How can you make your information more visual?

Related to my last post, I wanted to share some thoughts after mulling over my recent eLearning Design course. I was given lots of ideas from the course for how to make my eLearning more engaging, and so many of the points related to presentation and teaching slides. I don’t know if there are librarians reading this who also design eLearning, but I know the majority will be using slides to support their presentations and workshops, so I’ll talk about both.

One of the key messages I took was make your information as visual as possible. E-learning is a visual medium – it doesn’t get more visual than sitting in front of a screen. And humans take in visual information more quickly than text. Since slides should support your presentation, not duplicate it word-for-word on a slide, getting information across in a visual way is a useful technique. You could use include charts and graphs, flow-diagrams, images, etc. It’s quite fun to do, to take a block of bullet points and turn them into something visual.

It’s something I’ve tried to incorporate in recent induction slides. I’ve been looking for opportunities to try out things I learned on the course.

I wanted to use the slides as handouts (my previously fairly abstract slides haven’t made good handouts, but people still requested them) so I wanted to make sure the information was there but not in tiny, too-small-to-see font. So I tried wherever possible to represent the information in a visual way. I had to put together my presentation quite quickly, so I saved time by reusing a colleague’s slides from another induction so I knew all the content was there, and spent my time thinking “how can I make this more visual”?

My favourite example from my induction slides, is from this:

  • Bibliographic databases
    • national subscriptions e.g. Medline, PsycInfo, BNI
    • local subscriptions e.g. PsycArticles, Internurse
  • Journals
  • CPD resources e.g. Royal Marsden Nursing Manual
  • Systematic Reviews e.g. Cochrane Library
  • Point of Care tools e.g. Dynamed
  • Google Scholar
  • And more….

To this:

Laptop imageI downloaded the laptop and the icons from the E-learning Heroes community. There are lots of resources there for eLearning but also for PowerPoint. It’s great to not only get ideas from other people, but to be able to download and use these resources really saves time and helps when you’re not particularly creative (like me). Without working on eLearning I would never have thought to do something like this for a PowerPoint. I know I still have more to learn, but I’m excited to be challenging myself.

I don’t know if it actually made a difference, but I was certainly happier presenting from something like this than a bunch of text and bullet points.

The Rule of Thirds – An easy way to make your photos and slides look good

When it comes to making things look good – presentation slides, photos, my house – I fully admit I need all the help I can get.

This post is about a neat trick called The Rule of Thirds. I learnt about it on a course I attended last week on eLearning Design, through the Training Foundation (I’ll be blogging some more things from it later on).

The Rule of Thirds is a technique used by photographers for composition, but it a great way to also structure the layout of e-learning screens or presentation slides. Presentation Zen have some lovely examples from advertising.

It’s the idea that an image is more eye-catching and interesting if the subject is not in the centre. Imagine digital camera’s screen is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically, and try placing the subject along these lines instead of the centre. For example, a photo of a cyclist facing left may look more dynamic placed in the right-hand third.

Rule of thirds gridIn particular, the points at which the grid lines intersect are ‘power points’, and are great place to put your subject.

I don’t know the science behind it, but I do know that I am 100% completely on board with this. I was unconsciously using the technique without knowing why some of my photographs looked especially good despite the rest usually looking terrible. Sometimes I’ll craft the perfect presentation slide, and I can’t put my finger on why it looks so good.

So, to demonstrate, here are a couple of my accidentally-stumbled-on-Rule of Thirds photos:


(Having trawled my photos for a portrait example, it is clear I don’t like taking photos in portrait!)

It works for text too, so it’s something worth considering when you’re designing slides for a presentation.

When designing a short eLearning course during this training, I realised our corporate branding template follows the Rule of Thirds – in the front page for PowerPoint, the top two thirds of the page are white and the bottom third is navy blue.

Something I also learnt about was ‘lead-in lines’. This is possibly less relevant to eLearning, but still interesting to know about. They are lines that draw the eye to the centre of an image. There is a little bit of this in the above photos – skidoo tracks in the snow, and the jellyfishes’ tentacles. It could be a road, a stream, people walking along a path, etc. Apparently left-handers prefer lead in lines from the bottom-right.

Since eLearning is such a visual medium, layout and the use of images are really important to get information across effectively and to create an engaging environment. I’ll be making a concerted effort to include the Rule of Thirds in my layout design. As I’m not particularly creative (though I can recreate well), I find tricks and tips like this particularly useful when designing.