Pop Shop 1 – Symbol Making



Students will learn about Keith Haring's use of symbols by examining his bold, direct lines and images and create their own.


Students will learn about Keith Haring's use of symbols by examining his bold, direct lines and images.

Students will develop an understanding of how symbols function and why they are used.

Students will design their own symbol based on their own experiences and feelings.


See Symbols in I Wish I Did Not Have to Sleep.

Keith Haring used symbols throughout his work, and over the entire length of his artistic career. He would use them to sign his work, which graffiti artists call a "Tag", he would use them as components in murals and paintings, and he would use them as the actual content of his work, incorporating their form and line as the primary elements.

Show the students work that showcases these forms of symbol making present in Keith's work. Discuss how he had original ideas and chose to create new symbols as opposed to more familiar ones such as a peace sign or a heart by itself. Possibly show work from other cultures and periods of time, to disseminate this idea and allow for more objectivity.


Permanent Markers
Medium sized blank notecards (to draw symbols on)


Have students think of something they would like to share with others about themselves. It could be a very personal issue, but it doesn't have to be. Either way, the actual content of the work doesn't have to be shared and this should be expressed to the students so they feel free enough to express themselves, just as Keith had in his work.

The students will then move from thinking of a concrete idea they want to express to designing a graphic image that depicts one idea in a visually coherent, moving, and simple way. Leave some visuals of Keith's work available on a table for students to skim through on their own terms.

They should be using line without shading, their shapes should be bold and direct. The image can be abstract, or representational, as long as the symbol has meaning to the artist.

Have kids make several symbols so they can choose one that they feel really good about. Use this opportunity to meet with each student individually and discuss their goals and ideas for their symbol. Perhaps they will feel comfortable to share the thoughts that fueled their symbols.


Pose the question of what a symbol actually does? Why they are used, and to whom they are geared towards?

Have the children think of symbols from their world- maybe symbols on clothing, in busses, on the street, in their homes, at school, in magazines. Apply the questioning to these locations- what are each of the symbols saying? Why are they being used, and who are they supposed to reach?


By the end of class, each student should have several colored in symbol drawings with one that they have chosen to continue to work with.