Lake Havasu Unified School District #1

A real world assignment for LHHS Graphics Communications students

Matt Scott teaches Graphics Communication at Lake Havasu High School. He tries to make his classes relevant to what students might be asked to do out in the real world if they were working in the graphic design or advertising field. He recently set aside his formal lesson plan so students could work on a special, real world project complete with tight time constraints.

First, a little background information. Graphic Communication is a half credit elective class in the Business Systems department of the high school. Mr. Scott is well acquainted with our town and our school district. He was born here, went to LHUSD schools, and graduated from our high school in 1996.

Mr. Scott has an Associate of Applied Science (graphic design) degree from Glendale Community College and a Bachelor of Science in Communications with a focus on advertising and public relations. Mr. Scott has been a full-time teacher at Lake Havasu High School since 2003.

Mr. Scott and student.
Mr. Scott takes a closer look at a student's work.

The Graphics Communication class acquaints students with the graphics communication industry, job opportunities, related legal issues, customer service, basic computer skills, basic design skills, color management, and preparation of a portfolio that might be presented to a potential employer. Adobe Photoshop, the standard software in the computer graphics field, is the primary computer software used. The class is held in a computer lab with 30 student workstations.

While the day's class lesson plan says students will continue working on logo and business card design projects, for two days in September Mr. Scott has given them a new task. The local United States Marine recruiter has asked the class to make a poster for an upcoming pull-up competition the Marines are sponsoring between Lake Havasu High School and Mohave High School. Students only have a couple of class periods to do it. Mr. Scott explains this is a real world type problem. “This happens all the time in this field. Someone brings you a project and needs it done right away. If you can't do it for them, they will take their business somewhere else.”

“If its for a magazine, you're dealing with a deadline for the printer,” says Mr. Scott. “If it's for an event, you're dealing with a deadline for getting the word out quick enough or getting the advertisement done in time for distribution, regardless of the medium. Sometimes other projects get pushed aside and you have to take on a new project with very little time. That's the business. Its all about adjustments.”

Each student is working on his own design. As they sit at their computer workstations and open their files, it looks like most are almost done. Only finishing touches are needed. Mr. Scott walks around the room, looking over shoulders and offering general and specific comments. He reviews some basic design principals.

  • Contrast: If two items are not exactly the same then make them different, REALLY different. Are things that are supposed to stand out STANDING OUT? Large type/small type, thin line/thick line, cool colors/warm colors, smooth texture/rough texture.
  • Repetition: What areas of your page call for repetition?
  • Alignment: Everything on the page should be there for a reason, not just thrown in. Has everything on the page been assigned a place?
  • Proximity: Simply put . . . organization. Grouping related items together creates organization. There should be no confusion over headlines, captions, etc.
  • Spelling: Double and triple check spelling. Photoshop has a spell checker, but spell checkers are not perfect.
  • Color: Does your use of color reflect the theme of the design?

Mr. Scott says:

  • In advertising, you don't have a lot of time to capture their attention.
  • Everyone has a different idea of how something should look. But whether it is effective or not, that's the bottom line. It must make an impact.
  • What are you trying to say? What's the message you are trying to convey? Everything else is based on that.
One student's poster as it appears within the Photoshop program.
One student's poster as it appears in the Photoshop program.

Mr. Scott continues to walk around the room as he talks. He uses a classroom amplification system so all the students in the large classroom can hear him regardless of which way he is facing or where he is standing. He wears a microphone headset (like you see Madonna or other pop singers wear during a concert). His voice is amplified and comes out through speakers. Everyone hears him loud and clear

Soon class is almost over. Mr. Scott goes to his desk at the back of the room and causes individual student posters to display on the student's computer monitors so he can make general comments and suggestions. Thanks to a program called Vision from GenevaLogic, Mr. Scott can take control of all the student computers from his desk, either one at a time or all at once. He can view what an individual student is working on, or he can display something for all students to see. When students are working at computers, it can be difficult to make sure they are all doing what they are supposed to be doing. Through a combination of walking around, using a back of the room vantage point, and monitoring student computer use via the Vision program, Mr. Scott keeps all students on task.

The bell rings. This class leaves and the next one files in. The local Marine Corp representative Staff Sergeant Jade Hodnett will make the final decision as to which posters will be used to promote the pull-up competition. Overall, Mr. Scott's students had a great experience. They were put under pressure to meet an unexpectedly short deadline and managed to fulfill the needs of their client.

Update: How did the pull-up competition between Havasu and Mohave come out? High School athletic director Roger Burger says, “Lake Havasu dominated the pull up competition.” Which posters did the Marines decide to use? The staff sergeant picked two. One of those chosen (done by student John) is the one already shown above. Click for a larger view. The staff sergeant says, "I can't say enough good things about that class. They exceeded all my expectations. I couldn't believe that kids in high school were able to do things on this level with the computer."