i’ve been working with the LA area chamber’s pillar program to link up with LA area high schools with graphic design programs, providing the perspective of a working designer for curriculum enhancement. most recently this took the form of the LAUSD linked learning summer institute with canoga park high school. several schools from LAUSD were present, and after a morning presentation, we split off into groups by school and worked on curriculum development.
the group of teachers included instructors in digital art & yearbook, drawing, printing, photography and english. they were a really great group of educators who have been working hard to improve school programs within tight budgets. i was really impressed with the curriculum they already offer. it’s so much more developed than anything my high school offered to potential designers, and while some of this is the natural evolution of education multiplied by the accessibility of the internet, some of it is old-fashioned care and attention being paid to our profession.
the focus of the consult was supposed to be about how i could help advise on real-world scenarios and help direct curriculum to address these things in the classroom before the students become employed. interestingly, though, we got into a discussion about the current perception of the school and how it’s not where they’d like it to be in order to attract students who want to participate in the design program. it had all the makings of a branding conversation, so i said it sounds like canoga park high needs a brand makeover! and they agreed.
we decided to start talking about it as a possible project for the design program to tackle. what i love about these teachers is that they were full of questions and had great ideas about implementation. one of them asked “if we were to conduct a rebrand project, how would you suggest we do it?” we went through having the students brainstorm on all their perceptions about the school, good, bad & ugly, and refining their thoughts to core ideas.
we talked about conducting an informal market research campaign where they could interview their parents, neighbors & local business owners on perception of the school and analyze it. we talked about developing a brief going forward and having students propose projects they’d like to do to support it [photo essays, psa poster campaigns, identity exploration, mood boards, poetry in a typography-only layout, etc.]. we talked about having kids in 3 different classes group up [a designer, an illustrator and a copywriter] to work to produce projects as creative teams. we talked about environmental and experience design—what’s it like to walk into the attendance office to get an absence slip, what about that experience is a reflection of the school? whether these things actually get redesigned or just remain projects isn’t important, but the process of identifying parts of a system and how to improve them is.
what i love about it the most, is that it serves multiple purposes. the students will be building amazing portfolios, the school will have attention to its image paid from the inside out, and the educators will have no shortage of artifact to send along with grand proposals to show the level of work they’re doing.
of course, it doesn’t stop there. one of the biggest challenges with a diverse group of students is relative levels of exposure to design. i’m sending over resources the educators can use to present all different types of design to the students, as well as offering to come in and talk about portfolio development and help give the students a good idea of what they’re in for with a career in design. i really hope they find a way to work up to the school rebrand project, it’s a big thing to organize, but it would turn out some really exciting work.