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Good design is everywhere: on websites, in objects you use in your home, the car you drive every day. But often, design is missing from the modern classroom, and we think that’s a big mistake. Educators have a lot to learn from the principles of design, bringing strategic thought and creativity to today’s classrooms. Well-designed classrooms and educational plans can have a positive impact on educational outcomes, and it all starts with educators. Read on to find out about the 25 design principles that we think are important for educators to use and understand.
In design, unity is all about bringing elements together, making sure that no one part is more important than the whole design. Finding balance and unity in your classroom is similarly essential. Thinking about how all of your lessons and educational tasks come together is a great way to find balance and unity in your classroom. Use repetition, rhythm, and themes with variations to bring it all together.
Designers don’t like to leave users guessing about what will happen next. When you click on a website link, you expect to be taken to a new site. Students should expect the same. Be predictable in your teaching style so that students can know what to expect when they walk into your classroom each day.
Much like unity, balance helps to create a unified design, making sure that no one space takes away from the whole of the design. In the classroom, balance is a great way to make sure you’re not focusing too much on any one thing, neglecting other important lessons.
Designers use movement to guide viewers to focal areas, often with lines, shapes, and colors. Educators can use this principle, guiding students to key ideas with leading questions and helpful hints.
Just as users and viewers crave variety in design, so do your students. As an educator, making variety an important principle in your instruction can help keep your students’ attention and guide them through the coursework.
In a good design, it’s clear what’s most important, with a defined hierarchy that leads viewers through elements in order of their significance. Educators can use this principle, focusing on what’s most important early on in the lesson when you’re most likely to have the attention of your students.
Great designers anticipate how their viewers and users will need to interact with what they create, and teachers can do the same thing. Anticipate how your students will go through new lessons as you’re planning them, and make adjustments for better flow if you need to.
Harmony in art and design means combining similar and related elements, like adjacent colors on the color wheel. For educators, harmony can be used for better comprehension, bringing related lessons together in the same unit and considering which concepts might complement one another.
Consistency is what makes design look professional, offering a perception of quality and coherence. Clearly, consistency in education is key and can go a long way to making students better understand your instruction and feel comfortable in your classroom. Consider how you can make everything “match” in your work as a teacher. Do you approach all lessons in the same format? Keep a regular schedule for each day?
We’ve all sat and stared at a screen as a video is loading, watching as it goes from 10% to 50%, 90%, and finally 100%. This kind of feedback is great in design, giving users the reassurance they need to know everything is still on track. In the classroom, giving this kind of feedback is great for creating confident students, letting them know whether they’re headed in the right direction.
Designers use positive and negative space to keep things uncluttered and simple, with objects representing positive space, and the environment itself as negative space. For educators, positive and negative space can represent instruction and learning. Paying attention to the principle of positive and negative space can help teachers keep a balance between instruction and students’ independent learning.
Related to positive and negative space, spacing can make things clearer in design, with line spacing, padding, and of course, white (or negative) space. Classroom instructors can use this principle to keep an even pace. Cramming lots of instruction in at once isn’t just distracting, it’s terrible for keeping the attention of your students. Spread things out a bit, and you’ll be able to focus on what’s important without overwhelming your students.
Designers use scale and dominance to create focal points, and educators can do the same thing. Whether you’re physically showing the difference in size between two objects, or comparing country statistics, showing scale can help students put things in perspective.
In design, it’s important to keep things structured, simple, and consistent. The same principles are effective in the classroom, giving students a learning style that they can count on. Developing a style manual for your classroom can help you stay consistent, and creating a simple, repeatable learning structure is comforting and dependable for students to follow as they learn.
Designers and educators alike know that these days, it’s hard to keep anyone’s attention. That’s why attention conservation is key to success in both design and education. Remember that attention in your classroom is precious, and don’t squander it.
Designers and artists carefully pay attention to the rule of thirds, frequently placing the primary element off center to make compositions more interesting. Teachers can use this idea in the classroom, both in visual design and in an instructional approach. Mix up the way you present information just slightly, and it can become a little bit more interesting to your students.
Designers know that repetition with out variation can become monotonous, but repetition with variation makes things interesting. You can use this principle as an educator, especially when it comes to reciting and reviewing material with your students. They may not enjoy going over the same lessons and concepts over and over again, but if you mix things up as you go along, you can make them more interesting.
The general public loves to touch things and to manipulate physical objects, and so do students. Whenever possible, allow students to get hands-on with learning to better keep their attention, boost understanding, and make education more fun.
Designers have to pay attention to accessibility in their work, ensuring that what they create isn’t unnecessarily difficult for users, especially those with disabilities. Special education teachers are likely to be well versed in accessibility, but it’s a principle that any educator can put to work. Many classrooms include students with anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and more. When planning lessons, consider how students with these issues might be affected.
Web designers go to great lengths to make sure their work is super sharp and clear, and it’s no secret that clarity is important for educators as well. While clarity for designers most often comes down to pixels, it’s a lot more complex for instructors. Keeping things clear and simple for your students is essential to comprehension. Are your lessons difficult to understand, or easy to work through?
Similar to accessibility, usability puts the user front and center in design, making sure that a product is easy to use and understand. Paying careful attention to usability in your classroom is a great way to make learning more effective for your students, removing obstacles to understanding and making your classroom more effective. Think about the frustrations, errors, and confusion your students may experience, and consider what you can do to resolve these issues.
Repeating or alternating elements in design create a sense of movement, pattern, and texture. In the classroom, rhythm can help students better understand patterns, using repetition and compare/contrast tasks.
For a web designer, navigation is one of the most important principles and elements of design. Navigation tells a user where they are, and where they can (and should) go. For instructors, navigation is similarly important, as you work to guide students through concepts. Remember to be a frequent guidepost, offering reference to where you currently are in the lesson, and where you’re about to go.
With smart organization, designers can reduce the cognitive load needed for users to interact with their work. Although educators aren’t exactly in the business of reducing the cognitive loads of their students, this principle is still helpful. Disorganized learning can cause unnecessary confusion and make it difficult for students to follow what you’re learning. Help students better understand what you’re teaching by keeping things organized.
In design, interfaces exist in order to enable interaction between users, objects, and even themselves. Paying special attention to this design principle is great for educators, encouraging interaction and collaboration in your classroom.