Introduction to Visual Design[Enter Course]


In this course, students learn to analyze and produce effective printed documents, such as technical reports, proposals, and software documentation. To guide their learning, students are introduced to the basics of visual communication design and typography through a series of audio-visual explanations that describe and illustrate key concepts and vocabulary, self-assessments that verify the understanding, and hands-on exercises with individualized feedback that provide opportunities to try out what they learned.

Learning Objectives

  • Concepts and vocabulary—Students will be able to use the basic concepts and vocabulary of visual communication design to describe the design of documents.
  • Analysis—Students will be able to recognize and articulate good and problematic aspects of documents.
  • Production—Students will be able to use typographic variables appropriately to create effective documents

Who should use this OLI course

  • Students who are interested in improving their visual design skills for creating effective documents may find it helpful to use this OLI course.
  • Instructors of a course that require students to create visual communication materials may find it helpful to integrate this OLI course into their existing courses as a supplemental learning tool.

Estimated Time to Complete

The entire course can be completed in about 2 to 3 hours.

Additional Course Details

This OLI course includes the following 3 types of activities.

Audio-Visual Explanations
In each section, students are introduced to basic visual communication design concepts, vocabulary, and practical issues through declarative instructions that are primarily delivered as oral descriptions supported by visual examples. Both effective and ineffective examples are used to explain and illustrate basic concepts.
Self-Assessment Questions
Each audio-visual explanation is followed by a small set of self-assessment questions that provide students with immediate feedback relating to the task at hand.  This is intended to help students rehearse and verify what they learned in the audio-visual explanations.
Hands-on Exercise with Critiquing
After learning the basic concepts, vocabulary, and practical issues—typically after 2 to 3 sets of audio-visual explorations and self-assessments—students conduct simple hands-on exercises to practice applying what they learned. Students are given a sequence of design tasks, and asked to experiment with the impact of visual variables on the effectiveness of the communication. The system observes students’ performance, makes inferences about their strengths and weaknesses, and provides individualized feedback.
In-Depth Description
The goal of this course is to introduce fundamental knowledge and skills associated with the design of documents. Rather than delivering prescriptive guidelines or domain-specific rules (which are unfortunately more frequently available to novice designers), this course focuses on introducing students to design principles that are applicable to a broad range of design problems. For instance, instead of presenting guidelines like “The same font should be used throughout the whole report, unless a second font is chosen for headings and tables” (Winckel, Hart, Behrend, & Kokkinn,, 2002, p. 5) or “Title [of a spreadsheet] must be centered and prominent” (Jeter, 2002), this course explains the principles that guide the selection of fonts and how visual hierarchy can be established by controlling visual variables.
Course Outline
  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Structure of the Tutorial

Unit 1: Visual Hierarchy

  • Introduction
  • Type
    • Type Size
    • Typeface
    • Type Weight
    • Exercise
    • Spacing
      • Paragraph Spacing
      • Indentations
      • Exercise
      • Summary

Unit 2: Legibility & Readability

  • Introduction
  • Legibility
  • Leading
  • Line Length
  • Widows and Orphans
  • Tight & Loose Lines
  • Exercise
  • Summary

Unit 3: Page Layout

  • Introduction
  • Margins
  • Grid
  • Exercise