Graphic Design for Beginners

From: $90.00 / month for 5 months

Grades:  10th–12th

Live Class:  Tue 4:00–5:15 p.m. ET

Dates:  Aug 22–Dec 16

Price:  $399

Instructor: Brian Reeves

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Enrollment in this class is currently closed.

Course Description

This course provides an immersive introduction to the elements, principles and processes of two-dimensional graphic design, a foundational skillset in the visual arts, as well as design and communications in any field.

Students will engage with a series of design exercises and creative challenges including developing logos, icons, emojis, type/letterforms, patterns, and more.

We’ll be using analog tools like pens and pencils in sketchbooks and tracing paper, cut paper and glue, and also a variety of free online software tools.

Completing this course is the recommended step toward preparing for the more advanced design coursework that continues into the Spring semester using the professional tools made by Adobe which do require a subscription.

Subjects covered in this course will include:

  • The iterative design process, from ideation and rough sketches to critique, proofing and revision before calling work complete.
  • The “gestalt” principles of design affecting our perception, including: proximity, similarity, closure, continuity, figure/ground relationships.
  • An overview of color “theory”, including understanding how color works in both pigment and screen-based settings, using a color wheel tool to create color harmonies.
  • Using written identity guidelines to help steer the many design decisions to be made on behalf of a given project.
  • A look into the art of making type/letterforms (type design) and typography (the art of arranging type).
  • The fundamental difference between raster/pixel-based and vector/shape-based graphics.

Course Objectives: After completing this course, student will be able to:

  • Use analog and digital tools to engage in the creative process to develop effective solutions to visual and textual problems, including getting comfortable with the daunting but powerful Pen tool used to create vector graphics.
  • Experience visual art and design with greater sensitivity.
  • Communicate with greater clarity as to the qualities of designs made by themselves and others.
  • Tap into their own interests, passions, concerns, and ambitions as content for coursework.
  • Consider the needs of a client, an audience and other contextual factors for each project.

Free digital tools we’re likely to use include:

  • Adobe Color – a useful color wheel tool
  • The Bézier Game – a great way to learn the crucial vector drawing Pen tool
  • Vectr – an online vector graphic drawing tool
  • Fontstruct – an online type design tool
  • Photopea – an online Photoshop-like tool
  • Canva – a layout designer

No prior experience is required or expected!

Required materials

  • sketchbook, or loose paper without lines
  • 18” x 24” drawing pad paper
  • mechanical pencils with eraser
  • tracing paper
  • 18” ruler
  • scissors
  • a glue stick
  • tubes of cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white paint
  • one or more paint brushes

Many of these materials can be found elsewhere, but an online shopping list will be made available for the art supplies.

Course Structure

Each class meeting will begin with a look at the previous week’s homework, followed by a lecture/discussion and technical demonstration. Students will be encouraged to share their work-in-progress via screen-sharing and the camera.

Each week’s homework will be listed and covered during class. 1-2 hours of homework will be expected each week, and will sometimes entail watching a video online that I’ve found or created to help work and learn a particular topic at your own pace.

The information shared and technical knowledge will be largely sequential, so missing previous classes could make it hard to work on current work, so students who miss class will be encouraged to review the previous meeting.

Who should enroll?

This course is recommended for 10th-12th grade students interested in art and design, and especially for those intending to enroll of the 2nd semester design course which will build upon what is covered in this course using industry-standard professional tools by Adobe.

There’s no prerequisite, and previous design/software experience is not required, but experience in drawing is recommended.

Technology Requirements

  • High speed, broadband Internet
  • Web cam, sound card and working microphone (for live sessions)
  • Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures
  • Computer with internet connection to use the free online tools
  • An email address to sign up for some of the free online tools
  • A camera —phone cameras will do well

Evaluation and Feedback

Feedback will be offered in each class and, in some cases, in written form. Scores will be applied to most assignments within the week following the first due date, with lower scores usually meaning the directions weren’t followed. Students are encouraged to set up individual meetings to get more feedback and to work through any conceptual, aesthetic or technical impasses.

Assignments can be revised for more credit up until the end of the semester.

Participation in class meetings is worth 25% of the grade, so that earning an A or B requires coming prepared and getting engaged with the instructor and classmates during our meetings.


Parents and students can contact me via email and can expect a response within 24 hours. They can also set up a Zoom meeting via If the time that works for them isn’t available there, I encourage them to suggest a time that does via email.

Required Texts


No texts are required for this course.


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Instructor Bio

Brian Reeves

Hi. I’m Brian Reeves.

I’m an artist, designer, and educator who loves engaging in the creative process, expanding my horizons to learn new things, and sharing my passion for art and design with students of all ages.

I first studied drawing and printmaking at the University of Minnesota and the University of Northern Iowa, where I gained experience creating etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, and screen prints. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I embraced digital tools, starting with Photoshop, and expanded to designing my own interactive software and websites.

Since completing my education, I’ve continued working on fun and rewarding creative projects in a wide range of media, including portraits, sculptures, cartoons, illustrations, logos, packaging, posters, pamphlets, instructional diagrams, 3D models, websites, mobile apps, fonts, animations, banners, murals, and more.

While many of my creations have been exhibited in galleries, printed in publications, and displayed on city streets around the world, I’m most proud of the work I’ve done in the classroom helping others learn to express themselves creatively using many traditional and digital media.

I have taught drawing classes since 1994 as well as other subjects at various colleges in Missouri, Maine, and Massachusetts, where I currently teach drawing and design courses at Boston College and Emmanuel College.

I bring positive energy and a constructive spirit of experimentation, wonder, and mutual appreciation into the classroom to create a welcoming, collaborative environment, meeting students where they’re at in their development. I strive to create fun, challenging assignments to explore art, encouraging students to tap into their individual interests to complete assigned projects. Some of my own favorite subjects beyond art and design include astronomy, backyard birdwatching where I live in Maine, playing games, and making music.

I’m excited to begin working with many of you at Aim Academy!

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