You could have the most professional learning content in the world, but if your visual composition isn’t well designed, it will be harder to engage your learners. To make it easier for your learners to absorb the content you are offering, you should pay attention to its visual composition.

Start by thinking about your content, and what is the most important thing your learners should learn from your material? Are your learners easily able to get an idea of what your content is all about? The visual composition of your content should ideally support also learners who just want to skim the content. The “essence” of the learning materials should be obvious from the start.

Principles of Effective Visual Design

When you are building your course materials to your learners, your content and your design should be equally paid attention to, and ideally working in harmony. As you carefully choose your words, equally, You need to choose focal points for your visuals that help the learning experience delivered effectively. There are some universal visual design principles that you might want to get acquainted with.

Gestalt Principles are in the Mind, Not the Eye

Gestalt principles in visual design, help users perceive the overall design as opposed to individual elements. If the design elements are arranged properly, the Gestalt of the overall design will be very clear.

The Gestalt Principles are a set of laws arising from 1920s’ psychology, describing how humans typically see objects by grouping similar elements, recognizing patterns and simplifying complex images. Designers use these to engage users via powerful -yet natural- “tricks” of perspective and best practice design standards.

The Gestalt Principles are pivotal in UX design, notably in interfaces, as users must be able to understand what they see—and find what they want—at a glance.

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Some useful Visual design principles:

Unity means that all elements on a page visually or conceptually belong together. The visual design must strike a balance between unity and variety to avoid a dull or overwhelming design. When creating learning materials, unity means similar concepts and themes are conceptually and visually aligned. This way the visual composition supports the learning topics.

The use of space helps reduce noise and increase readability. Use of white space (empty areas) can be a surprisingly important part of your layout strategy. So try out leaving more space between graphical elements, larger margins, and line spacing.

Hierarchy shows the difference in significance between graphical elements and signals importance visually. Hierarchies are often created through different font sizes, colors, and placement of elements on the page. So, you might make a more important element bigger and bolder than a less important element which might be smaller and fainter.

Scale is also a useful tool used to help communicate hierarchy by drawing attention toward and away from certain elements, thus signifying their importance to communication.

Contrast focuses on making items stand out by emphasizing differences in size, color, direction, and other characteristics.

Dominance focuses on having one element as the focal point and others being subordinate. This is often done through scaling and contrasting based on size, color, position, shape, etc.

Similarity refers to creating continuity throughout a design without direct duplication. The similarity, for example, in the use of colors, in the shape of elements, text styles, is used to match the different pieces visually and make them work together in a layout.

By using these universal visual design principles, you can produce learning materials where the “essence” of the material will be obvious.

Hopefully these tips are useful to you when designing your next learning content materials.

Let me know if you have any specific challenges? I would love to hear from you. Send me an email at

About the Author

Virve Johansson heads Claned´s branding, marketing, and product design, ensuring the platform is intuitive and user centric. She is passionate about visualization of data and information and building the Claned brand.