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Dissecting design


This is day one of a four-week unit plan that helps students learn the basic terminology, functions and foundations of design. Topics covered include typography, color, grids, formatting, spacing, measurements and modular design.


  • Students will identify the four basic categories of type.
  • Students will learn and recite definitions of design terms.
  • Students will know how to read and apply measurements.
  • Students will know how to format type using common design language.
  • Students will know the basic concepts of color application, purpose and use.
  • Students will learn and practice how to work within a grid using appropriate spacing and modular design strategies in Adobe InDesign.
  • Students will create layouts using different column grids using Adobe InDesign.
  • Students will learn and practice how to place, size, crop, edit and apply a stroke to photos using Adobe InDesign.
  • Students will learn and practice how to place, size and format headlines and body copy using Adobe InDesign.
  • Students will learn and practice how to use the various tools and functions of Adobe InDesign that are critical to layout presentation.


Common Core State Standards




Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context.


Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.



This is day one of a four-week unit if class meets daily (55 minutes/class). Adjustments can be made accordingly.


Slideshow: Dissecting design



Old newspapers and magazines


Rubric: Dissecting design


Lesson step-by-step

1. Journal: Bell Assignment —10 minutes

Ask: What print publications do you like to read regularly (newspapers, magazines, etc.) or browse while you are waiting in a doctor or dentist office? What makes them appealing?

Discussion – Write pub names on the board while students respond, placing checks next to the ones with multiple votes.

Ask: Why do they like those particular publications? Get a general feel for what makes those particular publications special to your students.


2. Main Instruction—20 minutes

Review with the class the “Dissecting Design”  powerpoint on what makes design appealing

  1. Type
  2. Color
  3. Modules & columns
  4. Art

3. Dissecting Design Assignment —20 min.  and finish as homework if necessary

Looking through old newspapers and magazines, find and cut out examples of the following elements that create visual interest:

  1. 2 examples of good type use
  2. 2 examples of good color use
  3. 2 examples of modules
  4. 2 examples of good art use

Glue the examples to a sheet of paper (or multiple sheets depending on example sizes). Number them accordingly. On a separate sheet of lined paper, write 2-3 sentences for each example explaining why they are good representations of those elements … what made them stand out to you?

4. Clean-up—5 minutes



Assignment should be graded/evaluated using the “Dissecting Design Assignment Rubric.”