Teaching Technology & Creativity Through The Arts

Lesson Plan


Portfolio Construction: Basic Principles of Design


Understand basic design principles by being able to name them, identify them, and use them in a self-authored design.

Art Concepts

Visual Arts, Sound, and Movement


"Where educators have the advantage - and the opportunity - is in involving students in the production, in making them the stars. If the classroom becomes a learning stage where teachers become the audience and the critic, and the students assume the roles of playwrights, actors, set designers, lighting crew, and so forth, students will learn to think imaginatively, and they will become excited about learning."
Burmark, L. (2002)

"Once you can name something, you're conscious of it. You have power over it You own it. You're in control."
Williams, R. (1994).


Learn more about the design principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity.


Approximately 240 - 300 minutes

Standards / Arts EALR's

1.1 Understand arts concepts and vocabulary.
2.1 Apply a creative process in the arts.
2.2 Apply a performance process in the arts.
3.1 Use the arts to express and present ideas and feelings.
3.2 Use the arts to communicate for a specific purpose.


Content Skills

Introduction to key concepts of design; contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity.

Needed Resources

Internet for research with a computer and projector, books, magazines, space to make tableaux, and a white board

Hear, See, Say, Do the Concept

Make a low pitched and then a high pitched sound using hands to exaggerate the difference. Have them say the word contrast together. Then have students repeat a low pitched sound and then a high pitched sound. Explain that they have just experienced contrast between the two sounds. Now have the students say the word repetition together. Then have then repeat a repetitive sound. Share that they just participated in repetition. Take your two hands and line them up and make a clap. Have the students say the word alignment and proximity together. Then have them align both hands and make a clapping sound. Share that they have just used alignment and proximity.


Hold up page layouts from books and magazines and have students volunteer what they like about the pages. Introduce them to contrast, repletion, alignment and proximity on each page. Use the student's words that they offer up in the discussion to define each term. Post these definitions in the room for all to see.


Students will form teams of four. Have the students count off, 1,2,3, and 4. Each student on the team will research one of the four design concepts. Extra credit will be awarded for including design elements from other cultures. Examples of the four design elements are found all around the world. Good design has no cultural or regional limit. Inspire students to look beyond their country to others for inspiration in their design. Make sure they document the origin of their inspiration.


The team will design a poster or page incorporating the definition of each concept while using the concept in the design of the document. When completed each team with have an installation incorporating each design element with its definition. Do not show the class an example of a completed project as this may limit their creativity, but do entertain questions until apparent clarity is achieved. Give each team a class period to create their offering.

Developing Skills

Review the Four A's of audience participation. Critique each project as a class focusing on the strengths of each presentation. Identify what works in the design and offer ideas for improved design creativity and efficiency. Remember to have each team member explain their part in the design of the project.


Show the students the portfolio diagram and discuss the elements that will be included in their portfolio. Explain that they need to build a design for the main, or first page, of the portfolio with space for a navigation bar including the words; Home, Projects, Leadership, Biography, Journal, and Resume. They should also design for a space for the brief description of each of the pages that will constitute the portfolio. The final portfolio will be published as a web site but the initial design can be done in whatever media is most comfortable. They do not need to be concerned with the content of the page at this point. This is purely a design exercise.

They can make-up content to fill in the areas of their design if they feel the need. Images or design elements can be created using any media available in class, computer or otherwise. Later in the term they will populate the design with content from their projects once it has become a web site. Remember this is a work in progress and will evolve over the term. Again, do not show current portfolio designs, as this may limit their creativity.

Have the students document their design process in their journals. Have them focus on how they decided to use or not use the four design concepts. Remind them that during the presentation of their design they will need to justify their us of the design elements. They should also cite their design inspiration and cultural considerations for their design, during their presentation.


Review the Four A's of audience participation and also the design elements. Have each person present his or her portfolio. Have the class give feedback after each presentation. Be sure to enable a process that gives students positive feedback so they can evolve their designs in the future.

Review and Evaluation

Review the key concepts presented by each student, be sure that each design element has be considered if it is not directly represented in the final presentation. Write them on the white board each students ideas for all to see and absorb. This will help facilitate class discussion during the evaluation. When all of the presentation are done, show the students previous portfolio designs as motivation and inspiration for their designs. Also show them more design resources they may want to investigate on their own.

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