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The Benefits Of Good Design - Resources For Community College Learners

Source: ASIDE 2015

Community college students everyday interact with a range of materials: handouts, worksheets, outlines, templates, PowerPoints, etc. From the simplest to the most complex, these resources are sometimes the primary conduits for information and training. The design of these materials, therefore, matters. The visual presentation of instructional tools can make the difference between detachment and engagement, between reticence and retention.

One of the touchstones of the design world is the unity of form and function. This “big picture / small picture” harmony is an equally crucial lesson for teachers and learners of all ages. Whereas art is something we look at, design is something we use everyday. It gives context to content and supports the relationship between the two. Good design of information delivers content that is engaging to the eye without becoming a distraction. It guides the attention through carefully controlled and selected visual components; it retreats to the background, enabling the purpose of the finished product to come forward.

Source: ASIDE, Tommy McCall

In creating both tangible and digital presentations for college learners, educators can ask themselves about the desired purpose, audience, and format of their materials. Similarly, considerations of layout, font, color, and alignment can make positive differences in conveying crucial concepts. A few notions to keep in mind include:
  • Visual media bombard the modern eye
  • Images increase the level of engagement and retention
  • Design creates meaning and relationships
  • The eye reads many types of "texts"
  • Simple tools and techniques can aid understanding
  • Emphasis, typography, hue, layout, and balance are key
Source: ASIDE 2015

We recently had the privilege of discussing these ideas with the faculty of the Department Of Reading And Basic Education at Nassau Community College (NCC) in New York. It was a pleasure speaking to them for their spring professional development. Our session was entitled, "The Benefits Of Good Design: Simple Strategies For Creating Elegant and Effective Materials To Engage Students." All of the slides, links, and resources from our presentation can be found here.

Many thanks to the warm and welcoming educators at NCC for inviting us and for being such gracious hosts. It was a pleasure sharing ideas and exploring the potential of visuals to make a difference in the lives of learners. We look forward to staying in touch and continuing the dialogue about design!

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