Button, Button Who Has the Button?

Activity Overview: 

Students create eye-catching designs on the computer that are made into buttons and sold to the school population, as well as the community.


  • Students will participate in a discussion of effective use of design.
  • Students will learn how to incorporate type and image into one eye- catching design.
  • Students will recognize the connection between art and technology.
  • Students will combine art knowledge with their use of technology by combining drawing, computer skills and the use of search engines for images.

Students create eye-catching designs on the computer that will be made into buttons and sold to the school population, as well as the community.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)


Curriculum Standards



National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators http://cnets.iste.org/sfors.htm

Students will participate in a class discussion on the use of design.


Students will view past button designs and participate in discussion of good design elements.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 4, 5


Students will brainstorm ideas for new, creative designs that would promote positive messages about a school activity.

Arts: Grades 9–12, Visual Arts: 4, 5


Students will create rough thumbnail sketches of their initial idea on plain white paper.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 1


Students will pay special attention to the creation of an original design and avoid using any recognizable symbol or trademark that already exists. They will discuss copyright free artwork.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 2

Grades 9-12: 2

Students will choose a specific font for their “idea”.


Grades 9-12: 1, 2

Students use clip art images on the computer, click art images from a CD click art set, and Internet clip art images to locate the best image to convey their idea.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 3, 6

Grades 9-12: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Students participate in a hands-on lab project that allows them to create and print the button in one class period.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 3, 6

Grades 9-12: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Students reproduce their design at least four times on the one sheet.


Grades 9-12: 1, 3

Students participate in a class critique of the button designs addressing what images would sell to the public and how other designs could possibly be altered to achieve a better product.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 2, 3

Grades 9-12: 6

Students select the ones that they know will be popular with the students and approved by the administration.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 3

Grades 9-12: 6

Students print multiple copies of the selected buttons and cut them out with circle cutters.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 1

Grades 9-12: 1

Students use the Triarco Rotary Button Machine to make the designs into final finished buttons.

Arts: Grades 9-12, Visual Arts: 1


Microsoft Word. Microsoft.
Available: http://www.microsoft.com

Paint. Microsoft.
Available: http://www.microsoft.com

Broderbund Click Art CD set.
Available: http://www.broderbund.com


Computer Lab 
Color Printer
Triarco Button Machine

Web Sites:
Internet Clipart.com 

The students will receive one grade for their thumbnail sketches; at this point I am looking for the initial creative idea. The students will receive their next grade for their work on the project in the computer lab. At this stage I am watching how well they listened to instructions concerning the programs we are utilizing. They need to be able to perform basic tasks; such as inserting word art and resizing it as well as changing the color until the font works with the idea. They also must be able to insert an image into the design. They will need to follow the project through and reproduce their finished design many times on one page. The third and final grade for this project is the clarity and creativity of the finished design.

Jean Kunath, Art and Photography Teacher, Central High School, Victoria, Virginia

This particular activity is a lead in activity to a larger advertising unit for Art II. The particular activity would be introduced after a large advertising introduction had taken place at the beginning of the period. The introduction and creation of the thumbnails would take place at the end of the first period. The second class period would be spent in the computer lab working on the button designs. The buttons would need to be created into actual pins during the third class period.

I have taught this activity for many years. Many years ago, we silk-screened the images, which was great fun but not practical for 20 students in a classroom. We then created black images on the computer using font and clip art images and reproduced them on a zerox copier. Finally, we obtained a color printer and were able to print our pins in color. The color images are very popular with the students. We even make pins featuring color photographs of the student athletes in uniform for their parents. Students absolutely love when they see fans wearing buttons that they designed and created.

Technology Resources:
Now that we have two equipped computer labs featuring 24 computers each, we are able to have a complete classroom experience. Every student can create a design on the computer and not have to wait for a turn. The availability of the computers allows the students hands-on experienceat the same time. Because they are all working together, they are able to offer suggestions and help each other when needed. The button machine is the real expense and the large one that we have runs around $500.00. However, if you wanted to avoid the expense and still have the buttons, you could simply laminate the designs and pass them out to show spirit by people simply pinning them on with a straight pin.

School Background Information:

  • Victoria is a quiet, rural community of approximately 1,800 citizens. Central High School has 578 students. Around 50% of the students are White, 49% are African American, and 1% are Hispanic. Forty nine percent of the students receive free or reduced price lunch.

Teaching Strategy:
“Hands-on” is the strategy selected for this particular activity. Through the creation of the actual button, the students are gaining first hand experience in the world of advertising.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity http://www.intime.uni.edu/model/modelimage.html
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Active Involvement is utilized throughout this lesson. The students give opinions and suggestions during the open brainstorming session, as well as the final critique of completed buttons.

The use of Patterns and Connections throughout the unit is evident as the students make the connection that in order to “sell” their idea they have to be able to communicate through various means of expression. (drawing the rough thumbnails to the clean look of the computer image printed in color)

Informal Learning takes place constantly paired with Frequent Feedback from the teacher and their peers. Every student has his or her own computer and all available resources. They literally “feed” off of shortcuts and new techniques that they discover as they are working.

Direct Experience occurs as they view the initial examples of buttons from previous years and continues throughout the computer lab hands-on experience.

An Enjoyable Setting is evident as the students are challenged to create interesting button designs in an environment that is fun and interesting. They are not worried that they will receive negative criticism, but hopefully only suggestions to improve their design.

Student Characteristics: 
Most of the students have seen the school buttons prior to coming to the art classroom. They can’t wait to have an opportunity to have their design possibly selected for print. However, most realize during the design process how difficult it is to get a design selected as a button. They really focus their efforts on creating a button that will target a particular “market”.

Evolution of the Activity: 
We have emerged from black images from a copier machine to clean-lined images from a color printer. The finished buttons speak for themselves!

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology  http://cnets.iste.org/students)