Resources for Teaching Document Design and Visual Communication

We live in a business culture where a document’s visual elements are as important as the text itself for conveying a writer’s (or presenter’s) message, whether the message is an email, a report, a brochure, a PowerPoint presentation, or a Web page.

As a business writing instructor, I find myself increasingly devoting time in my courses to document design and visual communication. What started several years ago as a brief review of some basic design and layout principles has evolved to a four-week unit on document design and visual communication incorporating discussion of both print and Web documents. Specifically, we examine information mapping/text placement, fonts, color theory, visual elements (e.g., photos, charts, illustrations), navigation, and usability. Students also learn to create a basic Web page and to use a photo editor.

Student projects vary each semester, depending on our client. This semester’s client is putting its printed catalog and planner online and needs advice on how to do so.

As I prep this spring’s unit, I thought I’d share a few of my best (or at least most interesting) sources. Some I use to create content for lectures, while I use others to add interest to the class discussion. If you have sources to share, please do!

Information Mapping/Text Placement


Color Theory

Visual Elements

Free Online Photo Editors

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