When creating visuals for learning we are working in two dimensions with three very important tenets; visual components, relationships, and imagination.
Visual components are all the things that make up the image. As stated earlier, the learner takes the screen into mind as the entire image, not as individual components—at least initially. It is the combination of the smaller components like line, shape and color that creates the larger image for the learner. Different colors, shapes and textures have different effects on the learner. The first area affected is the affective domain or what the learner feels about what he or she sees. The next is the cognitive domain. What are they giving their attention to? Is there too much to absorb? The combination of the impact on the affective domain and the cognitive domain affects the learning. It may not be apparent right away what that effect is, but there is always an effect.
Relationships are created when two elements are placed on the same screen. As Albert Einstein stated in the law of relativity, things only exist in relationship to each other. So even if it is one word on the screen, you have a relationship to it and the space around it—the white space. It is extremely important that you understand how the brain establishes relationships and how you can use them to facilitate learning. We will discuss four very important relationships later; these are contrast, repetitions, alignment and proximity. Some other relationships to keep in mind, though, are balance, rhythm, hierarchy, focus, and unity. Because images affect learners in different ways, each perception of the image is unique to each and every learner’s perceptual field. There are certain relationships that are established with most learners, though, because of the environment in which they have grown up and the culture and society in which they live. For example, in western cultures you might create a feedback response for incorrect items in red to indicate a stop sign. “Hold it! Stop! You want to review this and try again.” But in Chinese culture where red has an entirely different meaning, you would want to create the positive, “Congratulations. Great job. You answered this correctly,” feedback response in red.
The final tenant is by far the most important. There is nothing as powerful as the imagination. Imagination is what takes the visual components and relationships and turns them into something that is internalized in the learner. Imagination is what makes words and lines and screens into real concepts and knowledge.