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UWRF professor, colleagues, awarded grant to create high school graphic design curriculum

November 9, 2016

Dan Paulus, UW-River Falls associate professor of art, has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) for the Design Training Program for High School Teachers in June 2015.

The collaborators for this project are Paulus, UWRF Art Education Lecturer Heather Delisle, Assistant Professor Bradley Coulter of Minnesota State University-Mankato and Connie DeMillo, design, digital media and innovation instructor at Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District Career and Technical Center.

AIGA, the professional association for design, is the oldest and largest professional membership organization. It focuses on spreading the value and impact of design across all disciplines in society.

“Applying for the grant wasn’t difficult. It was very straightforward,” Paulus said. “AIGA started a new grant called the Innovate grants.”

Paulus said a fairly large amount in grants was given to him, so he put together a team.

AIGA Innovate is a grant program that encourages chapters and funds projects across the country. It is a four-year fund with up to $250,000 to be awarded each year.

“The grant allowed us to create a full curriculum to integrate graphic design into art classes at the high school level,” said Paulus.

The program is divided into four academic units and one resource unit. Each unit includes introducing students to graphic design, including 2-D design basics, the design thinking and design process and typography. Moreover, high school teachers can get access to handouts, rubrics and other resources after filling out a brief form available on the AIGA website.

Paulus said the proposal of the project stemmed from the need of a resource for high school art teachers to incorporate graphic design into their art classes.

“There is a lot of resources for universities, college and so forth but not so much for high school teachers,” Paulus said.

“We hold an annual high school workshop day in our department, and every year I have high school teachers asking me, ‘How can I start teaching graphic design at my high school art class?’ or ‘Where can I find resources to do that?’ There are resources but there was no one good resource for me to send these high school teachers.”

Paulus said that a hardship regarding this project was meeting the national and state level standard.

“When it comes to standards, there are a lot of government regulations on education, both on the state level and the national level,” Paulus said. “The problem with that is every state has their own standards and even from Minnesota to western Wisconsin, which is the geographic area for the AIGA Minnesota chapter which I belong to, both states’ standards weren’t the same.”

The team ultimately decided to adhere to the national standards.

“The whole purpose of this was a useful curriculum,” Paulus said. For the curriculum to be utilized by high school teachers, they focused on meeting the governmental standards. “We had to pause, look at the standards and develop the curriculum to adhere and meet those standards.”

The curriculum has been downloaded all across the nation and different countries.

“AIGA has a very large footprint in the design world, and I anticipate that this would be a useful tool nationwide, if not abroad as well,” Paulus said. “I sent the advertisement poster for the program to high schools. We are hoping that they will actually put this up in their rooms to really educate students about graphic design.”

For more information on the grant, visit www.aiga.org.