Skip to main content
Planning for Computer Failure: Paper Graphic Design project ideas

Your plans ran short today? You have a class full of students who finished a project early and don’t know what to do? You have a computer lab which suddenly only has half of the computers in operation? Your country has suddenly shut down due to a deadly virus and now you must completely change your plans and figure out how to teach 30 students from your computer at home?

Any one of those situations could be cause for panic! That’s why I’ve put together some of my favorite “off day” Graphic Design activities so that you can at least have something to fall back on while you figure out what you need to do to move forward!
These activities can be separated into 4 categories: Research, Skills work (off computer), Videos, and Computer based. I’ve got a list of these activities in a pdf so that you can easily find the links later if you like! 


image source



I have 2 great research series available. The first series covers what I consider the greatest graphic designers from the last century.  The second series focuses on logo designers. You can follow the links above to the main post for each of these series and download the free worksheets or if you want to purchase the full units you can get the Graphic Design Legends Research Unit here or the Famous Logo Designers Unit here.

These series can be stand alone series and each takes about 15 minutes to complete. You can have the students go through them and then discuss them as a class or you could make it a completely independent project.

It could be a springboard to a bigger research project where they choose one of their own favorite graphic designers and  research them on their own and make a presentation for the class.

This could go a number of different ways depending on how much time you need to fill before you can get your feet back under you!


skills work
image source

Skills work:

I have a number of units that require no computer to complete:

An Introduction To Graphic Design
Copyright...or Copywrong!? 


But if you are looking for something quick, you can try one of these options:

creative exercise combining geometric and organic shapes
back to the basics exercise
different ways to present the alphabet 


image source


If all else fails, a good design video and giving them a plain sheet of paper asking them to tell you something they learned can work just as well as anything else! Here are a few of my favorite design videos:


Once they finish, ask them a few reflection questions like:

  • What was the most important thing you learned from the video?
  • How can you incorporate some of these ideas into your own work?
  • What is something you disagreed with and why? (Some students really get into this one!)


image source

Computer based:

I know that the title of this article is called paper based graphic design projects...BUT if you are lucky enough to have computers available to students during a crisis, there are quite a few websites out there that can be used as one day activities for students. These are some of my favorites:


Or if you are looking for something completely different you could always start a completely new unit. 


Hopefully you’re able to find something here that you can use! Next week, I’ll put something similar out for Digital Photography, so stay tuned!

Download the FREE pdf list of short graphic design project ideas that goes along with this article. Click the button below and enter your email!