Visual Design: Communicating Information Visually

What is visual design? According to Connie Malamed, the eLearning Coach

Visual design is an act of problem solving. You have a message to communicate and you seek to find a visual way to express this message. During the design process, you create graphics and text and organize them on the screen in the most effective way you can.

In Part 1 of their article, More Than Just Eye Candy: Graphics for e-Learning, Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons identified 3 factors that shape graphic effectiveness

  • the instructional goal, three main instructional goals for e-Learning:
    • to inform,
    • to support procedural (routine task) performance,
    • and to support principle-based (non-routine task) performance.
  • the learning landscape,
  • and features of the graphic itself.

In their article, “More Than Just Eye Candy: Graphics for e-Learning: Part 2 of 2 parts“, Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons present a design model that incorporates the findings of research and focuses on a systematic process of developing graphics.

visual design

Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons: A visual design model

Phase I: Define the goal

Visual design for instruction starts with the anticipated outcomes. We create most instruction to meet one or more of the following goals:

  • To inform or motivate (often described as building awareness)
  • To build procedural skills and teach the associated knowledge required
  • To build problem-solving skills and teach the associated knowledge required

Phase II: Define the visual context

Defining the visual context requires determining the audience, the physical surroundings in which the e-Learning will be used, and the delivery platform considerations.

Phase III: Design the visual approach

Graphics for most e-Learning projects fall into one of three broad categories:

  • the Graphical User Interface (GUI) designed to support the training package as a whole;
  • the individual graphics designed to support individual content points within lessons;
  • and the layout of each screen to best support the instruction.

Phase IV: Match communication function to content types

In this phase of our design model, you evaluate your content to determine individual graphics that will illustrate key instructional points. You plan graphics best suited to help learners acquire five content types: procedures, concepts, facts, processes and principles.

Phase V: Apply principles of psychological instructional events to visual design decisions

Assess your graphic to make sure it supports the six key instructional events of learning. These include ways to use graphics and graphic treatments to help learners: focus attention, activate prior knowledge in memory, minimize cognitive load, build new mental models, maximize transfer of learning and support motivation in ways that do not disrupt learning.