I’m co-teaching the journalism/yearbook class this year. My part of the class focuses on graphic design and page layout. When I was studying design I had a grumpy old teacher who learned his craft from some of the original Bauhaus people in Chicago. Of course, all modern design work is done on computers but he didn’t let us touch a computer for the entire first semester. Instead we practiced all the classic techniques of cutting with X-Acto knives, pasting things onto poster board, hand lettering, drawing logos, etc.
One of the most useful assignments for me was a cut/paste exercise designed to teach us about the grid system. I decided that before I would let the class start designing on computers I would at least make them spend one day doing some real, physical cutting and pasting. I
gave a short demonstration and showed them a video about old-school graphic design technique. Then I gave them poster board, pencils, T squares, glue sticks, cutting tools, and old magazines. The assignment was to draw a grid then cut out images and text from the magazines to paste into the grid.
The idea is to show students first hand how using a grid for layout makes a composition more coherent and pleasing to the eye/brain. They did some great work and I think the hands-on exercise got them much more engaged in thinking about the design process that jumping straight to the computer would have. Of course, they still wanted to listen to music on their laptops while they worked.