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April 24, 2019

Visual Design Solutions Book Review


​Some of you may be wondering why I am including this book in my suite of reviews since the intended audience is for learning professionals. We are all trying to communicate our specific message and know that good visual design is critical to that goal.

The book’s straightforward and elegant approach makes it a useful resource for anyone wanting to improve their skill set. If you create any type of educational content – videos, tutorials, online courses – you should add this book to your list of must reads.

The chapters are long enough to cover the stated concept and include a variety of excellent examples without being bloated or going overboard. Each chapter begins with a “framework” or a short list of questions that chapter answers like “What are the psychological effects of color?” (chapter 7) and “What is visual storytelling?” (Chapter 15) along with a short description of what the chapter covers.

​​Overview of the Book

​Part 1: The Big Ideas

​Chapter One discusses the connection between visuals and learning along with how the user experience is affected by design. Chapter Two is unique and not one you find in most books like this one. The goal is to help you, in your head or your heart, accept that you are a designer and can be really good at it. Chapter Three provides tools and strategies on how to be efficient and effective no matter your work environment. (And yeah!, one of the framework questions is “How can I speed up the design process?”.)

​Part 2: Building Blocks of Design

​Now in Part Two, Chapter Four is an important chapter because it discusses graphic space and how to use it to improve the overall design. Many new designers ignore this are as “just the background” not realizing the important role it plays. Chapter Five focuses on using images and effective ways to use them. For most of us, we immediately think of breathtaking photographs you might find on a travel website. The word images in this chapter actually refers to all visuals (photos, illustrations, graphs, diagrams, icons, and shapes) that can be used in design. Chapter Six is all about type or as many us call it, font. Often most ignored by beginners, this chapter shows you the different type formats and how each can help you convey your message.

​Part 3: Power Principles

​With the fundamentals established, Part Three focuses on design principles and color. In Chapter Seven, it is all about color. Here you learn the impact color can have on design, how create a color palette or scheme, and strategies for communicating your message. In Chapter Eight, you will learn how to direct where a person looks first and then create a path of where the eye should go. Chapter Nine looks at how to take your individual elements of layout, images, shapes, and typography and make them harmonious or unified. Chapter Ten shows how to keep a unified design from becoming monotonous through the use of contrast. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as font size, color, and even negative space. The human brain likes patterns and we often subconsciously seek them out. As highlighted in Chapter Eleven a design the doesn’t apply grouping is just jumbled type, shapes, and color.

​Part 4: Practicing Design

​In the last part, the chapters take the building blocks and principles covered in the previous chapters and focuses on ways to practice different concepts. Chapter Twelve focuses developing visual cues building off of what you learned in Chapter Eight. Chapter Thirteen provides several examples on how to add visual appeal the hooks your audience and keeps them engaged. With Chapter Fourteen, you will see how to make your content more meaningful through techniques like metaphor and chunking. Telling stories has been an integral part of the human species from the beginning. It is a powerful strategy to communicate your message. Chapter Fifteen provides several examples on how to start using visual storytelling. Last but certainly not least, Chapter Sixteen focuses on data. As noted by several other design authors, content/numbers in tables and charts can be particularly disastrous to a design. You will learn key strategies on how to communicate your data effectively.

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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