Emma Powers, a senior in Salem High School’s graphic design class, presses a logo onto a shirt as part of the collaborative learning project with students in the business management program
Emma Powers was confident in the designs she created for a new start-up business—Cruelty-Free Beauty Products. The logo was clean and simple with a crisp, light color scheme. Yet, as the client meeting approached, the Salem High School senior wasn’t so sure.
The client in this scenario was a fellow student in the business management course. This cross-class collaboration project is just one example of Salem’s efforts to build “real-life” scenarios into the curriculum.
“It’s great for the design students to contribute to a project to meet someone else’s objectives,” explained Kristen Deveau, graphic design instructor at Salem High School. “Having to create designs based on someone else’s vision helps simulate real-world scenarios. It requires communication and collaboration to reach an acceptable solution.”
Emma’s client was a fellow student from Susan Torrisi’s business management class. As part of the project, the business students developed a fictitious enterprise based on their interests. After developing a name and a business plan, they were connected with a design student to work on marketing and design elements.
The process starts with an information sharing meeting in the high school commons area. Business students present their ideas and work with designers to develop a direction and design elements. Communication continues until a direction is determined and designers present a number of options for consideration. For Emma, the process of presenting her designs to a fellow student was a little intimidating. “After working together on the project, you get to know them,” she said. “Having them judge my work can be uncomfortable.”
According to Deveau, just as in the real world, the business students don’t always choose the option the designer likes best. “As a designer, you have to be thick skinned,” she added. “It’s all part of the experience.”
The real-world scenarios extend to the project deliverables required for both the design and business students. Designers prepare and deliver final design files in multiple formats for use in print or online promotions. Business students create detailed plans for financial viability, facilities, operations, and marketing aspects of their business.
“Though there can be some stressful moments for both student groups in the project,” Torrisi added, “It’s a positive experience overall.” In the end, each student gets a t-shirt pressed with the business logo and a new collaboration skills gained from the process.