How do posters work?

By Dawn Boland, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

5 Workshops


These workshops are designed for students who are learning about Graphic Design, specifically about designing posters for an intended purpose. Within these workshops, students will learn about the design process and how this can be used to create designs that solve problems or address design briefs (customer / user needs). The installation at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum of Design allows students to ‘see how designers see’, students then apply this new knowledge to design briefs provided during the ensuing workshops, especially in relation to the concept of ‘visual thinking’.

National Standards

Visual Arts – Anchor Standard #6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work   Investigate / Plan / Make Select / Analyse / Share Interpret / Analyse / Perceive   Trans-disciplinary Links Language Arts – Writing and Speaking Math – Number and Measurement


  • develop an understanding of artworks from an audience perspective.
  • develop an understanding of the ways posters work and the design process
  • use and record the ‘language’ of art and design to frame their responses to questions.
  • develop an understanding of the term ‘design brief’
  • evaluate and justify their understanding of what makes a great poster.
  • work individually to create and explain a ‘pint-sized’ poster.
  • create, arrange and explain in groups their posters that follow specific design briefs and techniques.
  • create, arrange and explain individually their posters that follow specific design briefs and techniques.
  • create, arrange and explain individually their posters that follow specific design briefs and techniques.


A guest speaker - perhaps a graphic artist Computer and data projector Poster paper, pens, paint, collage materials,


All handouts and workshop plans are available on the attached documents


Artwork An artist’s expression of an idea, theme or design-brief that would reference to particular forms, styles or mediums. Audience Individuals or groups of people who experience the arts in a range of settings and contexts (formal, informal, virtual or interactive) through intellectual, emotional and social engagement. Breadth Wide range or extent.   Cliche Phrases, opinions, images that are overused and demonstrate a lack of original thought.   Design Challenge   A difficulty or challenge that can be solved through design.   Design   To make something for someone who needs to solve a problem.   Designer   A person who designs; one who creates a new object, idea or plan.   Design Process   The steps you take to solve your challenge.   Design Solution   The way, idea, or answer to a design challenge/problem.   Double Meaning An idea or statement that is open to more than 1 interpretation or perception.   Elements of art The ‘building blocks’ of an artwork, the fundamental parts that shape a work of art. These include: Line, Shape, Colour, Form, Texture, Space and Value. Elimination The act of removing all or parts of an artwork to draw the attention of the viewer to specific details.   Familiarity Well-known or recognizable in some form to the viewer or audience.   Focal Point A specific part of an artwork that pulls the audience’s to that spot, usually this is the centre of the artwork’s idea or the main subject of the artwork. Often this is used in conjunction with the elements of colour and tone in the composition of the artwork. Form   The shape and structure of an object.   Function   The way something works. e.g.,the function of a paper clip is to fasten things together. Hierarchy May be a system or organization where items are classified according to importance or need.   Materials   The items you are using to represent your ideas. e.g.,foil paper represents metal Mediums The materials that are used to create a work of art.   Narrative Connected events that form a story or statement.   Needs   What the user must have in order to use the design successfully.   Placement The deliberate action by the artist or curator to position ideas, themes and / or elements within an artwork or installation. Portfolio A set of pieces of creative work selected by the artist to display their skills, especially to a potential employer or educator. Poster Intended for public display in a public place, an artwork that displays a specific purpose or message for the audience. Prototype   An original model on which something is patterned.   Provocation An action that incites a response or reaction (good or bad) from the viewer.   Team   A group working together on a common goal or activity.   Techniques The skills, knowledge and processes that are used to create artworks.   Solution   The way, idea, or answer to a problem. There can be more than one solution.   User   A person who operates or experiences the design.   Variety Pieces that show differences or contrast in skills, mediums and elements.  


Workshop plans attached


Students produce posters both in a collaborative group and individually as the workshops are based on see, we do, you do. Artworks and discussions can be assessed as per teacher discretion.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Guest speakers are invaluable during these workshops.

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