My first foray into “digital design”!

…well, sort of. I mean, I’ve used PowerPoint before, so that must count for something, but usually I don’t have to worry about my presentations being BOTH (1) able to stand alone and (2) pleasant to look at.  I’ve made presentations (slide shows) where I’m there to explain the details, that can be attractive but incomplete content-wise, and I’ve made conference posters where I’m not always there to explain the details and so included a LOT of text and graphs… and, frankly, not been terribly attractive.  Trying for both at the same time was quite the challenge!

Apparently I’m a very orderly thinker… because I broke my processes down into steps, and tried to complete each one before moving on to the next!

The first step for me was selecting a topic.  That actually wasn’t too difficult; I wanted to provide myself with a handy reference for a technique for enhancing student engagement (from Barkley’s 2010 book) that I would actually like to use in my class but wasn’t already familiar with. The one I ended up picking – “Think Again!”, stood out for me in its simplicity, as it can be accomplished in a single session and has a very straightforward and clear end goal (i.e., “Disprove this statement”). But it also struck me with the wide range of skills it demands students use and develop: self-reflection, information seeking and evaluation, assembling information from different sources into a coherent whole, explaining concepts to others, working with others towards a common goal… all useful skills in my opinion!  So “Think Again!” it was 🙂

Then it was on to the creation of the infographic itself.  I first took some time hunting out websites, software and templates that could help me out; I don’t consider myself an experienced graphic designer, so I didn’t want to just start from scratch and hope for the best.  I figured starting with a template that just “looked nice” to me would be a good start!  I wanted something that looked clean but had the space I thought I’d need to include a lot of information about the technique I’d chosen.

I had some difficulty with the online tools I found, either because it didn’t look like they’d let me do as much customization as I’d like, or looked too sparse (e.g. text + graphs, no graphics or, well, pizzazz!).  I ended up downloading a collection of templates (from hubspot.com) for PowerPoint, both because they looked nice and because at least I’m already relatively familiar with that program and its limitations.  On a more technical note, I also wanted to make sure I was using something that would end up being nicely compatible across platforms (Mac vs. PC, Firefox vs. Chrome vs. Safari vs. Internet Explorer… I’ve definitely experienced problems with inter-compatability).  So making something that I knew could be easily converted to a .pdf seemed like a good idea.

I looked at the template options and tried to see how the relevant information could be inserted into each one.  Do I use a flow chart and add side-boxes for additional information outside of the details of the process itself?  Seems like that would get too cluttered.  How about a set of rectangles, each one with a different piece of the puzzle: pros, cons, process, example?  This is where my step-by-step approach started breaking down… I actually had narrowed things down to two templates – one that was very simple, and one that was a bit more busy, and started working with both simultaneously.  The very simple one became very boring for me to put together, and I figured if I was bored creating it then I and others would probably be bored looking at it later!  So I tossed that one, and ended up using a template designed as a ‘side-by-side comparison’, modified to fit the information I wanted to present.

Information on the two sides of the image is connected as you move down, but I tried to use the left side to include vital and factual information – I think it could almost work as a standalone piece – with additional, related information presented on the right side.  I have to say my biggest challenge at this point was paring my descriptions and explanations down so they would (a) fit in the space I was working with and (b) leave the finished product looking more like a picture than a “wall-o’-text”!

Once I had the text about how I wanted it, the final step was to “illustrate” it.  I tried to stick to simple, punchy symbols to emphasize each point presented.  They’re each related to the text they’re associated with in my own mind… I hope they come across as well to others!  This was another time my step-by-step approach broke down a bit, as I found myself modifying text to better suit graphics I liked.  I found all the graphics I ended up using in a combination of the original template I’d chosen to use, Powerpoint’s “Symbol” and “Shape” lists, and basic text characters.  Although they all behave differently when formatting them, I’m pretty pleased with how they all ended up working together!

All in all I’m actually pretty pleased with it as a whole, not least because the entire main body of it is all legible when shrunk to fit on a single computer screen 🙂  I had such a good time playing with everything that I actually think I want to make more for a few other techniques I’m interested in using and posting them up on my wall as inspiration…

So without further ado, here it is!  Click to see:

Barker Infographic Think Again SET

 

References

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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