design education technology

Advice for a fellow new graphic design teacher

Here’s an email sent to me yesterday:

Hi Dawn!

My name is Jeanne, and I am a new hire at an all boys school in [city removed].

I found your site and have to say you are a HUGE help to me as I am flying blind!! I have NEVER taught before.

I am an artist who has done some freelance artwork on mickey mouse programs (MS Picture It! & Print Shop), along with some freelance illustration (pen & Ink). So, now I am faced with setting up a Graphic Design 1 class (along with Art 1 and Yearbook) and I have no assistance whatsoever!!! Help! I am looking for a semester’s worth of lesson plans for Photoshop or Pagemaker. I used to use Pagemaker (while working as a graphic designer at an ad agency for 10 yrs.). I am looking for a book or site that might have printable lesson plans and lectures. I’ll have to learn as I go– and pass it on as I learn! I do have Photoshop CS2 at home.

I am sooooo overwhelmed… I was thinking of starting out not even using the computers for a couple of weeks– history of graphics, old fashioned thumbnail sketches, critiques of ads n such and study of Typography… Any thoughts??? Oh, btw I have been a stay at home mommy for the past 12 years to 3 daughters. You can check out my VERY basic website for my drawings at

Thanks for being a helping hand in this crazy world!!!!



Here is my reply:

Hi [name removed]!

Your website may be simple, but it’s beautiful. Your work is impressive. I’ve tried doing cityscapes and landscapes, and I find architecture to be very challenging to draw. I’m much better at people.

I’ve not taught graphic design before except within the structure of a college “Photoshop” class. I feel that in a “graphic design” class, the software comes second to design concepts. That’s why I’m essentially breaking down the year into four components, each about nine weeks long:

  • pencil/pen and paper exercises
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign

InDesign is the new industry standard for page layout. Pagemaker is no longer supported, and will have no further updates or upgrades so far as I know. InDesign is like Pagemaker all grown up; it’s far more powerful, and it’s hands-down better than the previous industry standard called Quark.

There are lots of online tutorials for Photoshop. I saw a great lesson a teacher posted online in which the students each have to go find an online tutorial, do it, then teach the rest of the class. This is best done after they get the basics. I taught Photoshop at the college level using Adobe Photoshop CS2 One-On-One by Deke McClelland. It’s fantastic, and the students enjoyed it.

Here’s a breakdown of the topics I hope to teach my students:

  • Careers
  • Products
  • Elements & Principles
  • Design Tools
  • Planning
  • Layout
  • Color Theory
  • Typography
  • Scanning
  • Digital Design Basics
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Prepress
  • Introduction to Advanced Topics

You can find what I’ve implemented so far (such as Careers and Elements & Principles) here:

I’ve attached a supply list I requested that the high school buy for my graphic design course [see table below].

You can see that there’s a whole lot to teach that has little to do with software! I’ve got a number of books on graphic design at home to help me build my lessons. Design Basics for Creative Results by Bryan L. Peterson (no relation) is a great place to start.

One of my online friends uploaded his entire college graphic design course materials (single semester) here on

Good luck!

Dawn Pedersen

Here’s what I’ve asked my school to order from

Qty. Description Unit
6 Blick Tracing Paper, 9" x 12", 25 lb., 50-Sheet Pad Pad/50
4 Bienfang Cross-Section Graph Paper, 8 × 8 Grid, 8½" × 11", 50-Sheet Pad Pad/50
11 Blick Economy Construction Paper, 9" x 12", Ten Assorted Colors Pkg/50
6 Blick White Sulphite Paper, 9" x 12", 50 lb. Ream/500
6 Pentel Colored Pens, Fine Point, Set of 36 Colors Set/36
6 Crayola Colored Pencils, Set of 50 Colors Set/50
30 Blick Glue Stick, Purple, 1.27 oz. Each
10 Blick Washable White Glue, 16 oz. Each
1 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Adhesive, 16.5 oz. can Each
25 Canson Colorline Art Paper, 19" x 25", Ebony Each
30 Excel Hobby Knife, K1, Aluminum Handle, 6-1/4" Long, with #11 Blade Each
30 Safe-T View-Thru Non-Shatter Ruler, 12" Each
10 Blick Aluminum Ruler, 18" Each
30 Rex Teachers’ Shears, 7" Long, 3¼" Cut Each
10 School Pencil Compass, 5½" Nickel-Plated Steel, 6" Arc, Pencil Included Each
10 Masonite Panel, 14" × 18"  Each

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

One reply on “Advice for a fellow new graphic design teacher”

Thanks for another informative site. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I’m just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such information.

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