Careful arrangement of the verbal and visual elements of an instructional material can focus the attention of the audience on the elements to be learned. There are five factors that should be considered with designing materials:
- Simplicity. Words that do not contribute to better understanding or pictures that are not related to the ideas being communicated should be eliminated.
- Pattern. The parts of visual materials should be arranged in a pleasing way. There are no absolute rules for making an attractive layout, but following a pattern of some kind is one guide. The layout can be based on a geometric shape, a letter, a number or even the shape of a map.
- Balance. Balance is the relationship between the various parts of a visual. Formal balance is achieved by placing similar materials in rows. Informal balance combines materials of various sizes and shapes.
Several small elements will balance a lame shape.
A small, dark object will balance a large, light object.
A small, textured area will balance a large, plain area.
A small, irregular shape will balance a large, regular shape.
A word is seen as a word because of the ratio of space between the letters as compared with the space around the group of letters. Sentences are seen as sentences and paragraphs as paragraphs because of the balance of space around them as compared with the space within them. Similarly, two or more closely related pictures or a picture and its caption should be seen and read together.
The balance of background space to illustration or to words is an important consideration in designing a display or poster or a printed page.
Generally, there would be more space at the bottom of a page, an illustration, or a group of illustrations than at the top.
- Emphasis. The more important elements of a visual should stand out. In placing key elements of a visual, follow the rule of thirds. Divide the page, bulletin board or poster area into thirds, horizontally and vertically. The intersections of these lines mark the points of greatest interest - the points where important words or visuals should be placed.
Important elements of a visual can be emphasized by making them stand out from their surroundings. This can be done by making such elements different in size, shape, color, texture or position.
- Harmony. The elements of visual materials should blend in a pleasing manner. Formal lettering should be used with formal layouts and informal lettering with informal layouts. A minimum number of colors that go together well should be used.
The shapes of the various elements should be harmonious. A good general guide to follow is to use related elements and then, by careful arrangement, relate the elements used.
Materials should be built around one idea, a few easily understood visuals, and a minimum of words, and these should be carefully arranged. In any area involving creativity, there . are no hard and fast rules based on research. This is especially true when working in cultures with highly developed traditional art forms.
The suggestions on design presented here are but a beginning on which to base decisions.
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