The transcript was edited for clarity.
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Hey, teachers, graphic design is more critical than ever. Everything we create in the classroom needs to look fantastic. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. So this episode today, 789, is graphic design for teachers with Sadie Lewis.
00;00;16;09 – 00;00;19;29
Welcome to the Ten Minute Teacher podcast with your host Vicki Davis.
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00;00;19;29 – 00;00;45;15
It’s back to school and educators. You can get your free educator wellness toolkit from today’s Sponsor Advancement Courses. Stay tuned at the end of the show to learn how to register for your free kit and how to receive 20% off your next Advancement Course. So today, we’re talking with Sadie Lewis, director of Instructional Design and personalized learning at the Melville School District.
Introduction to Sadie Lewis: Why Educators Need to Know About Graphic Design
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Now, I became familiar with Sadie as I attended ISTE virtually this year, and she did a fantastic presentation on graphic design for educators. So, Sadie, I know you’re passionate about this topic, but why do educators have to care so much about graphic design?
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So I think that design, visual design, and graphic design, in general, are just something that students can use. And unless they take that one computer art studio or marketing class, they may never hear about it. And I think teachers; it’s something that we don’t talk enough about as teachers.
When you think about asking the teachers to create presentations and graphics for their class and kids, they are making presentations and posters and infographics and all these things. We can’t just ask people to create something, to communicate a message, but not give them the tools and skills to do it. We should empower them to create something that does communicate their message.
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and set the tone and the mood that they want to set. And the little things with design can significantly affect how your audience receives the message you’re trying to send. So I think the more we ask teachers to create, the more we need to support them in that creation.
00;01;59;27 – 00;02;07;06
Some teachers say that’s the textbook job or that. “So I need to buy it; it just needs to look good.” But that’s not the case anymore.
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I don’t think so. I think so much more. Our teachers are creating their content for their classes because I believe we are getting better at treating teachers as learning designers, not just as “here’s my textbook, here’s the way I have to teach it,” but it’s creating learning experiences for kids. And with that comes creating digital content because we know how we are.
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Most, many of us are 1 to 1. And so a lot of learning is experienced either through digital creation or teachers creating things that become a physical thing, hand out or a poster or whatever. But I think that it’s becoming more and more the teachers and I say job, but something that we should focus on as we’re creating all these things for kids.
Why “Typical Presentations” Aren’t How We Teach Graphic Design Anymore
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Now, you have some great graphics with some essential tips for teachers. (Editor’s Note: See Sadie’s Visual Quickstart Guide and her Educator’s Guide to Visual Thinking) Could you give us some tips you can discuss in a podcast?
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Yeah, so I think that’s something that we’ve all done since I was a kid since I was like in middle school in the nineties. And when you created a presentation, it was always the title at the top, bullet points down one side, the picture on the other side, and you could close your eyes and imagine that slide in your head.
Tips to Teach Presentation Design to Students
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We’ve all seen it, but we shouldn’t start with the title when we open a slide. Instead, we should begin with Where do you want your audience’s attention to go? And it’s probably a graphic, probably a picture, and if that’s the case, that’s where you start. So put the image or that graphic or that big, bold word, whatever, wherever you need to tell your audience where to look and take that process, effort, and energy out of their mind and tell them where to look.
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And then start to build out from there. So maybe I have a picture of or a graph or something, that information, that’s where I start. And then add a little, perhaps a text here or there. But I am a big believer that bullet points are a lie. In middle school, our teachers told us we don’t need bullet points on slides because if you need bullet points on your slide, you probably have too much information.
Small Snippets of Information Instead of Bullet Points
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Instead of one slide with five bullet points, I would rather see five slides with little snippets of information because you’re moving faster, and you’re going to keep your audience’s attention rather than sitting on that one slide forever.
Script Your Speech First and Then Design Graphics
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Wait, I want to park on this one for a second. I teach my students to write what they want to say and type it in a word processor because people write their presentations in their slide program, which is terrible. And if you follow Gar Reynolds in Presentation Zen, which is such a great way to present. So if you get the kids and write it separately and then create the slides to tell the story, that’s much better.
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It would be best if you never read your slides.
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Your slides are not a script. Your slides are your backup dancer. Like I always tell kids, you’re more interesting than any slide show. So I don’t. I want to hear you tell me about what I’m looking at behind you, and you’re so right. So storyboarding, right? Get out a script, write everything you want to say, and then say, okay, so what would that slide look like while I’m talking about it?
Don’t Start With Slide Design, Start Designing What You’ll Say First
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Because we do, we often assign kids a presentation, and the first thing they do is open the presentation. What are you putting in that slide show, friend? You haven’t done any of the research or the work yet. Yeah, you are starting with storyboarding and outlining first. Absolutely.
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A fellow named Michael Port does excellent presentations; sometimes, his slides go black. He intentionally has a black slide, so there’s nothing up there, and there’s a time and a place to have your slide go black or to have a video that’s moving without sound.
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Okay, that’s such a great point. We could go there forever, but let’s move to our next one.
Using Color Effectively in Presentations
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Safety. I think color is another thing that goes with telling your audience where to look and where their attention should go. And you can send the message with color. And that’s why I could spend forever on it. But I think when we assign assigned kids projects and presentations, we’re surprised whenever they choose colors that are just like, “whoa, off the wall.” It’s because they’re making choices about the colors they like, not about colors that go well together, are contrasting, or are easy to view.
Using the 60/30/10 Rule of Color
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And so, there are lots of great tools out there. Adobe Color is a great one. You can drop a picture, and Adobe Color pulls all the colors out for you and creates a palette. But I always try to coach teachers and kids following the 60/30/10 rule. So you choose one nice, usually dark but pretty bold color, and you use it 60% of the time.
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The 60% color should be easy to view. I’m not using neon green; I’m probably using navy, dark purple, or black. And then 30% of the time, you use this kind of secondary color, and then 10% when you use neon green or bright colors. And maybe that’s just little things. It’s an icon here and there to pop or to pull the attention.
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So that 60/30/10 rule, I’m not saying you can’t use bright colors, but you can use them—10% of the time. And there’s there are lots of great color-picking tools out there. And this is very interesting.
Look at Magazine Covers for Modern Color Palettes
I always think magazines, if you go just to the magazine bracket, Barnes and Noble, or wherever, still sells magazines, look at the magazines.
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The covers of magazines are the best place to find color palettes because they follow that 6030 ten rule. And it’s a great example. So for teachers that want to start doing this in the classroom, I say go out and buy like HGTV, Food Network, like those magazines because those follow those 60/30/10 rule well.
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And that’s what I always use in the classroom as an example.
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That’s fantastic. And many years ago, I read a research article with two papers. They had one report that a student had done and had done it in color, with the words with colored charts and all that. And then they had a paper that was just plain old typed, but they wrinkled it a little bit, and the words were the same.
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And the attractive one made a whole letter grade higher than the crumpled one. And it was the exact words, but it was the attractiveness of how it looked.
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I’m not saying we should have a slide full of text. Still, suppose you have a sentence or something on a slide. In that case, there’s nothing wrong with taking the two or three most important words and making them bold and a different color because you are immediately taking that processing time away from your audience. They don’t have to think about what they’re viewing.
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You’ve told them so they can listen to what you’re saying because so often, what’s on the slide and what you say are two different things. And a person is trying to read the slide but also listen to you, which quickly sends them into cognitive overload. So if you can on the slide, tell them, this is where I want you to look, then they’re more likely to listen to you.
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And that’s why I sometimes think when teachers are lecturing, they’ve got one thing on the slide, and they’re lecturing about something else, and the kids don’t remember what the teacher said afterward. It’s because the students were trying to process two things simultaneously, and taking that processing energy out for them will help to learn in the long run because they’re going to be able to push more to their permanent memory.
A Presentation with Too Many Words Gone Very Wrong
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And we won’t say who this was or where it happened. However, many listeners in technology will remember a significant technology conference where the presenter had over 250 words on their slides. Over half the audience walked out before the end of the presentation. It was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life, just because they were reading it to us.
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And I don’t think the person realized that he was speaking to geeks. So people don’t believe the word “geek” is good. But as technologists, we tend to like things to look good. Okay, so you’ve given us some great tips about colors, picking colors, and not having too much text. What other tips do you have for us?
Consider Readability: Don’t Use Cursive with Young Children
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When we think about type or fonts, we always like to do cursive. If we’ve seen, I remember back in the summer of 2020, when Bitmoji Classrooms were starting to become a thing, and there were all these kindergarten and first-grade Bitmoji classrooms, and the “Welcome to Ms. Lewis’ Class” was written in cursive. Of course, kindergartners can’t read cursive, but we love that script fonts because we like them as teachers.
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But it’s not about us. It’s about what our kids can read and how easy it is to process. So any time we use more than a couple of words, you want to stick with simple, easy-to-read text. But if it’s something that you’re creating a cool graphic with and you’ve got one or two words and it’s cool like logo graphic, get creative, use the script.
Lexend: An Easy to Read Font
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That’s fine, but something that I always point people to is the font Lexend. It’s Lexend, and it was purposefully created for students with reading difficulties to increase comprehension and fluency in reading. And that’s the only font I use in my presentations anymore because it’s a, it’s nice, it looks nice, it’s a perfect looking font, but there are so many variations of bold.
One Font Can Have Variety
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And so when we think, I don’t want to use one font throughout my entire presentation; that’s boring. But, on the other hand, it’s not boring because you can take one font and do all caps, lowercase, bold, thick, thin, and italics. And it looks like a completely different font. And I like it because it was created by an educator who noticed kids having trouble reading long passages.
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And so it was developed specifically to help kids read. And that means it’s suitable for all of us. It will help all of us with processing information.
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So is it Google slides, keynote, and PowerPoint, or do you have to load it in Canva?
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Is it across platforms? It is. Yeah, it’s open source. It’s in all the things. So you have to go and Google when you go into fonts and add more, but it’s in there, and then it’s like a downloadable. So if you use if you want to download and add it to like Microsoft Office, you can. (Read: What’s In a Font? How Typography Can help us read better.)
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So it’s downloadable, and it’s if you just like their website Lexend has all the research where they did studies with kids and like reading studies, and it has all the research out there. So it’s a good one. So yeah, it’s a good one. And I’m not saying you don’t use crazy fonts, but if you do one or two words, everything else is readable.
Places to Go for Graphic Design Resources
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Okay, Sadie, as we finish, point teachers to some great resources or books or websites where they can get more information about how to have better graphic design.
00;12;41;03 – 00;13;02;29
Yeah, I will say that, Canva. So while I don’t love using templates because we so often point kids to templates, and then they fill it in when we want them to create their stuff or remix and teach them how to do it. But I will say Canva has Canva Design School, which has little videos and lessons on all these different things.
00;13;02;29 – 00;13;22;07
Adobe is coming out with some as well, some excellent resources. I like Adobe Color to find good color palettes and all of that. And then Adobe Fonts has cool font packs and stuff to inspire you. So even if you’re not an Adobe user, you can still go in and find inspiration for how to pair different fonts together.
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And I think, as I said, Canva as well, getting kids into some of those template platforms and asking them, so what would you change and why would you change it? And having them dissect that and make them their own is fun. So I think there are there’s a lot of pre-made resources out there. But honestly, I like I just like designing and starting in Google Slides and just starting with a blank canvas and designing that way.
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And then I have my little design, a little workbook I work kids through that I have publicly on a Wakelet for anybody to use. So I don’t know if that’s a link or something that you could that we can share that anybody is welcome to use it.
Books on Graphic Design
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There are so many great resources out there now, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to get into it and to make things more attractive.
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And there are not a lot of books on graphic design and education. However, graphic design, like the principles of design, is universal. Therefore, good design books teach design basics transferable to education because good design is good design.
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One of my favorites is the Non-Designers Design Book, I think it’s what it’s called, and it’s by a person named Robin Williams, who’s not Robin Williams, the comedian. And it’s a basic graphic design and an excellent book to teach kids. So please tell us your website name.
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There we go. So thank you, Sadie Lewis, for sharing with us. Graphic design for educators. So many great ideas here for both our students and us.
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00;15;08;11 – 00;15;47;25
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00;15;47;28 – 00;16;01;20
You’ve been listening to the Ten Minute Teacher podcast. If you like this program, you can find more at cool head teacher dot com. Also, if you wish to see more content by Vicki Davis, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter under @coolcatteacher. Thank you for listening.