Tag Archives: information

Design Smarter: Find the best blend for text and image

The picture superiority effect occurs when you combine visuals and text together to increase audience retention of your message. The picture superiority effect is what allows you to create one of Nancy Duarte’s STAR Moments, evocative visuals. Not every visual needs to utilize text; Lisa Kristine in her amazing TED talk uses no text on her images; using text over her haunting and beautiful images of human slaves would have diminished their impact. However, text, especially in stand-alone presentations can help enhance a slide, communicate a more impacting message, and add to that cohesive look we want from original slide decks.

There are a few ways to blend text and image together on a slide. What you do depends on what you want to accomplish, the nature of your image and the amount of text on your slide. Your choice depends on what your main focus is in displaying the word with the image. Are they equally important? Is one more important than another? Here are a few variations to get you started.Below, I’ll cover a few of the more common combinations I see from designers and students. There are several ways to combine a bit of text with an image. Here are a few variations to get you started.

One idea, one image with empty space

One way to combine an image with an idea is to look for an image that has empty space. Often, images that employ the rule of thirds  include enough space for text. You know there’s enough space when there is little to no overlap between image and text. In this example, the original image by Flickr user Photoco. was licensed for commercial use with adaptations or remixes allowed. I was able to fill the slide with the image (which was large enough to display without pixelation) and use the empty space to the left of the figure to add my idea.

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One idea, one image without empty space

In other situations, you might have a fairly busy image you’d like to use on your slide; there is no one specific detail in the image that is more important than another that must be visible as in the example above. So, you can use a few strategies to blend image and text. The first is to adjust the brightness and exposure of the original image and place one large word over the picture (fig. a); note that this works well with a typeface like Intro, but might not work well with a typeface that has a thinner weight. In the first two examples (fig. a, fig. b), I adjusted the brightness and exposure of the image. In the next, I added a shadow to differentiate the text from the background (fig. c). In the final example, I adjusted the opacity of the text (this sometimes improves readability) (fig. d). Notice that the color changes depending on the option.

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After tweaking colors, shadows, and image settings, I chose this variation:

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Now, let’s assume you want to use a font with a thinner weight, like District Pro. Notice that without a bit of help, the text here is difficult to read. This is where a supporting shape comes in. Placing a shape behind the text (as long as it doesn’t make an important element on the image impossible to see) can be an option when blending text and image. In the example below, I’ve used several shapes to emphasize the text.

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One quote, one image with empty space

So, what if you want to place a quote or a lengthier idea (keep words to a minimum on a slide; 5-8 words is enough) on a slide with an image? Your first and best bet is to seek out an image with empty space, like the one above. Using an image with empty space and a readable typeface will help you maximize the impact of the quote by providing simple, clean visual support.

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One quote, one image without empty space a quote

At times, it’s possible to place a quote on a slide that has is busier–again, as long as the quote does not interfere with important parts of the image. However, this is the option I would advise the least. Placing a quote on a slide with a busy image will increase your chances of creating noise and it could minimize signal. In the case below, the quote on the slide combined with the image creates noise.

 

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The solution here is to rearrange the image to fit the frame (fig. e), find an image that allows the blend to happen naturally (fig. f), or allow the quote to stand alone.

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These are only a few of the many ways to blend text and image together.Whatever your choice, it’s important to consider these three best practices when pairing text and image:

1. The picture superiority effect is maximized when text and image are blended.

2. Create the most seamless blend possible.

3. Keep signal high and noise low.

What are your go to strategies for maximizing the picture superiority effect?

 

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All things Infographic

On July 25th, Slideshare.net launched their new infographics-friendly viewer. I was stoked to see an influx of new visualizations begin appearing right away. I’ve recently turned my focus from slide design to infographics as a teaching and learning tool. The process of learning what makes a good infographic has been inspiring for me as a designer, and I’ve enjoyed presenting and communicating ideas in a different way. So, what makes a good infographic, and why are infographics such a useful tool for educators to consider?

Why Infographics?

The many resources available on the web and in print have much to say on the subject. According to the infographic, “What Makes Great Infographics,” infographics are so powerful because we are drawn to formats that are engaging, efficient, and entertaining; because they help us digest information more efficiently, and because they help us retain information. According to edudemic’s 70 Tools and 4 Reasons to Make Your own Infographics, there are three reasons teachers might consider using an infographic as a teaching tool:

1) to grab an audience’s attention (students as we know have short attention spans).

2) to pare down ideas, theories, and content so students can not only understand the information more easily but retain information longer.

3) to challenge students to think critically about course concepts and create a non-traditional mode of composition/communication.

What makes a good infographic?

Okay, so infographics can help our students learn and retain information, but what makes for a great infographic? A good starting point is David McCandless’ What makes Good Information Design visualization. For McCandless, great information design requires four qualities. Notice that all four of these qualities must be present for information design to be successful:

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Daniel Zeevi of Dashburst adapted this visualization specifically for infographics. According to Zeevi, “the key to a good infographic design is to find interesting and reliable data, then come up with an awesome blueprint and visual story to deliver the underlying message.” (Source). Zeevi’s four qualities expand on McCandless’ general comments about design:

good-infographic

During our recent summer continuing education series, I participated in a poster session on the subject of infographics and how teachers can use them to present information to their students in a way that taps into both text-based and image-based modes of communication. Teachers can use infographics to communicate course concepts, record class notes, and enrich the online classroom experience. I shared this advice with attendees when designing their own visualizations: 1. Consider dimensions; 2. Choose a clear, strong color palette; 3. Display data for impact; and 4. Keep visuals simple.

Consider Dimensions

While the sky pretty much is the limit when it comes to sizing an infographic, experts provide a set of standard guidelines that can help you create an infographic that is easy to scroll through for the audience.

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Choose a clear, strong color palette

One aspect of infographic design that surprised me was choosing a strong background color. Most infographics use lighter backgrounds with subtle textures. This makes the infographic easier to process quickly.

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Display Data for Impact

Charts, graphs, and data display are integral to a strong infographic. After all, one primary purpose of an infographic is the communication and explanation of complex, dense information.

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Keep Visuals Simple

While some infographic designers are experts at programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, the average educator (me, for instance) has less knowledge of these programs. So, how do you create something that is still dynamic and well designed? Check out the resources below!

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My Current Infographic Projects

Educational Infographics

In Professional Communication and Presentation, I use the “Choosing an Ignite” infographic to help students brainstorm and choose a strong Ignite topic.

One of the most difficult tasks for my students is the development of a strong persuasive presentation topic. I combined an article from Six Minutes, Nancy Duarte’s discussion of convergent and divergent thinking, and my 4-year experience with the Ignite-style presentation to develop this “how to” for students.

Currently, I’m also working on a “great speeches” series of infographic that provides students with historical background on a speech, the context in which the speech was delivered, and lessons they can draw from an analysis of the speech. I am beginning with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.” Finally, I’ve been working on a Welcome to Professional Communication and Presentation infographic that provides students with an at-a-glance overview of the course. As Alex Rister and I used her “look” for the course introduction, I used her colors and typefaces for the infographic. Below is a “preview”.

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Professional Persona Infographic

As part of the re-branding/rebooting of my visual resume and teaching portfolio, I created this infographic of my teaching philosophy, approach to course development and instruction, and leadership style. I am using the same color scheme and type for the slide version of my new Superteacher Visual Resume.

 

Want to learn more? Check out this list of resources!

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