NHS Designs

Graphic Design Projects

Sacramento Bee's "Design an Ad" Contest

From the Sacramento Bee's Web site:

The 31st annual Design An Ad competition is set to begin. This special project is a unique partnership between education, business and the media. Local businesses buy advertising space in The Bee and then turn it over to young, would-be designers.

Students create and enter their own ad designs. Entrants are divided into three student categories: grades 4-6, grades 7-9, and grades 10-12. There are usually 20-30 winners each year, depending on how many businesses and organizations purchase advertising space for student use. Cash prizes, ranging from $20 to $100, are awarded to the winners in each category. The winning designs will appear in The Sacramento Bee and online at sacbee.com. Bee readers will vote for their favorites.

Document Center


Suggested Timeline

Day 1

  • Select a company/project.
  • Research the product or service your ad will be promoting.

Day 2

  • Draw preliminary sketches.

Day 3

  • Complete first draft of ad.
  • Instructor feedback.

Day 4

  • Complete the final ad. Turn it in by the end of Day 4.

Late work will be accepted for contest entry only until Monday, February 23.


2009 Client Choices

Select from one of these 11 projects for your ad.

Quarter Page Ad, Black & White

  • Folsom Lake Ford [specifications]
  • SMUD [specifications]

Quarter Page Ad, Full Color

  • John L. Sullivan Chevrolet [specifications]
  • Roseville Toyota [specifications]
  • Roseville Toyota Certified Center [specifications]
  • Saturn of Roseville [specifications]
  • The Sacramento Bee - Helping Others [specifications]
  • The Sacramento Bee - Sac Mom's Club [specifications]

Half Page Ad, Black & White

  • Sacramento County Department of Water Resources [specifications]

Half Page Ad, Full Color

  • The Sacramento Bee - e-Edition [specifications]
  • The Sacramento Bee - Home Delivery [specifications]


Ad Sizes

Use the following exact sizes, depending on the client choice you made above. Incorrect ad size will disqualify your ad for the contest.

Quarter Page Ad

5 inches wide x 9.5 inches tall
300 pixels per inch
[printable template]

Half Page Ad

10 inches wide x 9.5 inches tall
300 pixels per inch


Preliminary Sketches



  • Design Principles
    Remember the importance of the design principles in your ad:
    1. Proximity - put similar things next to each other
    2. Alignment - each thing aligned to something else
    3. Repetition - repeat some aspect of the design
    4. Contrast - strong differences draw the eyes to a focal point
  • Research Newpaper Ads
    Find and study several newspaper ads.
    1. How is a newpaper ad arranged?
    2. What is the hierarchy of information (what you look at first, middle, and last)?
    3. Where are the headline, the images, and the copy (text)?
    4. What is the "call to action" (where the ad tells you what you should do in response to it)?
  • Research Your Client
    Find out about your client. Research the product or service your ad will be promoting. But, please, do not call your assigned client (in real life you would, but not for this contest).
    1. Use the Internet or visit your library to search for possible news articles regarding their products or services.
    2. If possible, visit one of their retail outlets to get a firsthand view of the company’s products and see who its customers are.
    3. Then ask yourself, “What benefits does the client’s product/service give their customers?”
  • Message
    Convey your client’s “message.” Your ad should have a message for the readers your advertiser is trying to reach.
    1. Is there a logo, or symbol that the client regularly uses?
    2. If a theme has been suggested, be sure to include it.
    3. Read the information sheet provided by the advertiser carefully.
    4. Mrs. Pedersen can help you locate a high-resolution logo for the company if applicable.
  • Hand-Drawn
    You may do the ad by hand rather than on the computer. If so, use only black ink on your ad sheet for black/white ads or only color markers for color ads. Other mediums – crayons, pencil, paint, etc. – are not recommended because they may not scan well or show well on newsprint.
  • Practice
    Practice first. Experiment on scratch paper first for an idea and use your best idea on your final ad sheet. Layout your idea as neatly as possible.
  • Completeness
    Don’t leave anything out. Ads should include a main “headline” (a catchy slogan or message), illustration and the client’s name, address, phone number and web site (please be sure to spell all words and names correctly!).


Additional Guidelines

  • Originality
    The concept of the ad, the written message and the graphic image must be the student’s own work. This means that you cannot use an image you find online as-is. You may use it for reference, however.
  • One Entry per Student
    Only one entry per student is allowed.
  • Ownership
    All entries become the property of The Sacramento Bee and the advertisers.
  • Student Identification Form
    Fill out the Student Identification Form.



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