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Graphics, Slides, and Posters


Graphics and related learning media are popular choices in education to illustrate narratives or scenarios, to aid comprehension of abstract concepts, to illustrate components, to indicate motion or path, to represent statistical data or geography, and to aid explanatory metaphors among other things. Web and user experience designers like Steve Krug (2014) would suggest that you avoid front-loading visual elements like slides, web pages, or print copy with "happy talk" and instructions because learners will skip that. Instead, lessen cognitive load (Sweller, 1988) and capitalize on learners' tendency to satisfice, or take the easiest route to an end goal, by scaffolding their learning and activities with simple, direct visual and content design. 

Some questions to ask yourself when using graphic elements in your course (Valli, 2017): 

  • Is it accessible? Graphic elements must be clear to all learners on all devices. Review our digital content accessibility checklist for more tips.
  • Is it simple? Complex visuals requiring intense explanation may not aid your efforts. 
  • Is it consistent? Use color, shape, & style carefully (e.g., don't use clip art by photos or use a lot of color to represent varying things). Style variations may detract attention from your content. 
  • Is it helpful? Consider your instructional objectives when preparing graphics. Do they aid your learning outcomes? If not, (e.g., they're just pretty) cut them to reduce cognitive load. 
  • Is it legal? Most graphics hold copyright protection. Though fair use allows some exceptions, we need to respect intellectual property rights. 


Learn about the basics of graphic design, including typography, color, layout and composition, images, and more by viewing the Beginning Graphic Design playlist on YouTube. 

Consider tips to enhance your presentations, such as: 



Krug, S. (2014). Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Amazon (3rd ed.). New Riders. 

Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12(2), 257-285. 

Valli, H. (2017). Educational graphics: Five considerations. Duke Learning Innovation Blog. Retrieved from