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How to Make an Absolutely Awesome Graphic Design Curriculum

Curriculum… Just take a second to let that word soak in… How does it make you feel?





However you feel about it, having a set curriculum is something that many administrators expect of teachers. And whether you like it or not, it does help you organize your plans and can calm some anxiety you may have about the coming year!

Whether you are a new teacher trying to figure out what to do or a seasoned teacher wanting to spice things up, having a curriculum plan may be just what you need to get started.

I felt much the same way when I first started teaching. I wanted to know what to teach and how to plan for it. I felt exhilarated at the prospect of teaching a subject that was less demanding and more free than core subjects, but at the same time, I felt a little terrified at the sheer number of possibilities… maybe you can relate!

With so many directions one could take, there is simply no perfect graphic design curriculum. However, looking at some curriculum examples can help! That’s why I have laid out my full curriculum below so that you can see what my year looks like. I’ve also included a free curriculum map overview for Graphic Design 1 and 2 (one semester each) so that you can see how I organize my year! 


NOTE: I have given you links to each of the units I’ve created below. The units themselves are available for sale, but if there are videos associated with the units, they will be free for you to view.

Semester 1

Graphic Design IntroductionIn this unit, students research possible careers available to them in the graphic design field. 

Learn Design Elements Through IllustratorThis is a fundamentals unit, they learn the elements of design as they walk through the basics of Adobe illustrator. They have both sketchbook and Illustrator exercises to complete.

CopyrightWe want our students to have a basic understanding of copyright. This unit is intended to be as brief as possible (to try to prevent them from daydreaming) while still getting the point across!

Pen ToolThe pen tool is an essential part of the Illustrator experience. This unit has multiple worksheet exercises and practice projects to get students comfortable with the pen tool.

Logo DesignThis unit puts those pen tool skills into practice and introduces even more Illustrator techniques.

Page Layout: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, ProximityThis unit teaches students a simplified version of the principles of design. I feel like these principles are easier for novice designers to digest than some of the more traditional design principles.

TypographyThis unit breaks down the different categories of type and helps students choose the most appropriate type for their designs in the future.

Christmas CardThis unit is all about applying previous knowledge. It is an optional unit that I use if there is enough time or for students who finish everything early.

Illustrator (semester) FinalAnd this unit ends the semester. The unit is an application final where they create an advertisement.


Semester 2

Introduction to PhotoshopIn this unit, students will gain a basic understanding of Photoshop.

Color TheoryStudents will learn about the color wheel and how to apply color schemes into their work.

Color BlendingBlending color is a big part of Photoshop! This unit gives students the opportunity to play around with the tools associated with blending color.

Create an EmojiThis unit gives students an opportunity to apply their knowledge of color and color blending.

T-Shirt DesignBringing things together, this unit allows students to apply their knowledge of color with their knowledge of the elements and principles of design.

Face AlterationsIn this unit, students will learn more advanced Photoshop skills.

Creating IllusionsAnother advanced project, students will use their blending skills to create a cross-breed animal. 

Final (movie poster) ProjectThe last project of the year will force students to use much of the knowledge they have learned to create a movie poster.


In a nutshell, that is one full year of graphic design! On a side note, I also have a graphic design course syllabus (a free download) that you can check out if you’re interested.

If you also teach digital photography, stay tuned for the next blog post and I’ll lay out some more curriculum examples for you! 

As promised, below is a sample curriculum map for you, click the button and enter your email!