Design Matters Part 2: You don't have to be an Art teacher...

This is part 2 of my Design Matters series. If you missed part 1, you can check it out here. In this post, I'll focus on little ways you can encourage better overall visual literacy in your classroom. We'll talk about why you should and how you can. I'll include the first set of three simple tricks to improve design in your classroom. I'll add three more in the next post in this series and so on. On to glory...


Visual literacy beyond the Art room

First, I am not an art teacher. For the most part, the fine arts are a bit lost on me. I wish that weren't true, but it is. I may not appreciate a Picasso, nor can I tell it from a Rembrandt. I can, however, appreciate the design around me. I can instantly tell a Mac from any PC. We're surrounded by great design daily. A quick visit to the mall or The Dieline, will quickly cement that idea. Most of us know great design when we see it. We don't have to know fine art to be visually literate.

Also, it's easy to say that the art teacher can and should cover this. Unfortunately, as many a Science teacher has discovered, you may need to review the math you want to see the students do correctly in today's lab, even though the students have a math class. If we want to see good design, it may help to set up some simple techniques and require the students to use them. We don't need to teach "Art". We sometimes just need to remind students that it's important in this class too. Further, as Garr Reynolds notes, "Can't students become better business leaders tomorrow by learning to become better design thinkers today? Aren't design thinking, design mindfulness, and creative thinking valuable aptitudes for all professionals" (Presentation Zen, p. 31-32). This is a 21'st century skill, and we're all responsible for those. Again, for more arguments in favor of this notion, check out Part 1.


You can do this

Three simple tricks and techniques you can use to improve visual literacy in your classroom.
Okay, for the next few posts in this series I'll shoot out three tips to use in your own classroom design and to share with your students for projects. This week we'll look at three visual tricks that work great in multimedia projects or large visual formats. One is specifically for presentations, like Power Point. The other two are more general and can work in Voicethread, Animoto, paper posters, etc.

As we approach the start of a new school year, consider using these tricks in your own presentations, handouts, and posters. I bet you'll be pleased with the results!


Trick 1: Pecha Kucha

Okay, this isn't so much a trick as it is a policy you can use to avoid bad Power Point. As explained on the official website, "PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images." That's it! What makes this techniques awesome is what it lacks.
  • No bullets
  • No text
  • No collages (1 pic per slide)
  • No crazy sound effects or animated transitions
The student giving this presentation must:
  • Know his or her material
  • Be concise
  • keep moving
Don't have 6:40 for each presentation? I tend to modify the model in my classroom based on the age of my students, the time I have, and the depth of the material. Instead of 20x20, I've done10x10, 10x20, and even 5x10. I've never gone over the 20x20=6:40. If an architectural engineer can explain his or her work in 6:40, my students can explain what they need to.

Trick 2: Supersize it!

For this trick, we'll visit John McWade at "Before & After"

This trick seems so simple, yet it alludes so many of us. This is a trick you may have already been tricked into using if you use Pecha Kucha (see above) correctly. Notice, it says "PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds". It does not say you show 20 slides with images on. The assumption is that your image fills the whole slide... Thus, you've supersized it!


Trick 3: Rule of Thirds

Designing on a grid sounds really counter-intuitive if you consider visual literacy to be entirely subjective and creative, totally the realm of dominantly right-brain thinkers. Never fear, my logical-mathematical and scientific friends. Most great design is actually the product of years of mathematical research. Go figure! Let's visit Brent Spore over at "Stuff Designers Do" to learn about the Rule of Thirds and (Bonus) the Phi grid.



Well that about wraps it up. Look out for Design Matters: Part 3. Until then, here are the resources used in today's post:
Good teaching and great designing!


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