Design Affects Educational Learning

I am taking an online Western Civilization II course through a community college back home. It started last week, and one of the seven weekly assignments was to watch this video on the Battle of Lützen in 1632.

…it was painful, to say the least, and not because the war wasn’t interesting, but because of the way the designer chose to format the video.

I took several screenshots to illustrate my point:

Found on YouTube.

Found on YouTube.

Found on YouTube.

Personally, I think the choice of backgrounds were not efficient. Although the black-and-white pictures are informative in a visual aspect, they distract from the text which really explains what’s happening. At the same time, the designer picked fluorescent yellow, vibrant red, and black as font colors to accompany the already busy photos. I found that I could not read most of this video (and mind you, it was nine minutes in length).

The historical information found in this video is probably incredibly accurate, so I can understand why my professor chose this particular video as a learning tool. However, the designer did not create it in such a way that it could be an effective learning tool, and that is the root of the problem.

It’s interesting how CRAP, elements of design, principles of design, color, and type truly matter. Whether it be through a document, flyer, pamphlet, poster, or even a YouTube video, they all work together to either make or break a project. I figured this was just something to keep in mind as we begin our first major “Document Design” project!

Williams, Robin. The Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice. 3rd ed. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press, 2008. Print.


Learning to use GIMP

Despite the fact I wasn’t able to use my “custom header” made in GIMP as my actual header on my blog – it didn’t quite look right once it was formatted into a circle to fit the layout – I still wanted to post it on here. Hopefully as this semester progresses, so will my visual aesthetic!

Made using default pictures found in "My Pictures" folder.

Made using default pictures found in “My Pictures” folder on the computer.

Dan Fleming’s Word Animals

All of this discussion regarding shape and color initiated by Molly Bang’s Picture This: How Pictures Work has brought up an old memory. Growing up, my little ol’ town of Kuna, Idaho – small, yes, but not quite as small as Boiling Springs – had a celebration every August called Kuna Days. It was always blazing hot, the line for the snow cone shack inching its away around the many vendors and their booths. One of these featured intricate wood carvings, and there’s no better way to explain them than to say this: they were a word formed into the shape of that word’s symbol. For example, the letters “B-E-A-R” were shaped like a bear. I always found them fascinating!

After a little research, I discovered Dan Fleming, a graphic designer who specializes in logos and brand identity. By using letters and typography as his shapes, he created something I find quite brilliant. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Dan Fleming’s “Word Animals.”

Dan Fleming: Crocodile

Dan Fleming: Skunk

Dan Fleming: Snail

Dan Fleming: Bunny

Dan Fleming: Chicken

One thing I really appreciated is Dan Fleming’s use of color in his designs. If each example was made in black type on a white background, it would lose some of the magic. Instead, he uses the shape of the type and the color of that particular animal to his advantage, creating something that is quite appealing to the eye!

I strongly encourage you to check out more “Word Animals” and Dan Fleming’s portfolio here.

Bang, Molly. Picture This: How Pictures Work. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000.