08 February 2009

Design essentials for students

After looking at the lesson plan "Analyzing Photographs: From Theory to Practice," I thought about what, if any, books were out there that attempt to teach basic design principles to young people. While the lesson plan is very thorough and well-planned, the "Formal Visual Analysis" section (http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/content/3902/) was completely text-based and, well, boring. Is this to be read by the students? Or lectured by the teacher? Hands-on activity works great when there is a photograph at hand, but the principles of analysis are still not made visually apparent. So, I set out to find more visually-oriented books that would serve the same purpose.

A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make it Good by Mark Gonyea (2005)

This brightly-colored, seemingly simple picture book explains the very basics of design elements, from shapes to object placement and balance of composition. It would serve as a great book for students (middle to high school) to read in small groups as a primer for the more advanced text of the website cited above. Pair this with the sequel, Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make it Bad.

Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang (2000)

This classic in analyzing picture books can also be used with students who are learning how to analyze visual elements. While more text heavy than the two books above, Bang shows how to analyze a picture, with bold visuals and easy to follow explanations. Individual sections of the book can be used to compare with a photograph in this lesson plan and to visually walk through the process of analyzing.

These two (well, three) books about design were actually all that I could find. I can imagine that there are more out there, hopefully more for the middle school student, so if any of you have one to add, please go ahead! I can also imagine that there are websites that do the very same thing, so if you have any of those to share, I'd be interested in seeing those as well.

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