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Lesson: Design Capstone Project


Design Capstone Project


A culminating project to combine what students learned into one design assignments


This lesson combines all of the skills and concepts presented in the previous lessons: units of measurement, principles of design, typography, color, use of space and ways to package verbal content visually. Students will demonstrate skills by creating a single page for a newspaper or double-page spread for a yearbook or magazine.


  • Students will apply content and skills toward a culminating project.
  • Students will produce a layout that conveys a theme through its design.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA.Literacy.W-9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of a subject.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.9-10.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS.ELA.Literacy. L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills — Student Outcomes

Learning and Innovation Skills Creativity and Innovation
Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts
LIfe and Career Skills Initiative and Self-Direction
Monitor, define, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight
Information, Media and Technology Skills Information Literacy
Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
Evaluate information critically and competently
Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information.
ICT Literacy
Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information
Use digital technologies (computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.), communication/networking tools and social networks appropriately to access,  manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy.


200 minutes (four 50-minute classes)


Handout: Capstone Project Assignment Sheet

Slideshow: Yearbook Samples

Slideshow: Newspaper Samples

Images for capstone project


Colored pencils



OPTIONAL: Computers with desktop publishing software

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Project description — 5 minutes

Distribute the Capstone Project Guidelines to students. Explain the project to ensure every student knows the requirements expected. Answer questions and check for understanding.

2. Show samples — 20 minutes

Use the slideshow presentations to show newspaper front pages and yearbook spreads. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each sample in terms of photo selection and size/placement, color, typography and use of space as well as any special graphic elements used to unify the design. Select one from each set for students to evaluate using the rubric.

3. Reminders of what to include  — 5 minutes

Reiterate to students they will need to have content-driven design. They shouldn’t merely decorate the page(s). Then ask students to list the main elements their layout will include. Some answers may include: dominant element, headline, copy, photo(s), infographic or alternative story form.

4. Decision — 5 minutes

Students should decide whether they are designing a newspaper page or yearbook/news magazine spread. Discuss how both options have challenges particular to the medium.

5. Planning — 15 minutes

Using one of the three photo sets provided, students will plan their layout, making notes of which photos to use, then brainstorming ideas for alternative story forms and other elements. If possible, provide a contact sheet of images so students can make notes during this stage.

6. Pair share — 10 minutes

In partners, students will have 5 minutes each to discuss their ideas and ask questions. Questions to address include:

  • Who cares?
  • Why do we care?
  • How will readers know where to look?
  • What elements will unify the story?

Day 2

1. Review — 5 minutes

Ask students to explain the expectations for this assignment.

2. Sketch time — 20 minutes

Using either paper and pencil or dry erase markers on a desk, have students sketch their layout idea. Remind them to pay particular attention to the items outlined on the rubric.

3. Conferences — 20 minutes

Ask students to hang their pencil and paper drawings or leave the layout sketched on the desk. Divide the class in half. One half should walk around providing feedback to the people standing next to their layouts. Do this for 10 minutes and then have the other group provide feedback to the other side of the room. Please remind students they should “sandwich” comments (such as a positive, negative, positive, etc.) and should be as specific as possible with feedback.

4. Reflect — 5 minutes

Instruct students to make notes of the feedback they received and/or take a photo of comments on desks in which students used dry erase markers. Students should pay particular attention to what was good and what needs to be improved.

Day 3

1. Independent work time — entire class period

Students should have the time to work. Encourage discussion and questions during this time.

Day(s) 4 (and 5 if needed)

1. Presentations — entire class period

Students will present their layouts. They should critique each other as they present. Again, they should remember to “sandwich” comments to offer a balance between commendations and improvement areas. If the class is especially large, you may need another day for presentations.

Rubric: Capstone Project

*partial points may be given

(0 points)
(25 points)
(50 points)
Total points*
Design principles The layout does not demonstrate balance, harmony, contrast and unity. Elements do not create a flow for readers, and spatial relationships are not consistent. The scale of the items is not consistent. Overall, the design does not develop the content and theme of the topic. The layout demonstrates balance, harmony, contrast and unity in its design, but elements do not necessarily create a flow for the viewer, and spatial relationships are not always consistent. The scale of some items overwhelms portions of the design. Overall, the design develops the content and theme of the topic. The design mostly connects the elements, although some elements may stray from the theme. The layout demonstrates balance, harmony, contrast and unity in its design. The elements create a flow for the viewer with strong visual impact, and spatial relationships are carefully planned to emphasize key content and create consistency. The scale of elements work well within the space of the layout. Overall, the design enhances the content and develops the theme. The design connects the elements as a whole. ____ / 50
Alignment Elements are mostly aligned by x- and y-coordinates. They do not always line up with each other, and there is some wasted, awkward or trapped space. Elements are not aligned to grid and column guides. Elements are mostly aligned by x- and y-coordinates. They do not always line up with each other, and there is some wasted or trapped space. Some elements are not aligned to grid and column guides. Elements are aligned by x- and y-coordinates. They line up with each other, and no unplanned or trapped space exists. Elements clearly have been aligned to grid and column guides. ____ / 50
Color The use of color distracts from the overall design. Color choices do not match and do not convey a sense of unity within the elements. Color choices are not repeated throughout the spread. The use of color matches the overall design. Color choices sometimes clash and do not always convey a sense of unity within the elements. Color choices are repeated throughout the spread. The use of color complements and enhances the overall design. The color choices work together well to convey a sense of unity within elements. Color choices are repeated throughout the spread to develop unity. ____ / 50
Typography Five or more fonts are used, and the font choices do not work well together. The font does not contribute to the overall design and distracts readers from the content. Three or four fonts are used, and one or more of  the font choices may not work well together. The font contributes to the overall design of the spread but does not necessarily help create a unifying theme. No more than two fonts are used, and the font choices work well together. The font enhances the overall design and helps create a unifying theme. ____ / 50
Verbal elements Verbal elements do not match most of the photos and do not work in the design. The written content does not signify an obvious purpose. Connected elements are not unified, failing to emphasize key content. Most or all of the verbal content on the spread looks the same. Verbal elements match most of the photos on the spread and work well in the design. Connected elements are not unified, while important content is not emphasized. Type treatments don’t always fit with the rest of the design. Verbal elements match the photos on the spread, and combined with design choices, signify a purpose within the design. Connected elements are unified, and important content is emphasized. The written content and type treatments work toward developing the design and the theme. ____ / 50
Photography The layout fails to include photos, or the selected photos do not match the verbal content. Photo choices are irrelevant and of poor quality. The included photos do not always match the verbal content. The quality of the photos is adequate but not exceptional. Good photos appear but may not be positioned in the most effective ways. The layout includes photos carefully chosen to create visual impact and match the verbal content. Photo choices contribute to the overall design. The quality and placement of the photos is exceptional. ____ / 50
Total points ____ / 300