Level: Middle School
Grades: Gr. 6-8 | Age: 11-14yrs | Written by:
[Ruth is an art educator at Middle School in Emmetsburg, Iowa]
This is a series of simple design exercises to further understanding of the Principles of Design and how each can be developed within a structured composition.
Two to three weeks depending on age level, how often class meets, length of class period, number of designs assigned, etc.
What You Need:
- Review the basic Principles of Design (balance, unity, movement, rhythm, pattern, contrast and emphasis).
- Understand each principle more completely.
- Provide "aerobic exercise" for the right side of their brain.
What You Do:
Dot Line Examples
- View the video. Students may take notes if desired. Afterwards, review the
information discussed by having groups of 2-3 students take one of the seven principles posters and present it to the class emphasizing two or three important points talked about in the film.
- Pass out 15-25 small-size sheets of the white typing paper for each series of
designs that students will be working on. They can identify their own sheets
by using pencil to mark initials on the back side. Make sure each student has,
or can share, at least 4-6 colored pencil point markers for variety. (Large
markers are too clumsy and do not make as neat a design.)
- Do a quick review of the elements of design (specifically line, color, space).
Explain to students that they will be creating a series of designs, first using
dots, then lines, and finally, a combination of both. Each design should
illustrate at least three or more of the principles they have discussed. Stress
that, while designs need not necessarily fill the entire paper, they must be
complete and well developed as space is an important consideration. Also,
all designs must be totally abstract; no recognizable objects, shapes, letters,
numbers, symbols, etc. are allowed.
- Discuss and establish some basic criteria for each group of designs. The
following work well for DOT DESIGNS (define a dot as the beginning of a line,
regardless of its size):
- use only two colors per design (keep it simple).
- dots must be round and colored solid.
- dots within each design should vary in size (change can be
sudden or gradual but is important for providing contrast,
thereby avoiding "chicken tracking").
- dots may "follow the leader," touch, overlap, stack on top of
each other, run off the edge of the paper, etc.
Dot Design Examples
Basic criteria for LINE DESIGNS might include the following:
- use only two or three colors per design.
- lines should begin thin, grow in thickness and return to a thin
line again...or run off the paper (so they remain lines instead
of becoming shapes).
- lines should vary in length (short, medium, long) and may
expand/contract in any form or direction.
- lines may be straight, curved, zigzag, twist; cross over, build
on top of or weave under and through each other, etc.
Line Design Examples
Line Design Examples
All of the above criteria apply to DOT/LINE DESIGN combinations. Limit each
design to three colors to ensure that the designs do not become more about
color than about design. Make certain students understand that this is a form
of brainstorming and there is no "right/wrong." Designs that appear to be
incomplete can always have something added. Encourage them to relax and
let their right brain take over. Explain that, often, our best ideas come when
we "space out" or daydream while doodling.
Dot/Line Design Examples
Tell students to look for new ways that dots and/or lines can be drawn or
interact with each other and still remain dots and lines. If they do come up
with something new, for example, dots passing through each other, have a
round table discussion to reach consensus that it still meets basic criteria.
These discussions can grow into interesting exchanges as students take
positions and offer differing opinions/explanations as to why they believe
some designs may or may not pass muster. Focus on constructive criticism.
As designs are completed, they should be laid out on the tables in front of
students for continual reference. Midway through each class, allow students
to take a break, not only to rest their right brain, but also so they may walk
around and observe the work of others. This provides opportunity for "idea
building," especially for those students who get "stuck in a rut." Stress the
fact that if they see another design they really like, they can create a similar
one by changing or adding to it rather than copying.
Original design and Expanded ideas created from original
When each design series is completed, have students choose what they
consider to be their best designs to represent each principle and lay them
out in separate marked areas. Again, have round table discussions as to
the merits of various designs. Students should name the principles they see
illustrated and comment on what might be lacking in some designs, for
example, no unity or contrast, unbalanced components, etc. Emphasize that
the best designs may show all seven principles.
Ask students to point out designs which show:
Allow students to select their best designs for putting up in a large display
area. Ask for volunteers or choose students to plan the arrangement and
put it all together.
- unity between all parts of the design.
- formal (symmetrical), informal (asymmetrical) and radial balance.
- areas of movement and rhythm.
- several different kinds of contrast.
- any obvious patterns.
- a focal point or center of interest.
- all seven principles due to outstanding organization of the basic
elements within the design.
Follow up Activity:
Introduce students to the abstract styles of several different artists including Margo Hoff (Marathon, Street Music ), Piet Mondrian (Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue), Jackson Pollock (Full Fathom Five,
Autumn Rhythm), Mark Tobey (Universal Field), and Henri Matisse (L'escargot, Beasts of the Sea, The Wine Press, Sorrows of the King). After viewing and discussing examples of each, have them create their own more complicated abstract design composition using geometric as well as organic lines and shapes and unlimited color choices. Provide a variety of medium, such as charcoal, India ink, colored pencil, oil pastels, tempera paint, and an assortment of different kinds of paper. Encourage students to use a combination of
several of these. Have students write an evaluation of their completed work using what they learned from studying the Principles of Design.
Dot/Line Design Examples
Principles and Elements of Design
Elements of Design
Principles of Design
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
by Betty Edwards
Translated into thirteen languages, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the world's most widely used drawing-instruction guide. People from just about every walk of life--artists, students, corporate executives, architects, real estate agents, designers, engineers--have applied its revolutionary approach to problem solving.
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