Graphic Design

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Graphic Design can be taken in two different ways. Students can choose to enroll in a full one year Graphic Design program, or Design I and II which is subdivided into Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Architecture and Interior Design. Although I strive to make the Design I Graphic Design unit as real-world as possible, I have typically connected real clients with my year-long students. The beginning of the first semester students complete a variety of design exercises that lead into the larger real-world projects later in the school year. Students work with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, and also keep their own blog. Students learn how to use prezi as a new form of “PowerPoint”  for their school presentations and also play with animoto to share their summer experiences. Graphic Design 3 students assist the school with promotional and marketing materials and compete in online logo designs. I desire to create as many real-world experiences as possible, to build maturity, character, presentation skills, professional connections and scholarship-worthy portfolios for students.

Bible Cover for Zondervan

Graphic design students presented bible cover designs to a Zondervan Graphic Designer. I was thrilled when the designer shared that she would love for us to try our hand at an actual Zondervan project next year.

Bird Design

Mark Bird of Bird Design has been a guest critic in our Graphic Design classes and has allowed us the privilege of working on one of his own ad campaigns for Easy Rotor Helicopter tours. Students were challenged to match the spirit of the company with a great ad campaign. For our final exam we toured Bird Design and presented campaign ideas.

“I love to critique student work and give feedback whenever I can. We both win and so does the industry. The freshness of a new perspective is priceless and it helps me to become a better designer and learn more even after 25 years in the business (M. Bird, personal communication, 2008).

Hanon McKendry

We have worked with renowned advertising firm, Hanon McKendry for a number of years now. Bill McKendry, the owner and Creative Director, has been very enthusiastic about connecting my students with the real-world of advertising. During our J-term experiential class we have toured his advertising firm, and the past two years have worked on ad campaigns ideas for real clients of his. To make it as real-world as possible, Bill has sent me the same brief he gives to his own designers. Students have the incentive of working on a potential real campaign. They also know they will be going to the agency and presented their campaign for McKendry. As added incentive for quality work I told students that in the real-world there are often bonus checks given out for winning a campaign. So I offer an A for the entire quarter grade, no matter what their grade currently is. This creates some squeals even from the guys in the room! We have worked on campaigns for Mel Trotter Ministries and also SentrySafe. I have often wondered if these professional designers “mind” my students visiting them. Bill McKendry shared with me,

“Quite frankly, I would not be where I am today without the guidance, encouragement and inspiration of many teachers, professors and industry professionals. I try in every way I can to pay them back by doing work that makes a difference and by meeting/working with young people to pay that legacy forward. Hopefully, in some small way, I can empower other creative people, young and old, to do the same” (B. Mc Kendry, personal communication, 2008).

Students have worked on two real ad campaigns for Hanon Mc Kendry. The first was for SentrySafe Memory Box and the other for Mel Trotter Ministry’s holiday campaign.

SentrySafe campaign ideas

Mel Trotter holiday campaign ideas

Charitable Blooms

A parent who owns their own flower shop needed  a new design for their online charitable flower sales. I told him my students would be very interested in working with him on the project. He offered $100 for the winning design, and a pizza party for everyone involved. I should note that I do not require that the client is obligated to use the final design even though it is chosen.


A friend of mine was excitedly sharing with me about his son’s underground skateboard company. He was frustrated with trying to do their own logo design, so I offered for my students to give it a shot. It was awesome to see peers designing for peers. I even thought that would be a great Graphic Design class- PEEPS  would be the name of our firm and it would be all work done for student peers in the community or even international. Students who have a vision for a company and need help with marketing materials. Love it!  My students did an amazing job with this project. They were really geeked about helping a peer with a cool skateboard vision. We had the SkateFirst “founders” make a youtube video for us to watch as a class, explaining their company’s spirit, vision and audience. They did a tremendous job with that and it was really helpful. Students then worked together researching and creating an audience board, and printed off current skateboarding logo designs. Students then worked on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator with their logo designs. We sent them off to SkateFirst and they chose the winning one, (purchased a cool t-shirt for her) and then my students began the process of creating marketing materials- home web page, business card, letterhead, envelope. We had the SkateFirst team come in and introduce themselves and students presented their work. SkateFirst chose the marketing materials they would like to use. Students then designed a variety of t-shirts for the company, and the winning design was selected and students received a free t-shirt.

Tim Cusack

I got connected to national motivational speaker, Tim Cusack, who was enthusiastic about the concept of students working on real projects. He was considering a new logo idea and wanted my students to present concepts to him. Although his manager didn’t choose any, a pizza party was thrown for their effort. It was just awesome to see my students present their work. I tried to make it as formal as possible so we met in our high school conference room!Grand Rapids Bimmer, LLC       Luxury Chauffeer Services

Two recent alumni remembered NPC’s Graphic Design department’s quality work and requested that my students take on the real-world project of designing the logo for their new venture -a private chauffeur company for Grand Rapids. Excited to take on this real-world project, I invited Joseph Naimo of Nimo-studio to co-teach with me. Students chose creative directors to lead 5 different “ad firms” and are currently researching for product mood boards. Here is a 2 minute presentation that the young entrepreneurs gave to my students. Students spent a week researching and developing target audience boards and presented them to the client for feedback. By doing this step, students were able to hone in on what the client is really looking for. Students also had the real-world experience of public speaking by presenting their work to the client, shown here in this video link.

Fictitious Clients

Sometimes all I can do is create a client, but that has worked well to simulate a real-world project. I have even dressed up with wig and suit to be a “client” – fooling an exchange student! My principal has also been willing to wear a wig and be the “client” for us – which was hilarious. I introduce fictitious clients by saying for instance, “I have a friend named Bill Silver who is interested in starting up a new business. He is an entrepreneur as is open to what that business might be. He knows for sure he wants to name it after his wife, Iris. The business will be called Silver Iris, but he wants you to come up with a product and marketing materials that would match the spirit of the name and company.” The students catch on that it is all hogwash, but they think it is quite fun! and who wouldn’t want to come up with a new business?

On-line Competitions 

There are always design competitions on line as well as sites specifically for logo design. Although some designers “frown” on these sites, it is an awesome opportunity for my Graphic Design 2 students to have their go at the real market. No one knows their age!

In-house work

Even if you have no connections at all with designers or clients, your school could always use student help. We have done school logo designs, brochures, flyers, posters for plays, t-shirts for sports and activities etc. Some have been contests, others paid, or pro bono. I have even had students design wordless storybooks and “read” them to the 1st graders.

NPC sports logomural for NPC


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