Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance: Lessons in Visual Literacy / Edition 1

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It's all here! Everything teachers and instructional designers need to know to produce effective, efficient, and appealing visuals for classrooms and training/performance settings—including web-based training and distance learning. This book explains the process of graphic design, exploring not only the rules that apply to designing graphics, but also the thinking, experimenting, and evaluating that goes into a good design. Blending information from such diverse sources as instructional design and architecture, graphic arts and ergonomics, the author provides a wealth of examples, exercises, and hands-on activities that reinforce content. Underlying everything is information processing theory and an emphasis on the importance of designing visuals that not only appeal to the eyes, but also support cognitive processes by helping learners select the most important information, organize that information, and integrate it into memory. For teachers and instructional designers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130907127
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
  • Publication date: 10/7/2002
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 8.18 (w) x 10.84 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. I Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Visual Literacy for Educators and Trainers 3
Ch. 2 Visuals and Learning 23
Ch. 3 The Building Blocks: Tools, Actions, and Perceptions (TAP) 47
Pt. II Shaping Instruction to Facilitate Learning 61
Ch. 4 From Type to Typography 63
Ch. 5 Shape Tools 103
Ch. 6 Color, Depth, and Space 131
Ch. 7 Actions: Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity 155
Ch. 8 Figure/Ground Perceptions 173
Ch. 9 Hierarchy Perceptions 199
Ch. 10 Gestalt Perceptions 241
Pt. III Putting It All Together 281
Ch. 11 ACE It! Analyze, Create, Evaluate 283
Ch. 12 Resources 305
Index 319
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I wrote this book to help people create effective visuals—visuals that are clear, that communicate well, and that help people learn and/or perform their jobs better. As both an instructional design teacher and a practitioner in the field, I have encountered numerous examples of "bad" visual design. I have also talked with many professionals in a number of arenas (teachers, computer programmers, graphic artists, instructional designers).These people have extensive knowledge of their discipline, but they either lack knowledge or skill in visual design or think these principles are too complicated and time consuming to integrate into their dally practices. These professionals have voiced concerns like these:

  • "When it comes to design, I just start grabbing any book I can, but I don't really know what I'm looking for."
  • "There is an abundance of advice out there; it's hard to know which advice to pay attention to or where to begin."
  • "I know something such as contrast is a good thing, and I'm supposed to teach contrast, but I don't even know what good contrast is. Is there enough ... too little?"
  • "There seems to be this giant invisible step between analysis and creating something visual."

These comments aren't too surprising when one considers that most people receive years of training in verbal communication but receive almost no assistance in the art and science of communicating visually Technology makes creating visuals easier than ever, yet mastering a tool is not the same thing as using that tool wisely. Teachers, students, and practitioners everywhere need a resource that clearly and quickly explains why limiting the number offonts is important, why using all capital letters in copy is not desirable, why it is important to go easy on the "bells and whistles," and how to make charts and graphs understandable.

This book helps people create instructional visuals without overwhelming them with seemingly endless rules and principles. Rather than giving a plethora of design advice, this text focuses on just three cognitively based principles of design (figure/ground, hierarchy, and gestalt) and a process for creating visuals based upon these principles. Underlying these three principles is information processing theory and the idea that effective visuals should support the cognitive processes of learners.


In this book, a tools, actions, and perceptions framework is used. Tools are the basic elements of design and include type, shape, color, depth, and space. The tools chapters cover research on typography; descriptions of different typefaces; the difference between a type family and a font; how to use different shapes to unify, separate, and chunk information; how to use color effectively; how to put research on color to work; and how to use texture; depth, and space to focus attention.

Actions are the manipulations made to type, shape, color, depth, and space. By manipulating contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity, designers learn to make an image more aesthetically pleasing and more instructionally efficient as well.

Learner perceptions are what the visual designer wants to influence by using tools and actions. The three chapters that cover perceptions are the heart and soul of this book. In the figure/round, hierarchy, and gestalt chapters (chapters 8, 9, and 10) the reader learns how to work with tools and actions to manipulate how the learner will "see" or perceive instructional information. These chapters integrate the information about tools and actions and cover, among other things, research-based rules for tables and charts, strategies for working with symmetrical and asymmetrical balance, and principles for instructional interface design.

In the last section of the text, an analyze, create, and evaluate (ACE) process, presented in the context of traditional and nontraditional instructional design models, explains how visuals are imagined, created, and tested for usability. This chapter covers synectic and other strategies for visual design, helpful advice (such as the diamond approach to design), and basic rules for usability testing. The final chapter, which covers resources, provides a quick guide to the tools of graphic design, including hardware, software, books, and Web resources.


Throughout the text a delicate but user-friendly balance between theory and practice has been maintained. To afford the reader the best opportunity to learn theory and practice, the book has been set up to teach the knowledge and skills from both a collaborative and a constructivist orientation. From the first chapter on, readers are prompted to involve themselves in a series of visual design situations that can best be solved by applying the knowledge and skills learned as they progress through the book. First, readers experiment; with such tools as type, shape, color, depth, and space. Once they have learned to integrate these tools into their design practices, they will next learn how to apply actions of contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity. In the final chapters readers are asked to experiment' with combining tools and actions to facilitate cognitive processes by making optimal use of figure/ground, hierarchy, and gestalt.


The book has two structures, macro and micro. The macro structure uses the tools, actions, and perceptions organization with the intent of encouraging readers to experiment and gain confidence with type, shape, and color—before addressing the bigger challenge of using design to influence perception.

The micro, or chapter, structure uses the following sequence:

  • Notes about the opening visual, a section in which the reader learns what the artist was thinking while he or she created the chapter opening design.
  • Focus questions.
  • Key terms.
  • Introductory case study, in which one of four book characters is involved in a real-life chapter-related project. Numerous visual examples.
  • Web activity, in which the text breaks in the middle of the chapter to allow the reader some hands-on practice with a visual problem.
  • Summary.
  • For more challenge activities on the Web with many examples.
  • Questions for distance learning environments.

The text has been designed with both distance education and face-to-face learning environments in mind. Readers will find that both the layout of the book and the practices contained within implement well what the book preaches. Each chapter is filled with numerous graphics, easy-to-understand writing, and many hands-on activities. The book is also augmented with an extensive website where readers can view additional and frequently updated information and see other visual solutions to the various chapter activities. Given the nature and format of the assignments, teachers and students alike can participate in the learning process.

Ancillary Materials Available with This Text

An extensive website complements the textbook. This website includes the following for Chapters 1-10:

  • A Web Activity section that presents a visual problem for readers to solve. Reader solutions to the visual problem are shared. Readers are encouraged to submit their own solutions to this website to provide additional examples.
  • A More Info section that includes extra information about the chapter topic and "how to" steps for using software.
  • A Challenge section that includes two or more hands-on activities that allow readers to practice their visual skills. Readers can see the solutions of other readers and submit their own solutions.
  • A Discussion section that poses two or more thought-provoking questions that can be used for class or Web-based dialogue.
  • A Links section that allows the reader to jump to related websites.
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