Engaging your learners might be difficult if your learning content isn´t visually appealing and understandable. You can make it easy for your learners to absorb the content you are offering, by paying attention to its visual composition.

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Where to start from?

In this paragraph, I will give you ideas on how to improve your learning content and materials by utilizing visual means.

Start by thinking about your content. 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? In addition, the visual composition of your content should ideally support also learners who just want to skim the content. Naturally, the “essence” of the learning materials should be obvious from the start.

Principles of Effective Visual Design

Firstly, your course materials, your content and your design should be equally paid attention to, and ideally working in harmony. As you certainly carefully choose your words, equally, you need to choose focal points for your visuals. Most importantly, by utilizing visuality you can deliver a better learning experience.

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. In short, when design elements are arranged properly, the overall function of the content will be very clear.

The Gestalt Principles are a set of laws arising from the 1920s’ psychology. The principles describe how humans typically see objects by grouping similar elements, recognizing patterns, and simplifying complex images. Therefore 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 understand what they see.

Source: (https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/gestalt-principles)


Some useful Visual design principles

Unity means that all elements on a page visually and conceptually are together. Likewise, the overall 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 white space (empty areas) in your layout strategy. So try out leaving more space between graphical elements, larger margins, and line spacing. It can be surprisingly effective.

How to distinguish the most important

The hierarchy shows the difference in significance between elements and signals importance visually. Hierarchies are often created through different font sizes, colors, and placement of elements on the page.

For example, making more important elements bigger and bolder than a less important one. To communicate hierarchy by drawing attention toward and away from certain elements you can utilize scale.

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. You can achieve it through scaling and contrasting based on size, color, position, shape, etc.

Similarity refers to creating continuity throughout a design without direct duplication. For example, the similarity in the use of colors, in the shape of elements, text styles, will make them work together in a layout.

In conclusion, by using these universal visual design principles, you can produce materials where the “essence” of the content will be obvious.

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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 virve@claned.com.

virve johansson

About the Author

Virve Johansson works as a Chief Creative Officer at Claned. Most importantly, she heads Claned´s branding & marketing. She is also ensuring that the platform is intuitive, visually appealing, and, user-centric. In addition, she is passionate about visual design and building the Claned brand.