Designing Art Lessons

One of my favorite things about teaching is designing art lessons. I love the problem-solving and research involved in fitting all the pieces together to set students up for awesome outputs. And my major tip for designing any lesson (even if you know generally what you wish to do) is to, “try it yourself“! It is amazing that such a small concept can outline the whole assignment for you. Don’t underrate it!

-Shalanah Backus

Tips for Teachers Rookies and Veterans

I just finished teaching at Crosswinds Middle School in Woodbury, Minnesota and I have learned a lot from this summer. Inspired by how much I have learned I thought I would compile some of the best practices and best pieces of advice I have heard from teachers over the years. I will try to update this as I remember more of them or learn new ones! If you have any to add, please comment.

“Leave school remembering the faces of the sweet students in your classroom.”
Wonderful advice from an art teacher at Crosswinds. I’ve heard for every negative you need 3-5 positive affirmations to cancel it. As teachers, it is easy to focus on the challenges but remembering the vast number of positive influences in your classroom can help you keep a happy attitude. I have even heard one teacher say that she keeps a notebook and writes down one good or funny thing that happened during the day.

“Do not leave school until you are ready for the next day’s lesson.”
Some organizational tips I learned are to have all your supplies ready the day before they are needed so you are not running around and you can be relaxed teaching. I have also learned if you keep your supplies well kept and organized the students will treat the supplies with respect as well. For an art teacher I enjoy being neat.

“Eat lunch with other teachers.”
Teaching is actually a very solo profession. You need to make sure you are connecting with other teachers and lunchtime is a perfect time to relax.

“Be calm and cool.”
It is said often that if a student is having a difficult time it is not personal and this is very true. Students are still growing and learning correct behavior (and we all have our off days) so projecting calm and collected demeanor pays off not only for you but calms other students.

“Be involved.”
If you have any opportunity to chaperon a dance, coach, attend a game, watch a play, attend a recital, put up an exhibit you gives you opportunities to see students excel, connect with parents, and connect with other teachers too. You become a teacher and a part of the community.

7 Helpful Tips for Working with a Graphic Designer

So you are serious about your business and want to present yourself well, and you’ve decided to work with a graphic designer to put your best foot forward. I have some helpful hints to get the most for your buck and smooth product.

1. Ask questions! If you don’t know exactly what you want or you have a certain budget, talk with a graphic designer you know and trust. They will certainly give you some tips and hints about how to tackle your project and cost-saving measures if you don’t exactly know what route to go. It doesn’t cost anything to ask!

2. Communicate your business and graphic design piece goals. Graphic designers can design for anything but knowing your goals and what you want the viewer to think helps the design. Include the audience you want to grab – perhaps they are newcomers or they are investors. All these will be key for the design.

3. Know your budget. How much are you willing to spend on your design? Talk with a graphic designer about what you can get for your budget or ask for bids then ask for other ways to match your goals. Design is marketing. While you want to be economical good design typically pays off; looking professional adds validity to your business. A great way to save cost in a print piece is to contact printers and figure out the most economical size for your next brochure or print piece. Also being prepared with text in advance will cut down the time a designer needs to create.

3. Decide on a format/size before starting. If you are creating a business card this is a pretty easy one, but if you are making a book make sure you have picked a size and stick with it! Designs are created for a certain size. An ad for a newspaper may not translate well for a billboard and vice versa, the size determines layout and font. It is also good to know the size for a logo too. What is the largest you see you using the logo? A graphic designer will provide you with many sizes but it is helpful to get you files that are easy to use.

4. Know your competition. Knowing what your competitors are doing can give you ideas and help you decide what they’re not doing and where you can outshine them. For instance if you want a website look up local companies and talk to your graphic designer about them. You’ll definitely want to outshine your competitors but it also may help you outline how many links or services you’ll want within your site.

5. Set clear deadlines for yourself and the graphic designer. This can be done within a contract but if you are working more informally make sure the graphic designer knows your timeline and don’t be afraid to check in if you have any questions! Also the same can be said for the client. Graphic designers don’t usually edit text or create text for you so if you are delayed on your text/images so will the design. Some graphic designers will not start until all text is completed and ready to go.

6. Let us know what you like 🙂 . A graphic designer wants to please the client, let them know other work you like. I had a wonderful experience with a client who emailed me 4-5 logos she really connected with – even though they were not in the same field – it really helped me provide a logo in a style she loved.

7. Strive for consistency. Decide on a style that fits your company. I once heard another graphic designer complaining about a client that wanted to use imagery of a tree for a company print piece. The tree did not link to the company’s logo, brand, goal or vision. Make sure you are sticking with your brand and your visuals have strong reasons. For instance, if your colors are orange and gray then use orange and gray in your graphic design pieces somewhere. Everyone knows the ad campaign of “just do it” from Nike. This smart slogan has carried them a far way. Each design element should to help sell your company and sending mixed messages will confuse viewers.

If you have any other helpful hints or sites go ahead and share!

-Shalanah Backus