Friday, November 25, 2011


DeMillo DeSign

Financial Literacy

On November 4, 2011 By

Via: Credit Score
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The powerpoint file from my NCPN Conference presentation is too big to upload so I will recreate it in a few posts. I presented with Deanne DeGraff, the principal of our school, and Erick Lehet, our math coach, about how I have integrated mat into my Design and Interactive Media class over a period of [...]
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Steve Jobs

On October 7, 2011 By
When I started out in the graphic design biz, I was a keyliner. I cut galleys of type with an xacto blade, waxed or rubber cemented it, and stuck it onto Crescent board. In 1989, I was the art director at a small b to b magazine, and was charged with converting the magazine from [...]
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I had a speaker from Minneapolis Business College in my class yesterday for a presentation called Psyched Up for Success. It was extremely engaging and I would recommend it on several levels. MBC has eight to sixteen month programs and helps graduates find jobs, so students can get a credential and start working with a [...]
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This free online book is a trove of valuable information that I will use in my Design & Interactive Media class as well as in my role as college and career coach to my students.
The main premise is that there are many options besides a four year college degree. Not that there [...]
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New CS Insider tips and tricks from Rufus Deuchler at Adobe:
Transparency in gradients: great for shadows that fade to transparent. How to fix a dashed stroke on an arrow so the corners are evenly stroked. How to make a palm tree into a brush that only scales [...]
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I received an email from Adobe Education Exchange today about how teachers are using Adobe products creatively in education, and found a teacher named Luci Rios, who has created several Flash-based worksheet generators:
Multiplying Polynomials by a Monomial Multiplying Polynomials by Negative One (-1) Absolute Value of Integers Worksheets Adding Like Terms An Introduction to [...]
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Here is a link to my part of the presentation on July 21 at the Southern Regional Education Board’s High Schools That Work conference:
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Adobe Illustrator is my favorite application. It is an area where design and math intersect, which is what I am all about, so that’s the reason for this post. I’d recommend looking at my Illustrator Intro page if you are a newbie to Illustrator.
UNIT 1 Draw Accurately

When I take a math [...]
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I’d like to thank my students in yesterday’s TIES Illustrator Intermediate class. We went farther than any other class I have ever taught there. Since I took the CGI Talking Math class, I have modified my approach to teaching. When we started to recreate a SIGG ad, [...]
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Meatless Monday

On July 11, 2011 By
We have been going meatless on Monday for a couple of months now, and, to our surprise, we look forward to it!
Last week we made homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Yummy blast from the past. Today a meatless lasagna is on the menu.
Why meatless?
Lots of reasons. Health, sustainability, and cost [...]
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Talking Math

On July 5, 2011 By
Our district offered a cognitive guided instruction class called Talking Math, an excellent class in many ways. I got to know really cool people from all over the district, learned a ton, and have some new ideas for math integration for fall.
Cognitive guided instruction is a shift from telling a student what to do [...]
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We Seed

On July 5, 2011 By

I am piloting a bare bones financial literacy with my students at the end of the year, when they don’t want to learn anything new.  I found a slew of infographics about credit card debt, average American savings, which college majors pay off with the highest salaries and which cost more [...]
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I attended mostly math based presentations and learned a lot that I can take back to the classroom. I also presented, and my audience was all math teachers!
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Mason Bee House
Mason Bee House
As our population of honey bees declines, an alternative pollinator is the mason bee. It is a small black bee that doesn’t make a hive. Instead, it deposits eggs in small holes in wood. The mason bee is extremely friendly to people; the male bee doesn’t sting at all and the females sting only when extremely harassed.


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Getting Started in Illustrator

I highly recommend that you go to and download the free 30-day trial of Illustrator CS5.5 before beginning this class. This version is a major upgrade from the previous versions. However, many of the movies you will be watching and learning from are from the Adobe Video Workshop and were made using CS3. The two interfaces are slightly different but the CS3 movies have files that can be downloaded and used by both you and your students, and everything that can be done on CS3 can also be done on CS5.

The Interface

Illustrator Interface
Screenshot taken from the online Illustrator Help menu.

Click on the image above to be taken to a description of the Menus, Toolbar, Control Panel, Document Window, and Panels in the Illustrator interface. Familiarize yourself with the terminology to be prepared for what lies ahead.

Customizing, Setting Up, and Manipulating

These are the first steps in learning Illustrator. I use these movies with students and then ask questions as a way of assessing if they are ready to move on.
Click on the Adobe Video Workshop link, scroll and select Illustrator on the left, Getting Started on the right (highlighted in blue in the screenshot below,) and watch the following three movies:
  1. Customizing the Interface
  2. Creating and setting up a document
  3. Selecting and manipulating objects
Watch these three movies first


Line, Shape and Eraser Tools

Line Eraser and Shape Tools
Screenshot from Adobe Video Workshop
Geometric shapes are the base of Illustrator. In my Accelerated Drawing class, my students learn to draw by breaking down any object into circles, rectangles and triangles. Add volume to those and you have spheres, cubes and prisms.
Play around with shapes, combining different shapes to draw. The example below shows how to combine a rectangle with an ellipse (or oval) to make a simple vase.

Mondrian Assignment

Piet Mondrian was a Dutch artist that used only black, white, and the primary colors of red, white and blue. He was part of the De Stijl movement, and used nonrepresentational shapes to express ideas like movement and rhythm.
Mondrian Paintings
Screenshot of Google results from the Image search of 'Mondrian."
This is a simple assignment that students (and you!) can do to start using the rectangle tool. First, under the Illustrator menu, select Preferences, Guides and Grid.
Make a gridline every 1 inch with 4 subdivisions to make a quarter inch grid.
Next, under the View menu, select Guides, Show Guides. Also under the View menu, select Snap to Grid. Now students can make their own Mondrian and practice using a fill with no stroke to get a Mondrian in minutes.


Drawing and Painting with the Pencil and Paintbrush Tools

Watch the following movies at Adobe Video Workshop in the Drawing and Painting section:
  1. Using the Paintbrush Tool
  2. Using the Pencil Tool
  3. Using Brushes from Brush Libraries
One thing that students tend to do is draw an image with the straight line tool, and then wonder where the paint bucket is. The sad fact is that there is no paint bucket in Illustrator. You need a closed path like the Shape tools provide in order to fill it consistently.


Using Live Trace and Live Paint

Watch the Using Live Trace and Using Live Trace movies at Adobe Video Workshop. I have my students download the files and work along with the movie. Every year there is some rather withdrawn student that is either a cartoonist or a manga or anime artist that finds themselves in Live Trace and Live Paint. Bookmark these videos; I had to watch them several times before remembering all of the steps.


Color, Gradients, Blends and Color Groups

Ellen Lupton has written the best graphic design book I have ever found, called Graphic Design, the New Basics. She has a companion website that gives an excellent overview of the basics of color theory. Here is a link:
Here’s a link to a great intro movie from Adobe Video Workshop on Gradients and Blends:
Color Groups in Illustrator could be a new way to teach or spiral back to Color Theory.
Here’s a video from Adobe Video Workshop on how to use Color Groups:
The color assignment I use in class is a food illustration for the annual cookbook that is a collaboration between my class and the Food Service class at the NE Metro Career and Technical Center. The book is called “Our Favorites,” and each Food Service student chooses a favorite recipe. My students find a photo of the food on the Internet, Place the photo  in Illustrator, Lock it, and draw over it, changing it into an illustration that is unrecognizable from the original. (This is a good time to talk about copyright law.) Then the students Place their illustrations into an InDesign file, where we assemble the book.
Recolor is also an amazing tool:



Most people never give a thought to the art of typography, but it is the hallmark of graphic design. Ellen Lupton )can you tell she is my favorite graphic design author) has a great site to accompany her book Thinking With Type. Browse through her site; maybe have the students take a look. She even has some games there.
This unit’s movies from Adobe Video Workshop are in the Filters and Effects topic:
  1. Creating Point and Area Type
  2. Creating Type on a Path

Logo Assignment

This is the point where my students design their Corporate Identity: it all starts with a logo drawn in Illustrator. The other components are done in InDesign: letterhead, envelope, resume, cover letter, and business cards.


Avatar Portfolio Piece

When my students finish this project, I put their avatars up on the board. Most students like this project, and the ones who are slow to finish are motivated by wanting to get theirs on the board.

Step 1: Take a Picture of Yourself

We use Photobooth on the Mac. But you could also upload a photo from your camera or phone. This should be a talking head type of photo of head and shoulders only.

Step 2: Place the image.

In Illustrator, go to the File menu , and choose Place… Navigate to your photo and place the image.

Step 3: Lock the image

With your photo selected, choose Lock, Selection. This will keep your photo from moving around while you draw on top of it.

Step 4: Start from the back and proceed forward.

Every object you draw on your document is stacked on top of the last one you drew, so if you start at the back, your objects will be in order when you are finished. Draw your neck and shoulders, as much as you can see of them. You can draw behind your clothing and head, this is just the backdrop. Use a stroke color you can see, and no fill. As you get pieces drawn, select them and move them out of the way.

Step 5: Draw the Head

I start with the Ellipse tool and press Option (Alt on PC) to make the circle draw from the center. Have a stroke color you can see, and no fill. Get the oval as close to your head shape as possible. Then, get in there with the White Arrow tool and move points, handles, or lines. You only need to be perfect on the parts of your face not covered by hair. Under the Window menu, go to Swatch Libraries, Gradients, and open the Skintones and Earthtones swatch libraries. Make sure you have the Gradient libraries selected; these both exist as flat color libraries as well.
Choose a skintone that matches yours and fill your head and neck with the color. Remove the stroke. A Radial gradient on the head and a Linear gradient on the neck makes them look 3d, but play around until you are satisfied.

Step 6: The Eyes

Start with the Ellipse tool and hold down Option and Shift to get a circle that draws out from the center, and draw the iris. Even though you don’t see the whole circle in the picture, draw it as a circle and we’ll mask it later. Fill it with an earthtone radial gradient that is close to your eye color, or a color you’d like. Change the gradient color points if you’d like to. When you are satisfied, use the same process to draw the pupil. Fill the pupil with the black to white gradient on the default swatches. To get a little spark of life, get the gradient tool and go just inside the upper left corner of the pupil and draw a short diagonal, so there is a little white but mostly black. Select the iris and pupil, align their horizontal and vertical centers, and go to the Object Menu and select Group.
Next, select the Ellipse tool and draw an oval that is as wide as the corners of your eyes and as high as your eyes are open. Get the Convert Anchor Point tool from the Pen Tool pod, and click on the left and right anchor points of the oval to make them into corner points. Use the White Arrow tool to manually move the corners of your eye to match the photo below. Make two more copies of the eye opening shape.
Place the eye opening shape on top of the grouped iris and pupil. If they don’t stack up right, select the eye opening shape, go to the Object menu, and select Arrange.., Bring to Front. When you have the iris, pupil and eye shape set up the way you want them, select them and go to the Object Menu, Clipping Mask, Make. This will mask the iris outside of the eye shape. Now make one of your eye shapes the  white of your eye and make the other have no fill and a stroke to your liking and get them all in position.
Don’t worry about the other eye yet. We’ll get the eyebrow done and use the Reflect Tool to pop  it into place.

Step 7: The Eyebrow

Most people can get a fairly realistic eyebrow by using the brush or pencil tool and tracing the arc of the eyebrow. From the Window Menu, open the Brush Libraries, Artistic, Chalk Charcoal Pencil. Scroll down to the thinnest brushes and see if you can find one that looks right to you. Alternatively, use the brush or pencil and draw the main shape and fill it, or draw the individual hairs.

Step 8: Reflect the Other Eye

Select the eye and eyebrow with the black arrow tool. Get the Reflect Tool (it’s in the same pod as the Rotate Tool), hold down the Option key (Alt for PC) and click right between your eyes to set the point of reflection and also bring up a dialog box. Select Vertical for the axis, and Copy. Bingo! Your other eye may need a little moving or rotating to perfect it.

Step 9: The Nose

The best thing I can say about the nose is less is more. One strategy is to find a color from your face gradient that barely shows up and draw just the bottom of the nose. Another is to show one side. If you draw nostrils, think of them as apostrophes, not ovals, or you will get a piggy nose. Experiment.

Step 10: The Mouth

This can be done many  different ways. I usually draw the lips separately and fill them with one of the pinker skintones. The boys in my class struggle with color on lips, but by editing the gradient color points, they come up with something they are satisfied with. If you are smiling and showing teeth in your photo, one strategy is to draw the lips as two separate objects, select them, go to Window, Pathfinder, and choose Exclude, to make the shepe in the middle see-through. Make your teeth nice and white and don’t put the lines between the teeth in or you almost always get George Washington teeth.

Step 11: The Hair

I usually use the pen tool to start the hair. It always looks like a swimming cap until I go to the Effect menu, choose Distort and transform, and then ____________. Turn on Preview so you can adjust as you go. Some people use a gradient to fill their hair and brush strokes over it. Spiky hair can be achieved using the Crystallize or Wrinkle tools (in the same pod as the Warp Tool.) Double click the tool to customize the presets.

Step 12: Finish up

By now all  you have left is your clothing. Use the pen or pencil to draw it. Sometimes students fill with a pattern if they are wearing a patterned shirt. Otherwise, a nice gradient with a few wrinkle lines over it works well. Put everything back together, go to the Object Menu, Select Unlock All. Your photo will be selected. Delete it. Done!

Opacity Mask
is a great tutorial on opacity and clipping masks.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Blog Spot

This blog has moved to See you there!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We Seed

I am piloting a bare bones financial literacy with my students at the end of the year, when they don't want to learn anything new.  I found a slew of infographics about credit card debt, average American savings, which college majors pay off with the highest salaries and which cost more they are worth in terms of earning power.

We start each day with a discussion about what the average American is doing wrong ($10,000 in credit card debt vs. $2100 in savings for starters) and ways the students can avoid those pitfalls. I heard on the radio over the weekend that the main obstacle of financial literacy is instant gratification.

Yesterday I told the students I was giving them each $10,000 to invest in the stock market, and I did, through, a stock market simulator. It is fake money, but I showed them my portfolio on weseed that has earned more than 10% in less than a year.

Some of them really got into it and were having a competition on who was making/losing the most money during class time, completely missing my point that the way to make money in the market is to buy wisely and for the most part, hang on to your purchases.

My hope is that they will take something on this topic with them when they leave my class that will lead them to happier lives.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I encourage any educator to Google "Buy, Use, Toss" and download the excellent free curriculum that is available there. I am using only miniscule pieces of it but it is transforming the way I am approaching my unit on advertising.

I started on Monday, as I like to do with a new unit, and showed the first segment of "The Story of Stuff." Yesterday we looked at Aquafina and Dasani websites, oh how ecological and earth friendly-looking! Next we visited, Running the Numbers, and I showed his work entitled "Plastic Bottles, 2007," which looks like an Impressionist painting until it zooms in and you realize you are looking at a mountain of plastic bottles, two million to be exact, the number used in the US every five minutes. Then I showed the Story of Stuff Bottled Water movie, which told the story of how Coke and Pepsi saw their sales start to slump and decided to make us afraid of our own, almost free, tap water, and sell us bottled water at a 10,000% markup. Remember how we laughed at Perrier? I admit I bought bottled water for years.

Most "recycled" plastic is shipped to India and thrown away in a mountain of plastic that will be there for thousands of years. Speaking of mountains, many bottled water labels show mountains as a symbol for purity, but most bottled water is filtered tap water.

We invent our life story with every purchase we make. A reusable water bottle and a Britta filter is all it takes to save thousands of dollars and mountains of plastic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

AIGA Minnesota Faculty Forum

April 9, 2011

Keynote presentation:

Thomas Fisher is Professor an Dean at the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. He has written extensively about architecture.

The promise and paradox of design education in the 21st century
Four dilemmas we face as design educators: there is a promise and a paradox in each

1. Change in Media: the IPad effect

Are ipads productive or disruptive tools? They transform space and time, just like the printed book did. The IPad presents a new change in media that is as revolutionary as when the printing press was invented. People now have the web, social media, and their own web of interconnection all on one devide that they can carry with them at all times.

Prior to the invention of the printing press, a handlettered book cost as much as a house, so only the very wealthy could afford to read. The printing press changed all that, making reading and information available to the masses. The Gutenberg effect is the idea of rationality as a way of understanding the world, viewing the world as a machine. It also derailed the Catholic church and ushered in the scientific revolution.

Bran Ferren, former Disney Imagineer and futurist asserts that Ipads will profoundly shift every industry.

2. Change in Metaphor: DesCartes Effect

Today we view the world, not as a machine, but as a network or web. The brain is no longer a supercomputer but neural network, cities are now connected communities.

The role of design thinking in all of this is that other industries want our thought process. Design thinking is a weblike way of looking at the world— abductive. Abductive is the third piece of inductive and deductive thinking. It’s the moment in the design process when we intuitively know a solution to the design problem. It is lateral, intuitive and linked, not linear.

Design thinking will be as important in the new world as math was in the old world. This is the promise. This is the paradox: people want design thinking on a plate, everybody thinks they are a designer. They ask us to explain our way of thinking to them over lunch.

3. Disciplinarity: breadth vs depth of knowledge. Foucoult Effect: discipline is punishment, forces people into boundaries

If the world is a web, interdisciplinarity is everywhere. Fascination with breadth.

There is a change in method with interdisciplinarity. Power becomes whoever has the most links. The way to accrue power is to have as many interdisciplinary connections as possible.

Design thinking can solve the really difficult problems that are left in the world, and can only be solved be everybody getting together to form a solution. Problems like poverty, climate change, and population control. Like the Gutenberg effect, disciplinarity is a change in the method of communication.

The University of Minnesota has adopted a challenge curriculum in their design school. Students major in a discipline, minor in a challenge. Education is a T shape: deep in one aspect and broad in the other.

Designers will be on bigger teams and our skills will be used to solve bigger problems. This is the promise. The paradox: how do we go from disciplinary to interdisciplinary?

4. Design Education: Richard Ford or Daniel Pink Effect

Design pedagogy is evolving from a marginal to a central model. Engineering, which has seen the world as a machine, is trying to figure out what we do in the studio.
Students need to think entrepreneurially about problems.

Promise: this encourages outliers. The term outliers refers to a Malcolm Gladwell book of the same name that describes people like Mozart or Bill Gates as essentially people who have such passion about something that they spend 10,000 hours doing it while still at a young age, making them the top in their field. Outliers think divergently, rather than convergently.

We need to innovate more and more rapidly to solve today’s problems.

Paradox: our form of education will become more broadly used in other disciplines.

Our students are heading into a world that is a vast delta of opportunities.

Discussion after the keynote (open to all attendees):

Portfolio reviewers want to see the process that led to the end product. What did you eliminate and why?

The number of letterpress studios opening up on campuses is boggling.

Design thinking is taught by what problems go into the sketchbook, they can solve bigger than graphic design problems.

Studio pedagogy is mostly conversational based learning.

This is a great time to be alive, like the Renaissance and the Gutenberg eras.

Get the students out of class and walk around helps students link ideas to place, they always rate those classes higher.

Leaders tell new stories about the world in compelling ways.

Politicians are still arguing about 20th century problems. There is a lack of leadership in that arena.

Graphic designers are engaged in telling stories through media.

A panel discussion followed:


Paul Bruski is an assistant professor at Graphic Design University. His interests include cultural iconography and mapping, and has presented on information design, design education and visual literacy.

Alex DeArmond is Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at UW-Stout, worked as a senior designer at the Walker Art Center and is fluent in exhibition and signage design.

Bill Moran is a 3rd generation letterpress printer, graphic designer and professor of printing history at the University of Minnesota. He teaches “travels in typography,” which looks at the history and evolution of the printed word.

Doug Powell is a designer, entrepreneur and business strategist at Minneapolis-based Schwarz Powell Design and is incoming national president of AIGA.

Bill Thorburn opened Thornburn Group in Minneapolis, specializing in brand development.

Panel Discussion

Bill: Telling the story of what we do is critical. What is the value that a designer brings to the table? We sell innovation, we think visually (the new global language), we have the ability to grab mission/vision ideas and distill them into logos, we think systematically into the whole brand experience, which ends up being trust. We sell experiences. We also print business cards on letterpresses, and these make our fingers smile.

Alex: first year teacher. Typography is the DNA of his design practice and the critical skill for graduates. It is the discipline that we can claim as ours as graphic designers. Typography translates between print and digital media.

Paul: artistry and craft are the pillars of design. It shows that someone cared about something. Architecture, interior design and graphic design, landscape design, integrated studio arts students at his school are together in their first year, then diverge into their own discipline, then are brought back together in their last year, an I model. The more interesting design problems are broad. Students want to get to the end point but need to be encouraged to go back and generate more ideas and concepts.

Bill: Writing is really important in the class, find out what students are experts in. Give them a piece of history and ask them what is the contemporary analogy? Blog format = many to many. Students are asked to comment on each other’s commentary. If they write a paper it just goes to the teacher but if they blog it gets many more views.

Stephen McCarthy, U of M: We merge the literary and the visual. You can’t teach typography without teaching writing. What do the words say, what do they mean? Why does Zapfino work better to say I love you than Cooper Black?

Alex: Give them fantastic content and high quality images to work with. Spend time outside of the classroom.

Seth Johnson: When we went to school, we were not content creators. Now we have the ability to make typography real instead of tracing it. We need to develop our own content.

Bill: What does that mean to a design curriculum that has limited resources? How do you incorporate these new ideas. Our students need to acquire new skill sets.

Who is our audience? What is our client trying to say? Get into the head of a baby boomer when you are a twenty-something.

Bill: We can’t teach everything. Typography is an essential component to communication. Type is a foundational element but so is color. So is texture. These create cues that our audience picks up on and responds to. THis is how we bring these stories to life. What is the relevance in the cultural landscape? What can we own? We don’t want to make Apple look like Microsoft.

Tom Fisher: pidgin languages are emerging on the web. What about Arabic typography, Chinese calligraphy,

Bill: There is an exhibition on the 2nd floor of MIA that has Chinese characters in bone, in jade, there is a permanency of iconography.

Stephen: went to see rosetta stone as an icon of typography.

Alex: Holland’s designers are required to be multilingual.

Paul: Designers are problem seekers as much as problem solvers.