May 23, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 5

MLHS students put design skills to the test

Manipulated photos, magazine covers, book designs and various other digital design projects were on display last week at Medical Lake High School, all created by students.

Led by high school teachers Jason Spakowski and Don Parr, the students worked in recent months to hone their skills and create the items for the show. The digital design and visual communications design classes were among those contributing to the show, which was featured in the high school lobby for a couple of days last week.

Along the way, students were excited to showcase their work, presenting it for the public to see.

“This is just another avenue for kids to really express themselves and gain recognition,” Spakowski said.

Among the photo manipulations showcased were panographs. Spakowski said students broke photos down into smaller bits and pieces, then put them back together again piece by piece. Adding transparencies to different layers help to blend the different sizes together where they overlap, creating a slightly distorted version of the original photo. Portions where the photo pieces overlap are darker, and the result can take any number of shapes or outlines.

“It brings a little bit of themselves into the photo,” Spakowski said.

Early visual communication design classes look at the very first steps to a project, factoring in all of the elements that go behind the scenes. Spakowski said the class looks at what a customer might want to see in a product, focusing on the important factors behind the project they’re about to undertake.

“The first year covers a lot of the applications, but we do get into things like the target market, looking at things through the customer’s eyes, as well as the artistic side of things. We’ll talk about color schemes and the color wheel,” he said.

Students also worked on producing small cereal boxes, folding them into functioning packages with all of the necessary bits included. Side images, UPC codes and nutritional information are all included to make them look authentic.

The projects mirror some assignments at the college level, where students work with real companies to produce promotional materials in design courses.

The projects, teachers said, inspired students to pursue the perfect product beyond the classroom. Their desire to have a good final product helped drive their passion during the project development.

“Some kids are so far ahead because they’re self-driven,” high school teacher Ann Everett said.

The growth throughout the year, Spakowski said, is immense. Some students who begin the year unfamiliar with the design software have found themselves pretty knowledgeable with it by the end of a project, building on their foundation for the next one.

“Now they’re going into layers, where they’re going to make a cutout,” he said. “Instead of just one piece at a time, you’re thinking about the next step.”

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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