Logo Design Basics: School ID

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, February 10, 2009

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Graphic Design

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

Seven sessions (or more if time allows)


This is an introduction to graphic design with a focus on the fundamentals of logo design. Students will become familiar with the objectives and needs of a client and develop logo designs based on those goals. The lesson is divided into two parts. Part one takes the students through the process of logo design. They are challenged to design a new school logo. Part two asks the students to take their new school logo and apply a theme. This lesson focuses on school logo design; however the lesson may be applied to any logo design challenge.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts
Grades 6-8
  Visual Arts Level III (Grade 5-8) Standard 1: Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts Benchmark 1. Understands what makes different art media, techniques, and processes effective (or ineffective) in communicating various ideas Benchmark 2. Knows how the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes can be used to enhance communication of experiences and ideas Standard 2: Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art Benchmark 1. Knows some of the effects of various visual structures (e.g., design elements such as line, color, shape; principles such as repetition, rhythm, balance) and functions of art Benchmark 2. Understands what makes various organizational structures effective (or ineffective) in the communication of ideas Benchmark 3. Knows how the qualities of structures and functions of art are used to improve communication of one’s ideas Standard 3: Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts Benchmark 1. Knows how visual, spatial, and temporal concepts integrate with content to communicate intended meaning in one’s artworks Benchmark 2. Knows different subjects, themes, and symbols (through context, value, and aesthetics) which convey intended meaning in artworks    


Students will:
  • learn the fundamental differences between fine art and design
  • learn how to listen to a client’s goals and aid the client in fulfilling their goals
  • understand the basic design process and objectives of logo design
  • translate verbal ideas into visual images
  • develop and refine logo designs
  • learn how to articulate their design solution to their client


  • computers
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or other graphic design software
  • printer/scanner
  • photocopier


  • 8 ½” x 11” white paper
  • pencils
  • other art supplies depending on the student’s project (markers, colored pencils, paint, etc.)


  • graphic design: the practice or profession of creating print or electronic forms of visual information for  areas such as publications, advertisement, packaging or websites.
  • client: a purchaser of a service or product; a client looks for a designer to act as the translator between their voice/idea and their audience.
  • logo: an identifying symbol (as seen in media formats such as print, television, business cards, etc.).
  • serif font: serifs are semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. A typeface that has serifs is called a serif typeface. (Example: Times New Roman font)
  • sans serif font: a sans-serif typeface is one that does not have the small features called serifs at the end of strokes. The term comes from the Latin word “sans”, meaning "without." (Example: Arial font)


PART ONE: SESSION ONE – INTRODUCTION 1.  Start a conversation about the differences between fine art and design. Many students are not familiar with the fundamental differences between fine art and design and will need to be reminded that design is about serving a client, getting their ideas across to others, and not strictly self-expression but, rather, resolving a problem. While their experiences as students and their personal style will be extremely valuable as they design a new school logo, they must remember that they are designing to meet the needs of their client (their school). Consider showing examples of fine art works and design side by side and ask the class to speak about their different approaches, purposes, goals and audiences. 2.  What is graphic design?  Ask your students to identify different examples of graphic design: websites, logos, printed materials, t-shirts, etc.  Leading questions: What purpose does graphic design serve? Does graphic design affect consumer choices? If so, how? 3.  Show the attached Logo Design Basics presentation (slides 1-18). This presentation will show your students several examples of various logos. The presentation addresses the basics of logo design such as font, color, subject matter, scale, etc. 4.  Review with your students the ways that logos are used to represent a specific organization, product, or brand. Successful logos may inspire trust, recognition, and respect for what they represent. 5. Present students with their challenge: Design a new logo for your school. 6. Each student will be asked to create a logo that fits these specifications:
  • Designs must reflect the school’s mission
  • The logo must incorporate the name of the school and mascot (a new mascot could be proposed)
  • Final presentations should include one copy of the logo in color, one in black and white and one scaled down to 20% of the original size
  • Digital files should be at 300 dpi resolution (print quality)
  SESSION TWO - GENERATE IDEAS Logo Design Process: 1. Show the attached Logo Design Basics presentation (slides 19-24). This set of slides reviews the basic phases of the logo design process. 2.  Research/know your client.  Understanding your client’s goals, history and audience is essential in creating a successful logo. In order to better understand your client, ask students to do the following:
  • Interview school leaders (have the class come up with a list of questions)
  • Research the school’s history and previous identities
  • Review the school’s mission
  • Identify the school’s audience
  • Identify the school’s future goals
3. Brainstorming.  Tell students that an early step of the design process called brainstorming allows you to work beyond more obvious ideas to explore more creative solutions. 4. Go around the classroom and ask each student to think of one word or phrase that reflects the identity of their school.  Record these answers on a large piece of paper.  Some guidelines for a brainstorming session:
  • go for quantity
  • one person speaks at a time
  • defer judgment - there are no good or bad ideas
  • encourage wild ideas
  • build on the ideas of others
5. Give your students a few sheets of 8 ½” x 11” paper.   Have them fold the sheet of paper in half vertically and horizontally, so the paper is divided into four equal rectangles.  These rectangles will be in proportion to the final size of the presentation, and can be used as thumbnails for sketches.  Give your students five minutes to brainstorm five to ten different concepts on their own (time and quantity may be varied depending on the abilities of your students).  Remind them that they are only generating ideas and concepts right now, and will have opportunities to develop and refine these ideas later. 6. Prototyping is an essential part of the design process. This step allows the designer to start clarifying their ideas and test their solutions with a focus group. 7. Ask your students to identify their two strongest brainstorming ideas.  Give them ten minutes to sketch out variations of these designs.  Remind them that these small sketches should only be used to plan out their designs, and that they do not need to worry about rendering imagery perfectly.  They should focus on the major issues:  where the text will go, where the images will go, where large areas of lights and darks will be placed, and determining a color palette if they have time. Students should choose a few designs to discuss and review with the teacher. This is a good time for your students to review the following:
  • Does the logo satisfy the client’s goals?
  • Does the logo clearly represent your school’s brand?
  • Does the logo work in a large and small scale?
  • Does the logo work in color and black and white?
 SESSION THREE - EVALUATE AND FINALIZE DESIGN 1. Evaluation/Articulation of design ideas.  A critical part of the design process is evaluation. Your students have the unique opportunity to have their designs evaluated by members of the school and their peers. Allow each student two minutes to present their logo design.  Remind the presenting student to articulate their client’s goals and how their design addresses those goals through their choice of font, color, image, etc.  The class will have three minutes to respond with their feedback. Encourage students to describe why or why not they like the designs and how they could improve them if they do not. Remind the class to articulate what they think is successful or not effective. 2.  Working on their final design(s).  Students should choose their media carefully (traditional materials or digital).  What media choice reflects and enhances their design idea?  Students should keep in mind the class responses and suggestions and make any changes they feel are appropriate. Remind students that if they choose to use digital media it must be done at a minimum of 300 dpi in order to be reproduced properly.  They must also use original material (no photos that they haven’t taken themselves). SESSION FOUR – PRESENTATION AND IMPLEMENTATION: 1.  Students finalize their design. The final design presentation should include their logo in these versions:
  • A. primary color logo
  • B. black and white logo
  • C. Logo in a large scale
  • D. Logo in a small scale (20% of original).
2.  Final presentation.  Students should present their final design to the class and members of the school administration.  Have each student present their final design and describe why this design has met the needs of their client and audience.  In addition, ask them to describe the process that led them to their final solution, including early sketches.  If they had more time, what else would they do or change?  Allow time for the class to respond and remind them to thoroughly articulate their feedback. * The design process is continual. Designers continually revisit “final designs” with the aim of creating the ultimate design solution. PART TWO: SESSION ONE – REWORKING LOGOS FOR SPECIFIC NEEDS: 1.  Tell your students that the school is hosting a special event and they want to rework their logo to reflect this occasion.  Assign a specific event to your students (for example, an alumni reunion, an Earth Day service day, a holiday celebration, the anniversary of the school’s opening, etc.). 2. Show the attached Logo Design Basics presentation (slides 25-31). These slides will express how logos have been adjusted to represent a new direction in a company, highlight a company’s various services and how a theme is applied—all while keeping the identity of the original logo design. 3.  Lead a discussion with your students about what makes a logo recognizable.  Font? Color? Symbols? Scale?  How can they use elements from their original school logo design to convey this added meaning? 4. The theme/event you identified is the new design challenge. How will your students interpret the theme/event and apply that idea to a logo that has to continue to be clearly identified with the school? 5.  Students should spend the rest of the session brainstorming ways to integrate the special event into their logos. Review the basic process of research, brainstorming and prototyping in Part One, Session Two of this lesson. SESSION TWO – REFINING YOUR IDEAS: 1.  Lead a presentation/evaluation session along with finalizing design ideas and as you did in Part One, Session Three — Evaluate and Finalize Design. 2.  Allow students to continue working on their designs. SESSION THREE – ARTICULATING YOUR IDEAS AND PRESENTATION: 1.  Lead the class in a final presentation as you did in Part One, Session Four—Presentation and Evaluation.  This time students should articulate how they modified their original design (font, color, etc.) and how they tackled the idea of adding another element.


Students should be assessed by their involvement in the entire process:
  • Did the student follow each step of the process?
  • Did they help their fellow classmates by participating in critiques and providing thoughtful feedback?
  • Were they open to changing and developing their ideas?
  • Did they adhere to needs of the client and audience?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:
  • As a class, look at different school logos (local schools, other elementary schools, universities, etc.). Ask students to describe what they notice about each logo and what they think different elements in the logos might symbolize.
  • Brainstorm together what different symbols they might use in their school's logo.
  • Type out the school's name and initials, in caps and lower case, and in a variety of fonts. Hand out copies to students. They can choose the font that fits their vision best and collage it into their logo design.
  • Also see Logo Design Basics: Your Name Here lesson plan.
Differentiation for High School:
  • High school students may be considering graphic design as a future career. Invite a local graphic designer to the classroom. Have him or her describe their design process while showing examples of recent work, from their brainstorming sketches to their final design.
  • Invite the graphic designer back to the classroom to offer critique during the evaluation/articulation session.
  • After final presentations, students can vote for the most successful logo. Ask school administrators if it can be included in a special event or the yearbook.

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