Graphic Design For Film

Star Wars ID Card - Created by Rek Dunn

Star Wars ID Card - Created by Rek Dunn

Recently I hosted a special workshop for my media communications students that focused on the use of graphic design in motion pictures. Not to be confused with motion graphics or animation, this workshop delved into the countless graphic props that need to be designed and produced for film and TV.

The workshop was inspired by an episode of the 99% Invisible podcast series featuring designer Annie Atkins who describes her work as creating “a cohesive visual world, establishing a film’s period and place.” My students and I listened to the full interview and to Annie’s accounts of designing “telegrams, vintage cigarette packaging, maps, love letters, books, poems, labeling, passports and fake CIA identification cards.”

After the podcast I asked the students to share their favorite period piece and their responses ranged from Pride and Prejudice to Stranger Things. From there the students researched the aesthetics of their targeted era and created a mood board to depict a collage of the various visual styles of the times.

Next, with research in hand, students were asked to design an asset or prop the might be used in their favorite period piece. We collectively brainstormed a few potential directions they might take:

  • Signs
  • Maps
  • IDs
  • Notebooks
  • Postage
  • Currency
  • Newspapers
  • Artwork
  • Advertisements
  • Packaging

This was only a 2 hour workshop so students were challenged to execute their ideas with a very short turn-around.

At the close of the session, students shared what they created and reflected on their process. Through the discussion, students were able to distill a number of key take-aways about graphic design for film and TV, including the importance of research, the reliance on storytelling, and the need for continuity.

Beyond the curriculum objectives, students walked away learning about an entirely different facet of the graphic design industry, about their own creative process, and about what is needed to rapidly produce a proof-of-concept.

Perhaps the biggest win for me as an instructor was that students were able to make the connection between creating something they were proud of and the need to give themselves ample time to do so!

Side Hustle

My advance copy of Chris Guillebeau's new book - Side Hustle.

My advance copy of Chris Guillebeau's new book - Side Hustle.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Chris Guillebeau. I started following his blog The Art of Non-Conformity years ago and have been inspired by his work ever since.

Guillebeau is a New York Times best selling author and today he is releasing his newest book - Side Hustle. I was fortunate enough to receive and review an advance copy of this practical guide on how to transform your skills and drive into a supplementary income source.

As y'all know... I've been hustling for years as a freelance designer.

What excites me most about this book is its practical approach to brainstorming, vetting, executing, and growing a profitable idea, all while holding down a day job. This is the first of Guillebeau’s books that targets this specific demographic. It speaks to the hardest working part of me that loves my teaching gig, but still wants to do more.

One paradigm shift presented early in the book is that “the side hustle is the new job security.” This idea echoes my firmly held entrepreneurial belief that a strong sense of self-efficacy is fostered when you’re able to leverage your talents and follow-through to generate income. 

As a faculty member at Full Sail University I have the privilege of working with eager millennials looking to enter the world of media communications. In essence, this book is the "how-to" they can turn to as they navigate this fast paced and ever-changing industry. It offers another path to security, teaching them how to earn a living, even when no one is hiring.

In short, this book offers a step-by-step, actionable guide for anyone looking to transform ideas into income.

RISE Digital Poster

RISE Model for Peer Feedback by Emily Wray

I recently gave the following presentation in the Higher-Ed Digital Poster Session at the Apple Distinguished Educators' Academy. Speakers were given three short minutes to share an idea or an approach they use in the classroom.

Imagine if every time you clicked the Facebook like button you were prompted to justify your reaction with a “WHY” or a “BECAUSE…” - Many of us would just keep scrolling because that kind of public articulation can be risky. What if our well-meaning comment is misunderstood or comes across as offensive? Several years ago I realized this is how my students felt when asked to perform peer critiques.

To help guide my Media Communications students through the intimidating peer feedback process, I developed a tool called the RISE Model. The four tiers of this framework align with Bloom’s taxonomy and support students when building these constructive analyses.


The first, most basic, level of feedback is REFLECTION. Evaluative comments, such as “I LIKE...” are welcome here, but should be elaborated on with a “BECAUSE...” that's rooted in a concept or technique from the course.


The second level is INQUIRY. Here students are prompted to ask thought-provoking questions that might lead to a new perception or clarifying questions to develop a deeper understanding of the intent of the work.


The third level is SUGGEST, where students introduce ideas for improvement of the current iteration of a project. These are specific considerations to help fulfill any stated requirements in the assignment description.


The last level is ELEVATE, which is where students are asked to imagine the potential of the project beyond the confines of a rubric and share ideas for expansion into future iterations.

Years later and the RISE Model has been adopted university-wide at Full Sail and in countless other classrooms throughout the world. 

Here’s what’s working…

The Structure

Students appreciate the framework - it gives them something to build on. And rather than generic or canned language, the prompts give students several angles from which to consider their response.

The Permission

RISE helps alleviate the anxiety and fear of peer critiques. Students learn how to not make or take constructive feedback personally.

The Mentorship

RISE gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of course content as they coach fellow students. In the process, relationships are strengthened through collaboration, rather than competition.

As we continue to immerse ourselves into this digital world, exploring the possibilities of and determining best practices for our connected classrooms, the RISE Model is a simple tool to help students have positive, productive conversations about their growth and development.

More information and implementation resources can be found at