Art Lesson Plan: Graffiti Tag Name Design

Graffiti Name Tag

Submitted by: Jennie Auble
UNIT: Lettering - Aesthetic issues (Is Graffiti Art?) - Keith Haring
Grade level: Middle School (adaptable to elementary and high school)



For those who struggle with symbolism, they can do straight lettering and design an original tag made up only of creative lettering. They enjoy learning about Keith Haring and the graffiti discussion is always lively. We also hit on plagiarism and the importance of originality in the final design. The principles are learned easily because they have to incorporate them in the design and then tell me how they emphasized the principles. The self evaluation is like a wrap up quiz at the end of the project.



Washable Markers., Black Permanent Markers., Colored Pencils.., Crayons., Pastels., Acrylic Paint. (provide as many choices as you can manage)


3 1 2

Click on images for full size


Objectives: Students will

  • Design an original tag that is representative of self

  • Be able to incorporate the principles of design in tag

  • Do some creative lettering

Note from Jennie: This is a good introductory lesson for 8th graders. You could file it under design, lettering, or the artist Keith Haring and Symbolism. I like to start the trimester with this project because it helps me to learn their names, learn about them while they brainstorm symbols/designs about themselves, and it also shows me what level they are at in their drawing and knowledge of art supplies.



1. Introduce the principles of art – Power Point & take notes on handout
2. Introduce artist of the week – Keith Haring,. look at Art & Man magazines (Now Scholastic Art magazine). show PowerPoint of Graffiti (from Web Resources below)
3. Talk about symbolism used today around us – power point of logos, graffiti, ancient and modern symbols
4. Explain assignment:



1. Start with a balance plan – symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial
2. Choose 2-3 other principles you want to emphasize
3. Use objective pictures, lettering or symbols or non-objective designs but make sure the final design is original and not a copy of something you have seen. Talk about plagiarism.
4. Make several thumbnail size sketches to start brainstorming ideas on scrap paper
5. Mini-lesson on lettering – basic block, bubble letters, using graph paper, stylized lettering
6. Choose one of your sketches to create in full color – size 12X18 (30.5 x 46 cm) (or whatever size paper teacher selects)


Special notes:

Draw lightly so your pencil lines don't show through

Be careful of black because it can smear and make your colors dirty – use last! Permanent Black Marker could be used for outlining if desired.

If you paint, tape down paper to prevent curling

Pastels for backgrounds or large areas only and they will need sprayed.



See Rubric and Student self assessment below.




GRAFF: The Art & Technique of Graffiti. - Master graffiti artist Scape Martinez shows how he does his thing, offering streetwise advice to help other "writers" create maximum-impact, legally sanctioned work. Step by step, he lays out the philosophies and realities of the genre. From picking a "tag" and developing letterforms.

Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents. - The original collection of more than 2,000 illustrations by over 150 artists around the world is joined by a new section devoted to work created in the five years since the book's first edition.

Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution. - Tracing street art's origins in cave painting through the Paris walls photographed by Brassai in the '20s through the witty, sophisticated imagery found on city streets today, the book also features new and exclusive interviews with key figures associated with street art of the last 35 years


Online Activity:

Graffiti Creator also see Graffiti Generator

Keith Haring- A site by The Keith Haring Foundation.

Art Crimes the Writing on the Wall- One of the better known graffiti sites.

Best Graffiti sites (check before using with kids):

See an IAD news article on Graffiti

Mr. Wiggles- Site has graffiti lessons and alphabets (several different styles of letters). You can not save the alphabet images to file, but can probably print them off.

New York Street Art:
Check images before using with kids.

José Parlá - Paintings, graffiti art. Parlá now lives in New York City.

Artist who uses spray paint - Paco Rosic Aerosol Art

Bansky -

"Clean Graffiti" -

Basquiat -

Graffiti Exhibit -

Extra credit: Keith Haring – Symbolism worksheet - Extra credit tag for our school.


Web Resources


  • PowerPoint by Dio Gyu of Hungary- Shows recent graffiti from around the world. Click the "Download" button on the upper left to download the actual PowerPoint. Also see this page.

  • PowerPoint by Jaime Dehais - This file is in Spanish but it is quite good. Perhaps you could translate it using Google Translator and edit the file in English.

  • Street Art - There is no information on the author of this file. It describes the social problems of graffiti as well as shows recent graffiti.

  • Build-it-Yourself Graffiti ppt - This is an excellent PPT that is geared to older elementary and middle school students. It is a tutorial of creating graffiti from names.

  • Keith Haring- Drawing in Line ppt - This is a good one to focus on Haring's graffiti.

Suggestions from Pam Stephens:

For those of you who are contemplating a lesson or unit of study concerning graffiti, I encourage you to go beyond the idea of vandalism (tagging). There is a wide variety of serious artists whose work is considered graffiti, but it takes the concept to a deeper level.

Also consider that the media of graffiti can include much more than spray paint. One artist uses a sock to wipe away dirt and grime to create wonderful images. Others use stencil methods with temporary and permanent media (charcoal or paint).

Look for meaning or artistic intent and the develop a strong lesson around that.

The ethics and aesthetics of graffiti are a bounty for any classroom discussion/exploration. Just the idea of trying to define graffiti is interesting. Is it art? High art? Low art? Something else?


The Principles of Design Self Evaluation

Graffiti Tag Name Design

Name ____________________________________________ Period ______________

1. Was your design objective (a recognizable subject) or non-objective (just a design)?

2. Which kind of balance did you use?

Symmetrical (equal on both sides) Asymmetrical (informal placement) Radial (from a center point)

3. Circle two other principles of design you think you showed in your tag

Proportion (size) Emphasis (one part stands out) Variety (differences)

Rhythm (movement) Pattern (repeating) Unity (goes together)

4. Tell/describe how you used the two principles or how they show in your design:

Principle #1: ____________________________________________________________________________


Principle #2: ____________________________________________________________________________

How do you feel about the following? (circle one for #5 and #6)

5. Craftsmanship – Neatly done Average Below average Poorly done

6. Use of Class Time - Worked every day Average Below average Poor use of time

7. Outcome: How do you like it? _____________________________________________________________

8. Is there anything you would do differently or change? ______________________________________________________________________________________


9. Tell me what your "tag" stands for or the meaning behind your symbol:


Turn in this form with your project to the basket.


Christian Ryan has shared this idea for high school:

High school students are constantly subjected to the cultural pedagogy of media - movies, music, television, and the internet. Part of mass media's agenda of targeting the youth market involves branding - the process of developing a brand identity that the young person would associate their values with - for instance, the Mountain Dew branding effort involves "EXTREME!" and Wild! exclamations. Teenagers are often able to associate brands simply by their corporate logos - the Nike "Swoosh" or McDonald's golden arches.


I would hope to enable the student's critical media literacy by having the student disassemble the concept of corporate logos and re-appropriate the idea of "logo" for themselves. Let them know that THEY have their own values, and these values and ideas could be re-interpreted as their own personal logo - empowering the student to critically reflect their own ideas onto a piece of design. Also, we would examine instances of urban and artistic re-appropriation of the idea of "logo."


For instance, the urban graffiti culture has developed "tagging" - a way of indicating the graffiti artist's personal logo in their graffiti art. Also, we would look at the Hip-Hop group Public Enemy's logo - a logo which communicates their artistic identity and message, without having the problematic issues of branding.


Additionally, this project would help the students learn elements of graphic design, using digital production methods. This project allows the student to see beyond their own associations of commercial branding (Nike Swoosh, Golden Arches), see what other artists have done to graphically communicate their own identity, and then develop that personal graphic symbology for themselves.



Add to or Comment on this Page:

More To Explore