The Importance of Imagery in ebook & Materials Design

“Our students must be able to move gracefully and fluently between text and images, between literal and figurative worlds”

Lynell Burmark

This article is part of my own research into visual literacy and book design.

What if we could create visual mnemonics that could capture feelings, experiences and trigger the imagination in powerful ways?

What if images helped us to move from linear thought to holistic engagement?

What if our use of imagery was so tangible that students could see, feel, hear, and touch the essence of a story through interaction with the eperfect textbook?

Of course, with the plethora of multi-media tools available and the possibility of creating interactive text books comes the responibility inherent in making correct choices. As we discussed in the google community for #ebookevo yesterday, we’ve got to make learning tangible but not confusing. That’s why I favour a minimalist approach to visual design where nothing is included that doesn’t specifically engage the learner or serve the purpose of inspiring creative thinking.

What are the characteristics of a good-looking book?


While there are as many artistic interpretations on what constitutes good-looking, we can narrow down visual requirements by following the principles of visual intelligence.

Here are some design principles that I picked up from my research.

Just to get you motivated, professor Richard Mayer, author of multi-media learning came up with the following results after much research. ” Retention and recall are boosted 42% with multi-media learning and a whopping 89% with illustrated texts.”

. Images are said to improve learning by up to 400%, and here are some findings on the use of colour from the 3M Meeting Network, which is a business research centre, but it’s findings are highly applicable to education.

1)Color visuals increase willingness to read by up to 80 percent.

2)Using color can increase motivation and participation by up to 80 percent.

3)Color enhances learning and improves retention by more than 75 percent.

4)Color accounts for 60 percent of the acceptance or rejection of an object and is a critical factor in the success of any visual experience.

5)Using color in advertising outsells black and white by a whopping 88 percent.

Here is a very useful website to help you explore the art and brainfriendly nature of colour, its moods, associations and educational applications. Even if it’s just in our ebook design, it’s quite clear that we need to bring some art into education even when we are not teaching art itself. Language teaching and language arts constitute the art of self-expression.

Critical Factors to guide design:

1) Content (what)
2) Technique (how)
3) Purpose/impact (why)

By following the three designing principles above we can make sure that our book or lesson designs are relevant, practical, creative and engaging.

For me, number three is the most important. If your purpose is sound, the rest will follow.

Critical factors to promote engagement:

1) Images with suitable emotive impact
2) Humour in context
3) Clarity and space
4) Fun areas in the book where students do some real creativity work.
5) Socialising and collaborating areas in the book.

Here’s a great image to match a great article on ideas and design.

(Visual Notetaking: This original image was created by Giulia Forsythe, and she granted me permission to remix this image and use it in Mapping Media)

Lastly, I’ll leave you with an two amazing resources for elearning design.

One is called the rapid elearning blog

The other is a collection of idea and technology tips from Nik Peachey’s edtech blog.

Here’s a nice motto that I think we can all relate to:

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
John Ruskin

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