The Beginnings Issue

Design with the Cell Phone in Mind

By Eric Gibbons, posted on Aug 3, 2022

For this lesson, I wanted students to create and photograph an artwork that would become the wallpaper for their cell phones. They could express their personal interests if it was school-appropriate. Students had access to watercolor pencils, markers, paint pens, magazines, rulers, and compasses. They could email me a Google document filled with images if they wanted to collage elements or trace them. With this in mind, I also provided light tables.


SchoolArts magazine, The Beginnings Issue, September 2022, High School art lesson, Cell Phone Wallpaper Designs
SchoolArts magazine, The Beginnings Issue, September 2022, High School art lesson, Cell Phone Wallpaper Designs
SchoolArts magazine, The Beginnings Issue, September 2022, High School art lesson, Cell Phone Wallpaper Designs
These colorful wallpaper artworks were designed to scale down and fit studentsʼ individual cell phone screens.

When I start with teaching a new class, I like to do an introductory lesson that requires little instruction and lets students express themselves overtly for two important reasons. First, it builds trust and lets students know Iʼll create lessons where their interests, points of view, and values can be expressed. Second, it allows me to learn about my students individually. As they create, I circulate the room, ask questions about their work, and learn about them in the process. I sometimes even gain an understanding of trends that are popular with their generation which can influence my future lesson planning.

Simple and STEAM-Powered
For this lesson, I wanted students to create and photograph an artwork that would become the wallpaper for their cell phones. They could express their personal interests if it was school-appropriate. Students had access to watercolor pencils, markers, paint pens, magazines, rulers, and compasses. They could email me a Google document filled with images if they wanted to collage elements or trace them. With this in mind, I also provided light tables.

I like to integrate core content or STEM connections into my lessons because it improves studentsʼ understanding of all content areas. For this lesson, I tied in proportion and scale and the use of cross-multiplication. Students had to determine the aspect ratio of their own cell phone screen and calculate the width of their final artwork knowing it would be 18" (46 cm) tall.

Procedures

  1. Find the ratio of your cell phone screen (many are 16:9). You might find it with a simple Google search. For example, the ratio of an iPhone Pro Max screen is 19.5:9.
  2. Knowing the ratio, determine the width if your cell phone screen is 18" tall. Use cross-multiplication to find the exact number. The YouTube link (see Resources) explains how to calculate this for your phone. In my Pro Max example, it would be 8.3" (20 cm).
  3. Cut your paper to the correct proportions and design wallpaper artwork that can be photographed and added to your phone. Your artwork should show something about you: interests, point of view, an issue you care about, etc.
  4. Stuck? Try these ideas: Illustrate your favorite song and include some lyrics. Create a parody cartoon. Email a selfie for the teacher to print and then trace, draw, and decorate. Graffiti your name in block letters and fill them in with patterns.
  5. Complete four thumbnail sketches and select one to explore as a final sketch. When you are satisfied with that sketch, create your drawing on white paper cut to the correct proportions.
  6. Photograph your final artwork, add text if you like, amp up the colors if needed, and add it to your phone’s wallpaper.

Photography Tips

  • Tape the back of your image and place it at eye level onto a whiteboard.
  • Stand directly in front of the artwork with your camera centered at eye level to take your photo.
  • Be sure no shadows hit your image.
  • Photograph with and without flash.
  • Check your image for clarity and “squareness.”
  • Crop the image and alter colors if needed.
  • Add basic return information (phone number or email) if desired.

Eric Gibbons is an art teacher at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a contributing editor for SchoolArts. LovsArt@Gmail.com

National Standard
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

Resources
Cell Phone Ratio
Cell Phone Artwork

View this article in the digital edition.