White space. It’s a good designer’s best friend.
As an editor, I am often mistaken as its enemy, but the fact is, I love it as much as any designer. Unfortunately all those words get in the way.
So, in order to distance myself from “the dark side,” I must constantly think of ways to make writing more concise—to say something in as few words as possible, and to let the design do some of the talking.
As the text suggests, good instructional design marries words and images to make meaning, and white space plays a key role in the presentation. For this week’s assignment, I used the principle of asymmetry, “a visual arrangement in which elements appear to be thrown off balance,” to present both textual and visual elements in a way that tends to achieve more visual interest than a symmetrical design (Lohr, 2008, p. 275).
This graphic is intended for K-12 students enrolled in an extracurricular Comparative Religion for Children course. It will be presented in the first lesson of a unit on nonduality as both a way to introduce the organization of the unit and an illustration of the key concept.
Consider first the organizational purpose. The lessons of the unit are represented in the three leaves of the shamrock as:
- A: Analyzing Concepts—In the first lesson we explore how a thing, though composed of many parts, is considered as a whole.
- U: Understanding Context—In the second lesson we explore how the essence of a thing can be confused when its parts are viewed out of context of the whole.
- M: Making Meaning—In the third lesson we examine the concept of advaita (nonduality or nondifference) in the contexts of Hinduism and other religions and make our own connections.
The design itself is an illustration of the concept of nonduality in that it demonstrates how, although composed of three distinct leaves, the shamrock is one plant. Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, is well-known for using the shamrock as a visual to explain the holy trinity, a concept that will be explained in greater detail in the third lesson: Making Meaning.
A user test revealed that this graphic was easier to understand than others I have created so far because it contains text explaining the image. All of the other graphics will be presented as part of a lesson that will examine their meaning and relevance, but as a stand-alone graphic, this made more sense to my user.
One change I might make based on the user test is to rearrange the A, U, and M on the shamrock’s leaves. My user said he thought the A should be placed on the left leaf and the U on top because he would read from left to right in that manner. I know that American readers typically read from left to right and top to bottom, but I don’t know which is more important here. My thought was to place the A at the top, followed by the U at left and then the M. Plus, the A just looked better up there. I would appreciate input regarding how others would read the letters, which spell AUM, a transliteration of the “OM” symbol in Devanagari script in the center of the shamrock.
I hope that I have achieved “a good balance between the white space and the other elements that make up the visual” (Lohr, 2008, p. 275). Any and all comments are welcome!
Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.