Michael Johnson

Welcome to Digital Art and Design!

  Michael Johnson


I'm Michael Johnson, your child's instructor for Digital Art and Design I and Digital Art and Design II at Union County High School. This is a project-based curriculum where we peek behind the curtain at what makes visual communications design work. Each week builds on the previous one to help students gain a deeper understanding of visual perception and memory. We will explore the trifecta of graphic design: layout, color and typography. Then we will integrate these elements to craft powerful and effective visual displays.

What is visual communications design?

The terms "digital art and design" and "visual communications design" suggest that this is an art class, but it is a mass communications course. More specifically, it is communication through a visual aid and is described as the conveyance of ideas in forms that people can read or see.

Visual communications design employs a variety of disciplines -- marketing communications, publishing, journalism, advertising and public relations. There also are artistic and aesthetic principles involved, but it is more through the perspective of coordinating promotional messages through one or more channels (print, radio, television, direct mail, etc.)

How is this class relevant?

Design is everywhere you look: logos, websites, business cards, advertisements, brochures, billboards, magazines, product packaging, posters, magazines, books, newspapers, greeting cards, playbills, matchbooks — the list is virtually endless.

Is "visual communications" just a fancy way of saying "graphic design?" Not really. The old-guard field of graphic design focused on translating the conceptual to the visual using a variety of 2-D media. Emphasis was on creating the form of the message using photos and illustrations.

Visual communications 
includes other types of communications beyond the print medium of the old graphic design industry. One example is the design of interactive computer presentations that integrate video, animation, sound, stored images and text.

By its problem-solving nature, visual communications is about combining the "why" of the message with the "how" of the medium for a specific purpose and audience. It provides the form of graphic design as well as the function of why this particular medium (printed material, website or other) best suits a particular message.

Is an art background necessary?

While having an art background is fine, it is not a requirement. If enrolled, your child will learn the industry-based techniques from the ground up in addition to developing critical, transferable skills (time management, working on deadline, teambuilding skills, collaboration, critical thinking).

What are some relevant careers?

There are many jobs and job titles in this field, depending on your interest, skill set and continued education, including:

  • Advertising sales and manager 
  • Animator
  • Art director
  • Copy editor
  • Desktop publisher
  • Editor
  • Graphic designer
  • Illustrator
  • Layout artist
  • Marketing communications specialist
  • Multimedia specialist
  • Photographer
  • Public relations specialist

If you have any questions or an interest in discussion the field in person, feel free to contact me. I look forward to working with you and your child!