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2D Design: Grade 8

(This unit was created by Ben Cooperman for a Grade 7 MYP Technology class at the Canadian International School, Singapore.)

Getting Started: Introduction to 2D Design

To begin, it is important that we familiarise ourselves with the vocabulary used in art and design. We want to have a common language to explain our ideas and share our thinking. Below is a list of words to get you started. If you are unsure what any of them mean, you can find their descriptions here:

  • Alignment
  • Balance
  • Contrast
  • Emphasis
  • Gestalt
  • Harmony
  • Movement
  • Proportion
  • Proximity
  • Repetition
  • Rhythm
  • Unity
  • White Space
We will go over each of these in more detail in class. In particular, we will take a look into the principles of Gestalt psychology. The Gestalt psychologists were interested in how our minds make sense of the world around us by conceptually grouping things together as discreet objects. The five basic principles of Gestalt psychology that we will cover are the following:

  • Similarity/Dissimilarity
  • Continuation
  • Closure
  • Proximity
  • Figure and Ground
Visit the following site for a detailed explanation for each.

Learning the Tools:

In this unit, explore how people perceive images in an effort to develop graphic designs that have a more powerful impact on the viewer. The next step is to familiarise ourselves with the tools of the graphic designer. We will begin with Adobe Photoshop. The challenge below will be a fun way to get to know some of the more common tools in Photoshop.

Challenge #1: Silly Self-Portrait

Take a picture of yourself. Next, gather a few pictures of some interesting objects whose shapes are similar to some of your facial features (i.e., slices of fruit and vegetables etc...) Then, using Adobe Photoshop, put them on your face. Your final image should be 400 x 300 pixels at a resolution of 72dpi. This exercise will require you to demonstrate an understanding of a variety of selection tools (i.e. crop, lasso, magic wand tools in Photoshop), layers and image resolution. Post your final image to your Technology blog with a brief written explanation about the steps you went through in the process. 

Hanoch Piven is an artist who makes silly portraits like the ones you will be making. While he uses real fruits and vegetables (and all sorts of other objects) in his work (as we see in the above portrait of Albert Einstein) rather than a sort of digital collage like we are doing, the idea is the same. Notice that he chooses the pieces very carefully to emphasise characteristics specific to the individual. You are encouraged to take a similar approach. Choose objects for your collage that say something about you.

The Project


We make meaning not only from the content of visual media, but also from the various design elements and how they work together. Colour, shape and space carry meaning and together they influence how we interpret the information we see. Through the process of designing and creating visual media for different purposes, we increase our awareness of this process and gain insight into how we are influenced by design. We can learn to use structural design elements to add additional layers of meaning.

Situation Specific:

For grade 8 students, this task is wide-open. Choose a graphic design project that you find to be personally meaningful. Examples in the past have included:
  • a poster for an upcoming event at the school
  • a logo for a T-shirt (a sort of 'personal branding' project)
  • a greeting card for a family member
  • a cover design for a personal journal 
Along the way, you will use your developing understanding of the principles of design to make improvements to ensure that your design has its desired impact. You will justify your choices based on specific research and analysis.

Inquiring and Analysing

  1. explain and justify the need for a solution to a problem for a specified client/target audience 
  2. identify and prioritize the primary and secondary research needed to develop a solution to the problem 
  3. analyse a range of existing products that inspire a solution to the problem 
  4. develop a detailed design brief which summarizes the analysis of relevant research

1. Explain and justify the need for a solution to a problem

Write a paragraph that details what this project is all about. What is the problem/issue that has inspired your project? Why did you choose to solve the problem? Who is the intended target audience? What needs will your work fulfil when it is complete? 

2. Primary and secondary research

The tools:
Write a short paragraph outlining some of the most important things that you learned while working with Photoshop. For example, an important concept is the idea of working with layers. Can you think of any others that you learned? How do each of these things help improve your workflow? Now think of some things that you still want to learn to do. How could you go about learning this? Be specific and give sources.

The concepts:
In your own words, summarise what you have learned so far about the principles of design. Provide concrete examples to illustrate. What do you still want to know? Where will you look to find answers?

3. Analyse a range of existing products

In this unit, will have a look at the work of other artists and designers to develop a deeper understanding of the different design elements and how they work together. We will try to see how they use shape, space and colour in different ways to get a desired effect. 

Find 3 or 4 products that are related to your own project and provide an analysis of the use of different design elements in each. You should explain what you believe the artist/designer was trying to communicate and whether or not you feel that they were successful. Justify your point of view with evidence and specific reference to the artwork. You should make specific reference to the principles of design and Gestalt laws of perception that we have covered.

4. Develop a detailed design brief

Write a short, concise Design Brief that explains the following:

What sort of product do you intend to create?
Who is the target audience for your project?
Why have you settled on this particular solution?

Next, follow your design brief with a short paragraph that elaborates on your idea and explains the process you went through to come up with the idea. What sort of brainstorming did you do? What other ideas did you have that didn't make it? How were you able to use feedback to help you make your choice?

Assessment Rubric

Below is the rubric that will be used to assess the quality of your work. The words in bold should guide you as you consider your work against the assessment levels.

Criterion A Rubric: 2013-14

Developing Ideas

1. Design Specification 

During the Developing Ideas phase, we put together a list of design specifications to keep us on track and help ensure that our final project meets all of the requirements. We will use these design specifications to help select the best design ideas in this phase and to help measure success at the end. Try to come up with at least 7-8 design specifications to guide you. Since each of you is working on your own, unique project, each of you will have your own, unique design specifications.  But to give you an example, the grade 7 students are working on a graphic design project to make a yearbook. Here are a few of the design specifications they will be using to guide their work: 

Design Specifications
  • The final file will be presented in .jpg format
  • Pages will be A4 size, in portrait orientation 
  • Images should be no less than 300dpi to ensure quality.  

2: Design Ideas

In this section, you will develop 3-4 possible designs for your project. Each possibility should consider things like layout, colour palette, fonts, images, hierarchy of information etc... Once again, this section will be a little bit different for each of you, depending on the sort of project you are working on. 

You are well advised to group yourselves together with others who are working on similar projects. Prepare your 3 or 4 possible designs and present them in your online process journal with brief explanation of the strengths of each. Your analysis of each one should make specific use of the principles of design that we covered at the start of the unit. You will need to get some feedback from members of your target audience to help you finalise your decisions. You may choose to do this activity on paper, in which case, you will need to scan your images to a computer to put into your process journal. Otherwise, there is a wide variety of simple sketching programs for your computer that you may want to check out. 

Hierarchy of Information

3: Chosen Design

Look at each of your designs again and measure them against the design specifications. Use the feedback that you got from members of your target audience. Make your decision about which design you want to go ahead with and write a short paragraph to justify your choice.

4: Planning Drawings

Now that you have made your final choice, you need to create a more detailed layout design. Think of this as a planning step to get you ready for the next phase, Creating the Solution. 

For example, if you were working on a poster, you would include specifics about as what content will go in which spot. What sort of pictures do you want here and there?  Let's say that you want a picture of so-and-so riding a dragon, then this step will help guide you to collect and shoot the images that you will need (i.e. the dragon, a picture of the person who will be riding it, posing appropriately) for when it's time to create.

Assessment Rubric

Below is the rubric that will be used to assess the quality of your work. The words in bold should guide you as you consider your work against the assessment levels.

Criterion B Rubric: 2013-14

Creating the Solution:

  1. outlines a plan, which considers the use of resources and time, sufficient for peers to be able to follow the plan to create the solution 
  2. demonstrates excellent technical skills when making the solution 
  3. follows the plan to make the solution which functions as intended and is presented appropriately 
  4. lists the changes made to the chosen design and the plan when making the solution.

Your 'Create' phase will have two main parts--your finished product and your process journal.

Process Journal

If you have done a good job investigating, designing and planning in the previous two phases of your project, this part should be fairly straightforward. All of the important decisions have already been made and it is just a matter of putting everything into place. With any luck, everything will go according to plan. Of course, things don't always go according to plan. In your process journal, you will document the tools that you used and what you did at each step as though you were writing out a set of instructions (think about the projects that we looked at on the Instructables and Makezine websites.) Include any suggestions you have for your readers (i.e., the right sequence to do things, good places to find royalty-free images and fonts) and be sure to describe and fully justify any changes you made from your original plan from the Designing phase. 

Finished Product

Your finished product should be completed to a high quality. Not only should you include pictures of your final product, but I would like you to upload the completed file to your Google Drive and post a link to it on your blog. This way, you can share your work with others. They can download your project to take it apart to learn more about how it was made. 

1. Outline a plan / 3. Follow a plan

Your process journal will take the form of an Instructable. It will outline the steps for creating your project such that others could follow it to create a similar project of their own. Here are a couple of examples:

2. The Solution

Of course, you need to include your final product. You may, in fact, want to put some images of this at the top of the Creating the Solution section so that the reader has a clear image in his/her what s/he is working towards.

4. Changes

Include a section at the end that explains and justifies any changes made to the original plan. Things rarely go entirely according to plan and that's OK. But it is important to learn from our experience. Did you make a change because of a problem that you ran into? Did you change your mind for some reason? Why?

Assessment Rubric

Below is the rubric that will be used to assess the quality of your work. The words in bold should guide you as you consider your work against the assessment levels.

Criterion C Rubric: 2013-14


  1. design detailed and relevant testing methods, which generate data, to measure the success of the solution 
  2. critically evaluate the success of the solution against the requirements based on authentic tests 
  3. explain how the solution could be improved 
  4. explain the impact of the solution on the client/target market.

1. Measuring Success

Now that you have finished your project, how will you measure your success?  What testing methods can you use to determine how closely it matches your design specifications? What sorts of feedback will you use to help measure your success? 

2. Evaluating Success

Once you know how you will test your product to measure the level of success, you need to carry out your testing and document the strengths and weaknesses of the final product. Summarise and analyse any feedback you got. How else did you measure success? 

3. Improvements

In this section, it is very important to be very specific about what you would improve, how you would improve it and why. Justify the changes with clear reasons. Explain steps you might need to take in order to make those changes. What new research might you need to do? What skills might you need to make those changes?

In a separate paragraph, reflect on your performance throughout the phases of the Design Cycle. What did you do well? Why did those things go well for you? How can you use this success to help you in the future? What did you do poorly? Why do you think those things did not go so well? What can you do to improve in the future? Again, be specific. For example, "I will manage my time better," is not enough. A better example might be, "I will take point form notes during class and keep them on colour-coded stickies on my desktop. When I write my summaries later on, I will be able to use these notes to help me remember what I did."

4. Impact

How do you think your product will be received by your target audience/market? Is this product likely to have the impact that you imagined? Look back at your design brief and explain how closely it fulfils what you initially set out to do. How successful is this product likely to be? By making the above changes, what difference is that likely to make?

Assessment Rubric

Below is the rubric that will be used to assess the quality of your work. The words in bold should guide you as you consider your work against the assessment levels.

Criterion D Rubric: 2013-14