Not that long ago, we recommended the book “Design for How People Learn” by Julie Dirksen. Now we’ve got another book recommendation for you—Connie Malamed’s “Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand.”
First, an admission. We’re HUGE Connie Malamed fans. She’s got a great instructional design blog and a second blog for visual design. She’s got a neat instructional design app. She’s pleasant, sociable, and informative in social media circles. And yes, she’s got a really great book, too.
This article is a general overview/review of Malamed’s book. To see the ideas in her book “put into action,” check out this article: 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning.
Which brings us back to the book recommendation.
And feel free to download any of the free guides below while you’re here:
When people talk about information design, the first name to come up is often Edwin Tufte’s.
And that’s for good reason—he’s got a lot of smart things to say on the topic. If you want to learn more about Tufte and his ideas, you can check out his website, go to a conference where he’s presenting (I attended one recently), and read his books to find out more. (A little side-note here: while we do admire Tufte and his work and have learned a lot from him, we think his criticism of PowerPoint is off target or at least overly stated—check out this article by Tom Kuhlmann of the Articulate blog if you’re interested in that.)
But Malamed’s book is especially interesting because, unlike Tufte, she wrote it specifically for people creating visuals for conveying information, and that’s its real strength. Well, that plus her wealth of knowledge, the great images in the book that illustrate her points, and her clear, enjoyable writing style.
Here’s a quick rundown of the chapters and sections within her book. Of course, we recommend you pick up a copy of the book and read it for yourself.
A nice explanation of how humans process visual information. This section is really helpful not only for creating effective learning visuals, but for understanding how people learn, remember, and later apply information in general.
In this chapter, she explains the value of:
Here’s an example of “using features that pop out.” This is taken from our Back Injury Prevention course.
For more examples of organizing for perception, check out our 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning Courses article.
Here she discusses the importance of:
Here’s an example of “using movement or a sense of motion” to direct the learner’s eyes. This is a sample from our Pump Basics course. although the arrows DO create a sense of motion here, it’s worth noting that the course is actually animated and this is just a still image from that course, so there’s even more sense of motion in the real thing.
For more examples of visuals that direct the eyes of the learner, check out our 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning Courses article.
This chapter includes discussions of:
Here’s an example of “reducing the number of things in a visual” to reduce realism. This is a sample from our Overhead Crane Basics course.
For more examples of visuals that reduce realism to improve learning, check out our 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning Courses article.
In this chapter, she discusses the importance of:
Here’s an example of creating a big-picture view to make the abstract more concrete. This is a sample from our Kraft Pulping Liquor Chemistry course.
For more examples of visuals that make the abstract more concrete, check out our 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning Courses article.
Here she presents the importance of making the complicated more simple, including:
Here’s an example of using specialized views one couldn’t ordinarily see to clarify complexity (this “interior view” is a great advantage of 3D animations). This is a sample from our Centrifugal Cleaners course.
For more examples of visuals that clarify complexity, check out our 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning Courses article.
Her final chapter presents these techniques for adding more to images:
If you’d like to get a little more savvy about the way you use visuals in your training/learning materials, this book is a really great place to start. It’s a great resource for graphic designers, of course, but also for IDs and trainers who are part of the training-creation process.
Here’s an example of using visual metaphors as a way to “charge up” the learner’s training experience. This is a sample from our Forklift Safety course.
For more examples of visuals that “charge up” the learner’s experience, check out our 25 Graphic Design Tips for e-Learning Courses article.
We hope this post gave you a few useful tips for creating effective training visuals. Or even just gave you some tips to use when evaluating training materials made by others.
As we mentioned earlier, these examples are all drawn from the book Visual Language for Designers by Connie Malamed, our favorite ID blogger. If you’ve got time, do check it out. Also know that she’s get a second, newer book out on training visuals. We haven’t read that yet but have read great reviews.
If you have a particular interest in training visuals, you may also find our Match Your Training Visuals to Your Training Content article interesting. We’ve got a few more, similar articles in the works, so stay tuned.
Of course, we welcome your comments too. Let us know your thoughts or tips in the comments section below.
Last-minute bonus–while writing this blog post, we discovered this YouTube video featuring Malamed discussing visual design for learning.