Graphics for Learning.
Time spent in art, photography, and Photoshop classes gave me a greater appreciation for graphic artists, but it left me yearning to find a clearer explanation between visuals and instructional strategy.
I finally found a graphics design reference book that speaks my language as an instructional designer. Graphics for Learning: Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing, and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials provides an explanation of the visual design process in the context of familiar themes in the instructional design process.
This does not mean that instructional designers are the only target readers. For example, the book also addresses how graphic arts professionals can enhance their skills to support learning and job performance goals.
Readers who are more involved in the selection instead of the production of instructional materials will also benefit. For this last group, learning more about the visual design process will help to make better decisions about the investment of production time (and its financial cost) to promote better learning.
However, the promise to help readers that have no graphics talent prompted me to dive into the book further.
The authors set a comfortable, inviting environment for instructional designers in the first section of the book by defining the visual model process in an instructional model framework. After all, we learn best in a realistic work setting, right?
The model appropriately begins with defining instructional goals and works through the analysis phases so that the end result is a harmonious blend of psychological learning guidelines that support visual design decisions.
In the second section, the authors provide a convincing case, based on research, of the best use of graphics. They focus on the experience of the learner. Once again, this approach fits with the best examples in instructional design.
For example, instructional events such as gaining attention, recalling prior knowledge, minimizing cognitive load, and supporting motivation are everyday decisions in an instructional designer's life.
I especially appreciated how the book shows the interrelationship between content types and graphical types in the third section. The goal of both of these classification groups is to help learners build mental models. This allows learners to apply the concepts to perform tasks, solve problems, and make decisions.
In section three, the book describes five instructional content types: procedures, concepts, facts, processes, and principles. Guidelines for designing visuals for each content type are provided. The visuals are identified as explanatory graphic types. The four types of explanatory graphics are organizational visuals, relational visuals, transformational visuals, and interpretive visuals.
Each chapter in this section provides a guideline of how the content type and explanatory graphic type complement each other. The guidelines include a basic if-then premise. For example, if the instruction fits with a process content type, then use transformational visuals and interpretive visuals.
The fourth and final section provides practical advice on how to plan and implement a successful learning program with the defined guidelines. Although I maintained the perspective of an instructional designer in the first three sections, I can easily see how this section would be beneficial to anyone in the learning design process.
Knowing the right question
All project team members need to ask questions. Usually, the biggest challenge is knowing the right questions to ask. This section eliminates the guesswork. It helps all team members to identify production elements that they may not have considered. The checklists and reference charts will help you to confidently prepare for your next production meeting.
Throughout the book, the authors provide examples to illustrate the guidelines. The content of examples vary, which helps to demonstrate how the principles can be applied in different situations. I was grateful for the case studies that are provided at the end of the book. They helped to pull all of the ideas together by conceptualizing a specific project.
The book comes with a CD with color copies of the reference materials. I found the navigation of the CD awkward and not as useful as I anticipated. I would have preferred another alternative to the CD for support materials, such as an online discussion board or perhaps a website that would continue to supplement the visual design guidelines with new examples.
Practical, easy to use
Overall, the book is a valuable resource with practical advice and direction. It is well organized, making it easy to follow the guidelines. Each guideline is reinforced with examples and user-friendly reference materials. The illustrations include best practice examples as well as non-examples.
My only suggestion for the non-examples is that it may be helpful to provide before and after treatments as well.
I recommend Graphics for Learning, and I plan to refer to it often for my instructional design projects. This type of publication is intended to be lived, not read and forgotten. The book's efficient organization makes it easy to find reference material that addresses the specific component of a training project.
At a very reasonable cost, it provides a solid approach to visual design projects and will certainly strengthen your expertise and widen your perspective, regardless of your role or responsibility.
Review by Diane Sidwell Jones
Product Ratings Graphics for Learning Holds user interest *** Value of Content *** 1/2 Self-Study Value *** Instructional Value *** 1/2 Value for the money *** 1/2 Overall rating *** 1/2