Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Spring Treat: Connie Malamed's New "Visual Design Solutions"

Much better than a hollow chocolate bunny, my metaphorical Easter basket this year held a review copy of Connie Malamed’s wonderful new Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning.  

As a career-long government employee I’m always interested in low-cost solutions so appreciate Connie’s attention to the idea that good design is not necessarily about money or software. She offers  examples created with PowerPoint, tips for taking your own photographs, and ideas for making something better by, for instance, mixing photographs for a more complete effect. My other career challenge, again a product of my government environment, is the unending demand for learning experiences around deadly-dry-content areas like policy and compliance. Malamed helps here, too, with ideas for making content more exciting and offering suggestions for challenges like working with numbers. Some other highlights:

-          Visual fluency and the role of symbol in developing a common language
-          Overcoming simple challenges that often bedevil new designers, like working with gradient backgrounds
Alternatives to bullets and other layout challenges
Grouping to support the brain's gift for pattern sensing 
-          Techniques for creating emphasis   

If there’s a central message, though, it’s the idea of designing with intention. As I like to say in one of my own design workshops: “Put your hands in the air and step away from the computer.” Think about the look and feel and the feeling and the view from 10,000 feet. What is the whole experience you’re after? It is hard, looking at an authoring tool, to refrain from wanting to start loading content and searching for templates and images. Malamed wants the learner to have an elegant, complete experience. To that end she focuses on the view of a project as more than the sum of its parts. Typeface matters: Even people not trained in design “pick up cues from a typeface and ascribe its characteristics to a personality” and are aware when the typeface doesn’t match the message.  Color matters: It conveys mood and stirs emotions, especially pleasure. The palette has psychological impact.  The tone of the writing matters. The choice of when and how to, or not to, use white space matters. In other words: Everything matters.

Malamed’s Visual Design Solutions is an excellent resource useful for anyone in the training/elearning design/presentation business but also anyone involved in design in general and communication in particular.