profound questions and dilemmas that have recently been overlooked. If anything, these developments are accepted as an unproblematic fait accompli.

In consequence, many young designers have little conception of the values, ideals and sense of responsibility that once shaped the growth and practice of design. The profession’s senior figures, who do, are for the most part quiet. Adbusters’ welcome initiative reasserts these considerations as fundamental to any sensitive interpretation of graphic design’s role and potential.

First published in Eye no. 33 vol. 9, 1999


Authors Featured in Eye Magazine

Authors (designers)

Jonathan Barnbrook
Tibor Kalman
Ellen Lupton
Katherine McCoy
Rick Poynor
J. Abbott Miller
Lucienne Roberts
Jan van Toorn
Rudy VanderLans
Bob Wilkinson
Nick Bell
Jeffery Keedy
Zuzana Licko
Armand Mevis
Andrew Howard
Jessica Helfand
Milton Glaser
Andrew Blauvelt
Hans Bockting
Irma Boom
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Max Bruinsma
Sian Cook
Linda van Deursen
Chris Dixon
William Drenttel
Gert Dumbar
Simon Esterson
Vince Frost
Ken Garland
Erik Spiekermann

various designers

••• — — — •••



Twelfth Anniversary

09111213 Memorial

09111213 Memorial

Collaboration avec les photographes Thibault Chamot-Guzzo et Viktor Shekularatz. Sont combinés leurs clichés présentant leurs quotidiens à New Yor et de graphismes créés en fonction des ambiances. La suite à venir.

Through a recent image search examining the theme of design cliché I came across this stunning series of collaborative photograph and typographic combinations highlighting various boroughs of New York. For a single day I was consumed with the numeric sequence 09•11•12•13, representing the twelfth anniversary of nine-eleven in two-thousand thirteen.

I gathered this set of designs to cycle and project upon the hand drawn numerals 9111213 lettered on a chalk board to memorialize the Twelfth Anniversary of 911. I paired the projection and found visual presentation with I Love New York from Madonna’s Confessions on the Dance Floor, circa 2005.

It remains my sole intention to promote the work of Say What Studio as an educational presentation to my Graphic Design One students at UW–Stout. I sought no approval from Say What, or Madonna; but thank them both for their contributions.


Say What
Nathalie Kapagiannidi and Benoit Berger
Graphic Design Studio
12 rue Ferdinand Duval
75004 Paris
Kapagiannidi, Nathalie, and Benoit Berger. “Say What Studio – In Situ.” Typographie 2013. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2013. Collaboration avec les photographes Thibault Chamot-Guzzo et Viktor Shekularatz. Sont combinés leurs clichés présentant leurs quotidiens à New Yor et de graphismes créés en fonction des ambiances. La suite à venir.

The Visual Essay

Visual Essay


What Does Creating a Visual Essay Imply?

To begin with, a visual essay appears to stand out of the crowd. Actually, it is a totally different assignment from a classic essay. The point is that while covering this written task, you shouldn’t write anything at all except for some short informative statements!

In fact, this academic assignment requires expressing your thoughts on this or that topic using:

  • Pictures
  • Images
  • Visuals

Moreover, to present your point of view on the required topic you may combine all above-mentioned means with some short informative statements related to the theme.

Handling Visual Assignments

Clearly, the most difficult and challenging step while fulfilling this task is finding really suitable and gripping visuals, pictures and images to use. Obviously, it presumes using creative approach and skills. In other words, ability to generate fresh ideas seems to be a determinant factor on your road to success.

Recommendations on Composing a Visual Essay

Are there any clear effective hints, which can help you to create your visual paper with ease? Of course, there are! And you shouldn’t seek for them, because they are posted below:

  • Surf the web and use camera to collect the data for your essay.
  • Incorporate thought provoking visuals, images and pictures in your paper.
  • To make your presentation more griping feel free to use graphs, various charts and bars.
  • All the data you want to use should be up-to-date and relevant.
  • Don’t forget about numerous visuals aids while defending your paper.
  • Show your paper to your relatives of friends before submitting it. They may give you favorable advice as well.

Competent Help with Visual Essays

Still feel a little bit frustrated because of these academic assignments? Don’t fall into despair! There is always a way out from any tough situation! Visual papers are not an exception.


 • • •

How to Write a Visual Essay

By Marlene Inglis, eHow Contributor

Visual essays tell a story either by using text or props.

A visual essay can be a group of pictures depicting or exploring a topic without any text or it can be a combination of visuals or images plus text. Your essay can be a commentary on ideas ranging from gardening to social uprisings and can focus on political or environmental issues. Pictures used in your essay can be current pictures or ones collected over a period of time and the essay can be presented either as a word document or as a .jpeg image file format with some accompanying text.


  1. Create your visual essay by deciding which format you will be using for your essay. Remember that the purpose of your essay is to inform, persuade or enlighten your reader. Create an essay that is factual but not boring, lots of images or pictures but not enough to overwhelm, thought provoking but not thoughtless.
  2. Use charts, bars or graphs to tell your story. Select a subject such as statistical processing control (SPC), a process used in the manufacturing industry to monitor product quality, and create graphic charts, bars and graphs. Use vivid colors in your presentation so your audience can observe and compare the variations in manufacturing the product over certain times of the year. Create comparative charts and graphs to show the current year’s product quality compared to previous years. Using the appropriate visuals for your subject matter is paramount in keeping your audience interested and informed.
  3. Write your essay on a topic such as “uprisings” and use current pictures or images of an uprising in a country. Collect dozens of pictures pertinent to your subject matter and save them in a .jpeg format. Select pictures that can tell your story such as individuals looting and hauling store merchandise across their backs, people of all ages being unceremoniously dragged across roads, tanks lumbering through city streets while people run for cover and cars and buildings ablaze. Accompany the pictures with suitable background music and your visual essay would not need much text since the pictures by themselves will speak to your audience.
  4. Use visual aids or props. Purchase various fast foods such as hamburgers, fries, nachos, coke, etc. for your essay on “The obesity epidemic”. Research the fat content, the amount of sugar, salt and other ingredients contained in each food item. Prepare a power point presentation with text to accompany your visual essay and include information on the normal amount of fat, salt, sugar etc. each body requires per day compared to the amount that these items provide. Include some pictures of people in various body sizes. Your presentation should be informative but not preachy. Let your audience make their own decision.

 • • • 

How to Write a Picture Analysis Essay

By Tom Becker, eHow Contributor

A picture is always more than the sum of its parts.

Art moves us. Whether it makes us feel joy, sorrow or revulsion, art has the power to affect us and express ideas that transcend rational thought and language. Art communicates these primal experiences not just through an artist’s inspiration, but also through very clear, recognizable visual communication techniques. Writing a picture analysis essay requires a basic understanding of essay structure and these visual communication techniques. Excellent picture analysis essays combine both these elements while addressing the more ephemeral ideas and experiences communicated by a picture.



  1. Note how the picture makes you feel. Do this before you make any intellectual analysis of the picture. Immediate, unprepared and unguarded observation will often tell you more about the content communicated by the painting than rigorous analysis.
  2. Address the age of the picture. Take note of the period from which it comes, what styles dominated that era, what techniques artists used and who commissioned the work. Consider the current events going on at the time of the picture’s creation and what social or cultural elements or changes may have affected its content.
  3. Find out the dimensions of the picture. A large picture communicates very differently from a small one. Generate reasons why the picture communicates well or poorly due to its size.
  4. Look for the composition of the picture. Composition refers to the way the elements are oriented in relationship to one another. Observe if the objects seem crowded or sparse, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Consider why the objects in the picture have their specific orientation.
  5. Take note of how the picture is cropped. Cropping refers to images that only partially appear in the picture, as if someone “cropped” them out of the picture. Address how cropping focuses the viewer on certain aspects of the picture and what ideas the cropping may help communicate.
  6. Observe the levels of light in the picture. Take note of the visible and obscured objects and where the picture draws the viewer’s eye. Think of the role light and darkness play in communicating feelings or ideas in the picture.
  7. Look for color. Observe the way the picture utilizes color or lack of color. Address the effect different colors in the painting have on the ideas it communicates.
  8. Observe the form of the images in the picture. Whether an image has clearly defined lines and boundaries representing a real object, or has no defined shape can communicate very different ideas and emotions. Address the reasons why the image has or does not have a clearly defined shape.
  9. Look for texture. Pictures with completely flat surfaces may communicate differently than pictures with highly textured surfaces. Address how the texture or lack of texture conveys ideas and emotions in the picture.
  10. Take note of your gut reaction to the painting after your thorough analysis. Address how the various elements came together to help form your initial impressions and how analysis either strengthened or weakened your initial impressions.

Essay Structure

  1. Choose a thesis. A thesis represents the main idea of your essay, the point you wish to communicate. Use your thorough analysis of the picture to make a list of opinions you wish to assert about the picture. Choose the strongest idea that most clearly communicates and unifies your assertions as your thesis.
  2. Introduce the first assertion of your essay with a topic sentence stating that assertion.
  3. Develop the assertion in the next few paragraphs by citing specific examples that back up your assertion.
  4. Conclude each assertion by restating the assertion and briefly summarizing the manner in which you have proved your assertion.
  5. Introduce your next assertion with a topic sentence and continue in this fashion until you have made all the assertions backing up your thesis.
  6. Conclude the essay with a restatement of your thesis statement, briefly restate your assertions and finish with a sentence or two stating what you have proved with the essay.


Read more: How to Write a Picture Analysis Essay |

  • • •

How to Start a Reflection Essay on Art

By Isaiah David, eHow Contributor

Because a reflection essay on art is your chance to go back and take an informal look at a substantial project you have completed, many people incorrectly assume that it will be the easiest part. In reality, it takes a mature perspective, a developed voice, and the ability to be simultaneously informal and articulate to write a good reflection essay on art. In this article, I assume that you are writing a reflective essay on art you have made yourself, but the instructions can be easily adapted to help you reflect on an art history unit or a report you did on an art exhibit.


  • Consult the rubric. Generally, your teacher will provide a list of points you are expected to address. Jot down a few notes on each point. Don’t try to be comprehensive – keep it light and flowing at this stage. Think of the first things that come to your mind.
  • Look at your art project. What does it make you think about? Do you like it? Hate it? Take a closer look at the details. Was there some part that you had to struggle to complete? Was there something that came easy or hit like a burst of inspiration? Write down as much or as little as you are inspired to.
  • Think about the project as a whole. Find a moment that encapsulated the whole process of creating, refining, and finishing your work of art. It could be the first moment where you really felt engaged in the project, or it could be an obstacle that nearly stopped you dead in your tracks and that you had to overcome. That is where you should start your reflective essay.
  • Use the drama of the moment you just thought of to begin your essay. You want your essay as a whole to tell the story of your project, and your first paragraph to tell a story within that story to draw the reader in. Use vivid descriptive to make the reader feel what you felt.
  • Leave the reader hanging. Don’t tell the whole story of whatever moment you chose in your introductory paragraph – leave something for the ending. Then, you can keep the reader interested in the story within the story even as you lead them through the entire process.
  • Step back to tell the rest of the story. For example, if you start with a description of a last minute problem you had to solve in your art project, you might start the next paragraph with something like “By that point, of course, I had been working on the project for 6 weeks.” This will take you right back to the beginning of the project, allowing you to reflect on each stage in order.
  • 7 As you go through, use the details you thought about in step 2. If there are some aspects of your work that you are especially proud of, tell the reader how they came about. If there are other aspects that you don’t like, tell the reader why you don’t like them. Don’t just list them, but put them in at whatever stage of your project they occurred.
  • Make sure to hit every detail on the rubric. Try to keep it in the back of your mind as you go through. Tat way, you can integrate it into the flow of your essay and make it sound more natural.
  • For your conclusion, come back to the mini story and relate it to the project as a whole. If you found you had to trust your intuition to complete one aspect of your piece, explain what the project as a whole has taught you about intuition in art. If you had to scrap it all and start over at some stressful point, you might talk about what you learned about the need to plan, or the willingness to admit to yourself when you are wrong. Be humble. Show that there is something you had to learned, and that you learned it.


Read more: How to Start a Reflection Essay on Art |

 • • •

How to Write an Art Essay

By Melanie Novak, eHow Contributor

Writing an essay about a piece of art is best approached by considering two things:

  1. What did the artist set out to accomplish?
  2. How well did that artist achieve her goal?

This criterion is useful in a few ways. It’s relatively fair (you won’t be holding the work to unrealistic standards), it clearly sets up the basis for your critique, and looking at a work this way avoids a thumbs-up or thumbs-down review. You can use this approach to write about a book, movie, theatrical performance, painting, piece of music or any other creative work.

The bulk of the work of writing about art is actually the time it takes to analyze the work and write the outline. There are some challenging steps in the first parts of this how-to, but if you have a strong, solid outline, the writing will be easy.


Analyzing the work

  1. Write what you think the artist was trying to achieve with this work of art.
The famous Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century, is a notoriously inscrutable painting. You cannot, obviously, know exactly what da Vinci intended by painting this portrait. Many accomplished art historians have written extensively about this painting. So what can there be for you to say? Plenty.
In this example, an essay on the well-known painting the Mona Lisa, you might conclude that the artist was trying to paint a portrait that told a story about a particular woman. This may seem obvious, but remember that goal is quite different from, say, an instructional painting with an obvious religious allegory or an abstract modern painting, and so the evaluation of this particular work will accordingly be different.
  2. Write what you know or feel as a result of the creative work.
For instance, what do you know about the woman from looking at how she was painted by da Vinci? These needn’t be facts about her identity, but rather impressions that you have of her.
Be as honest and specific about your reactions as you can. Do not worry about your own authority. You don’t need to be a professional art critic or have painted an Italian masterpiece yourself to be able to write an effective essay about the Mona Lisa.
  3. Compare your answer in Step 2 to the artist’s goal in Step 1. Is your reaction what the artist intended—is the work of art successful?
Remember that it doesn’t matter whether or not you “like” whatever you are writing about. Rather you are using your own responses to write an analysis of the work itself.
Remember that you can write an essay that examines how the work was unsuccessful using the same method as when writing an essay on a successful work.
  4. List the variables—all the decisions the artist or artists had to make—that went into creating the work. In the example of the Mona Lisa, the variables would be subject, composition, materials (paint and surface), color palette, brush strokes and level of detail.
  5. Write next to each variable a short description. For instance, for the Mona Lisa, you would write “subject–woman,” “composition–close-up of face, centered in the frame,” “color palette–muted,” etc.

 The thesis statement and finalizing the outline

  1. Write a rough thesis statement based on all the steps above. Don’t use first person, even though your own responses have informed your thinking so far.
A rough thesis statement might be “Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a visually beautiful painting using Renaissance painting techniques, but its subject remains mysterious.”
Your thesis statement should not be “The Mona Lisa is good.”
  2. Organize the variables in a way that supports your thesis statement. You don’t need to include every variable you listed. You may want to write one paragraph for each variable.
  3. Note how each variable contributed to the overall success (or lack of success) of the creative work.

Writing the essay

  1. Write as specifically as possible when you are describing the variables and your responses to them. It is often the description that will convince your readers of your point.
  2. Write an engaging introduction and satisfying conclusion.


Read more: How to Write an Art Essay |

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The Visual Essay— collated research material

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Design Is History

A GREAT introduction to graphic design:

Design Is History

Design is History?

As a designer it is important to understand where design came from, how it developed, and who shaped its evolution. The more exposure you have to past, current and future design trends, styles and designers, the larger your problem-solving toolkit. The larger your toolkit, the more effective of a designer you can be.

Part of the graduate thesis of designer Dominic Flask, this site was created as a teaching tool for young designers just beginning to explore graphic design and as a reference tool for all designers. It provides brief overviews of a wide range of topics rather than an in-depth study of only a few.

Design Culture Now

Design Culture Now

Bodega Typeface created on an iPad using iFontMaker; exported as a True Type font format.

Hand drawn “DE•SIGN” and “Cooper – Hewitt…” hand-lettering was drawn and generated on an iPad using the Made With Paper — 53 iPad App.

A Critical Academic Response

Many design professors and faculty have begun implementing a version of Ellen Lupton’s Design Culture Now poster assignment into GD1, GD2, or Typography classes across the globe. This overwhelming acceptance of this project has created a small online community. Almost a right of passage, a Google search for Design Culture Now Poster recalls hundreds of student posters. The collection is a small snapshot into the current need for design curriculum to adapt, change, and address contemporary design issues and technical attributes.

As a former graduate student of Ellen’s, I readily accept this project and have added it to my GD1 courses for the past several semesters. I have seen an assorted grouping of student designs; some excellent, and others that miss the essential guidelines and typographic criteria for which the project was created.

The National Design Triennial exhibition and catalog of the same name was once a speculative collection of cross-disciplinary designers and their designs in both theory, practice, and application. As indirect result has formed a large micro community of poster designs. These designs can illuminate current design trends, design education, and current events circulating the international design community.

Student designs vary greatly, from well developed visual design concepts, to poorly reactive, non-observant non articulated misaligned solutions. Seeing the larger community of DCN poster design I see my teaching notes are not unlike others. The uniqueness of this poster community allows distant observation for both the students and faculty. The diversity allows students to witness other attempts, used in a larger discussion can help make their own posters more articulate and considered. The DCN poster project is an ever specific, minute micro study, into current events of design history. The larger collection is acting like a time capsule for contemporary design education practice.

Project: 5
Text, image, hierarchy, impact


Time to make a poster! Again, we turn to Ms. Lupton
(with some modifications):

Create a poster for a lecture series about contemporary design.

Carefully consider the typographic hierarchy of the information presented. A viewer should be able to easily understand the calendar of events and quickly learn who the main speakers are. The poster must also convey the excitement of contemporary design to an audience of designers and students. The information itself must constitute the “imagery” of the poster.

Your posters should show a significant rigorous study of potential typographic solutions. Think of the past projects leading up to this; how does hierarchy, type size and style, and the use of a grid organize information. What relationships can you create?


Size: 18” x 24”

  • Your poster must be type dominant. You may use colors, shapes, and lines as well as any supplemental text.
  • Any secondary imagery such as a collage, illustration or photograph must be created by you. No outside found/stolen/borrowed imagery may be used.
  • You must use a grid to organize your design. The grid is up to you. Consider how the number of columns and rows may organize and structure your content.

Ideation—first draft of designs. You must create three poster concepts. Present your three designs reduced to fit an 11” x 17” (including crop marks). Each of your three concepts must be printed, cut, and trimmed and prepared before class begins. Unfinished posters will not be accepted for critique.



Three Phases of Design

Three Phase DesignDiagram, Three Phases of a Project

Research and Investigation

I) Research and Investigation is the key to developing design solutions. During this phase, the scope of work, problems and criteria are determined. The thoroughness of information obtained in this phase determines the success of the solutions.

Concept and Design

II) Concept and Design is the phase when potential solutions are conceived and developed, based upon information gathered in the first phase. At the conclusion of this phase, the final designs and copy are completed, then reviewed and approved by the client.

Implementation and Supervision

III) Implementation and Supervision is the phase when the production of camera-ready artwork or adjustments to disk art, photography, and illustration are done. Artwork will be prepared clearly and accurately for maximum
efficiency in the printing process. Final production will be discussed with the client and production considerations handled. At the conclusion of this phase, all final artwork-scans, photography, or illustration-will be approved by the client and sent to the printer for reproduction. Alterations or corrections can still be
made, however, changes at this stage are expensive and will delay final delivery.