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Coloring Within the Lines
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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  • Neatness counts.

    In my work with clients, I constantly see how good instruction and visuals are marred by haphazard layout; undone by poor templates; overwhelmed by busy, garish effects; or compromised by poor execution. Every time I think no one would ever do this, someone does.

    Although discussions about instructional graphics often get mired in subjectivity, R.O. Rankin’s research found that 92% of learners’ comprehension mistakes were caused by four reasons:

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  • Layout-related difficulties
  • Lack of caption-picture correspondence
  • Unfamiliarity with the graphical convention
  • Misinterpretation of the graphical layout

Just concentrating on fixing these four issues will provide a huge bang of effectiveness.

The execution problem has arguably become worse with the advent of rapid, do-it-yourself e-learning tools. Some of us find ourselves on our own, floundering with blank PowerPoint slides and with little training on how to lay out visual materials. (Adding to the mix is that our visuals may be supported by audio.)

As a case in point, take a second to review this screen capture. What do you think might be the biggest factor confusing the learner?


A. Captions are embedded in the diagrams.
B. The representations of the earth, moon and sun should be photographs, not art.
C. The celestial bodies are not to scale.
D. The two representations are not aligned to facilitate comparison.
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About the Author
Chopeta Lyons has created award-winning print and online learning products during 26 years of developing training solutions. Beginning in 1983 with the design of electronic education software, she has directed teams of designers, writers, programmers, audio talent, graphic designers, and artists to create custom solutions for the training needs of numerous international and national corporations, government agencies and organizations. She is the author of several articles on e-learning and the Graphics for Learning from Wiley/Pfieffer, as well a college textbook, Discover Writing, from Prentice Hall.
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