Lesson #5: Creating Thumbnail Compositions


Students will be able to:
Explain the meaning of composition, emphasis, positive and negative space, repetition. contrast
Create a good composition that illustrates emphasis, interesting negative space, repetition, contrast and effective use of color
Make creative judgments
Treat text as image
Rectangles, square, and circles of different sizes and colors of construction pape; gluesticks, design sketchbooks; camera
Arthur Hawkins book cover Red Smoke; reproductions of Russian Constructivist posters (El Lissitzky & Malevich); By Its Cover by Ned Drew
Show students reproductions of Russian Constructivist posters (El Lissitzky & Malevich)and book covers ( By Its Coverby Ned Drew.)
  • What does the word composition mean?
One of the principles of good composition is Emphasis.
  • What does emphasis mean in English?
  • What do you think it means in art?
  • Select one poster and explain how the designer used emphasis.
  • What kinds of shapes do you see in the poster?
  • How did the designer use the space behind these shapes?
  • What do we call the areas behind the major shapes? ( negative space)
  • Why is it important to consider the negative space when designing a poster?
  • Which poster has shapes that extend off the page? How does this affect the negative space in the design?
Another thing that designers think about is the use of repetition.
  • What does the word "repetition" mean in English? in Art?
  • Select one poster and explain how the designer used repetition.
  • How does this artist's use of color make you feel?
  • What would this "feel" like if he used colors such as____instead?
  • Why is your choice of color very important when designing a poster?
Explain that students have brainstormed ideas, made sketches for the symbols and pictographs we would like to use, and have explored different letter styles for their poster.
  • What do you think our next step should be?
  • How can we explore making a composition before actually deciding on one?
  • What is a thumbnail sketch?
  • What shape are most posters? (vertical)
We will use a vertical format for ours.
  • What are some questions you should ask yourself as you begin working on the composition for your poster? ( chart answers on board)
  • Will the image or text be emphasized?
  • How large or small will it be?
  • Where should each be positioned?
  • Will the shapes or the words extend off the page?
  • How should the space around the words be used?
  • What colors will create the feeling I want?
  • How can I create contrast between the text and background, font and image?
Show a sketchbook with teacher-made sketches and ideas for a poster.  Demonstrate how to cut out the shapes of the drawn symbols and the text.  Using these pieces, make a thumbnail composition on paper by moving the pieces around before deciding on the best composition.    
In your sketchbooks, create three thumbnail compositions by cutting out the shapes and text you will need and gluing them down. Be sure to experiment before gluing the pieces down.
Ask students at each table to share their collaged compositions with each other. Then ask:
  • How are your posters similar to the posters you saw at the beginning of the class?
  • How are they different?
  • Why are everyone's compositions different?
  • Why is it more fun to have different lettering than all the same?
Write a short, one-stanza poem about the topic you have chosen. Everyone's poems will be put together to create a larger poem about Planet Earth.