Lessons in design
When Riley Johnson was hired to teach art at Weyauwega-Fremont High School last year, part of the plan was to bring new technology into the department.
This school year, he is doing so in the high school’s new graphic arts class.
“The cool thing about art is there really is no such thing as a starving artist anymore. With a computer, people can learn a few programs,” Johnson said. “Every single business needs a graphic designer, or they won’t attract business.”
The ads seen on the Internet are examples of how there is a need for graphic artists, he said.
“If you ever go to a store and are deliberating between two objects which are similar, you almost always will choose the more attractive,” he said.
The students in the graphic arts class – one of several new classes being offered this school year – are completing their final weeks in class.
Throughout this semester, Johnson taught the students two programs: Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.
“The thing I want them to understand in design,” he said, “is typography, using text as a design element. After that, we talk about adding images and making it attractive, whether it is making a logo for a business to a gig poster as a concert promotion.”
Those are examples of some of the assignments students had this semester.
“They’re learning the appropriate use of fonts, because certain fonts don’t work with certain images people want to portray,” Johnson said. “You wouldn’t want a cartoony font for a law firm.”
Students learned how to arrange text, space, color and shapes digitally.
Last week, the students worked on one of their final assignments of the school year.
The assignment was to create three different invites, such as for a graduation party.
“They had to learn how to use the theme and translate it,” Johnson said.
One of his goals was to help the students develop a working understanding of good design.
“Kids like computers,” he said. “Their whole lives are hinged on technology.”
Johnson said graphic arts is probably the most relevant field of art today.
“I’m not saying the others are not relevant,” he said. “Graphic arts is accessible to everybody. You don’t have to go to a gallery to see it. It appears everywhere, from a kid’s sweatshirt to a yogurt container.”
Johnson’s wife is a freelance graphic designer.
As a result, he is able to bring in a professional take on the field.
During the class, he talked about how graphic artists work on deadline.
“It helps kids understand there are no extensions for things. People want it yesterday and often have unrealistic demands. A good designer will be able to be creative on the spot. And, they always want more than one option,” he said.
In this type of class, Johnson found his students worked at individual paces.
“My mantra in class is you need to look at successful, professional examples to see what’s good,” he said. “It is fun for me to teach it.”