As a freelance artist who has studied and produced art for years, I thought visual design would come naturally to me and yet it was the one thing I neglected in instructional design. In fact, when it came to visual design in the courses I created, I failed, miserably. The reason is simple. I didn’t pay attention to it. I was solely focused on instructional design principles, content, and assessments. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even realize that I was neglecting something so important until someone pointed it out to me. I mean who neglects CRAP (contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity) and doesn’t even know it?! Surely not me… I joke.
I decided that I was going to have to go back to my roots. As an artist, when I got stuck, I turned to the works of artists I admired such as Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Francisco Clemente and Elizabeth Murray. Their work inspired me and gave me new ideas. This time, I turned to magazines and advertisements to help me find inspiration. I especially like the magazine Juxtapoz, but there are many other graphic design magazines that one can Google. In addition to looking at magazines, I bought the book Graphic Design for Everyone by Cath Caldwell. It is a wonderful book for visual design, and I highly recommend it.
Aside from looking through magazines and books to gain ideas, I began seeing each slide as a piece of art. I remember my art instructors talking about the importance of composition and keeping the viewer’s attention in the middle of the painting. Basically, I began thinking of ways to hold my learner’s attention through contrast, hierarchy, and the placement of images. I find ideas for color schemes from the images I incorporate. I strive to find images that carry a similar color palette. Then I use the color picker to find colors in an image I am incorporating. This becomes one of the primary colors I use throughout the project I am working on. I also use variations or contrasting colors in fonts, text boxes or backgrounds. Recently, I stumbled across a website called coolors.co. This handy site helps you to generate a color palette and it's worth bookmarking!
I have to say, my last source of inspiration which has helped me tremendously with visual design is looking at other people’s work. There are many incredible projects out there with great visual design innovation. Check out E-Learning Heroes for examples!
So my advice, if you are struggling with visual design like I did, the first step is to admit that you have a problem. Again, I joke, but the world around you is filled with brilliant ideas. Check out a good graphic design magazine, look at other people’s work, and focus on CRAP and don’t be afraid of white space.
Written by: Melissa Arostegui
Melissa has been an elementary school teacher for nearly 20 years. In addition, Melissa is a freelance artist and has shown her work in galleries throughout the country. Realizing that she wanted a career that combined her background and interests, she joined IDOL courses Academy in June 2020 to learn the skills needed to enter the instructional design field. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys traveling, hiking and writing children’s books.