As with the previous editions, the third edition of White Space Is Not Your Enemy introduces the basics of producing effective visual communication across a variety of formats and platforms from Web to print. The book targets media and communications students who are not studying to become professional graphic designers but who, experience has taught us, will be producing graphic materials in professional settings.
Over the last two decades, media industries (including journalism, telecommunications, multimedia news and production, advertising, public relations and strategic and marketing communications) have begun asking new hires to produce visual materials in entry-level jobs. At the same time, as the industry’s need for technology-adept graduates has increased, mass communication programs are increasingly integrating social media and cross-platform training into the curriculum. With this reality comes the need for students to develop the “good eye” that blends layout conventions with the elements and principles of fine art’s composition. Without such training, smart new communications graduates show up for work with embarrassingly poor visual aesthetics.
White Space Is Not Your Enemy integrates three approaches traditionally segregated by field and discipline, thus textbook:
- Layout: rules for deploying type and images in mass media
- Design: formalist aesthetics of fine art and graphic design
- Visual Communication: visual messages as communication
Students need elementary how-to rules (layout). But without thinking about the rules as functional messaging (visual communication) and without developing a “good eye” (design), the rules remain rote ideas either forgotten after the test or ploddingly applied in the field without creativity or innovation.
Moreover, visual fundamentals are the same regardless of application. When it comes to executing visual materials, textbook distinctions among advertising, public relations and news are not especially useful. Advertising pros produce public relations materials. Public relations pros produce advertising and news materials. The news industry borrows visual conventions from the advertising industry, and vice versa.
WSINYE covers our ideal introductory “graphic design as visual communication” curriculum quickly and efficiently between two covers. We planned WSINYE as a comprehensive introduction for any mass communications major, track or sequence, across traditional and new media formats: one concise and practical source surveying all the basics for any platform for all students.
Regarding student learning outcomes, may we suggest syllabus copy that runs something along the lines of the following?
Welcome to Name of Course. In this course you will learn about communicating visually as you gain hands-on experience producing graphic, Web and multimedia designs intended for specific audiences in a diverse society. We also will have fun. Toward those ends, your objectives for the term are to:
- Recognize visuals, type and space as the building blocks of graphic design as visual communication.
- Approach functional graphic design as capturing attention, controlling eye flow, conveying information and evoking emotion.
- Practice the brainstorming, concepting and sketching that go into effective design work.
- Demonstrate basic design and layout skills, including grid structure, across a variety of formats and platforms from electronic to print.
- Apply the fundamentals of working with typography, color and visuals such as photos and illustrations.
- Familiarize yourself with prepress and pre-production processes.
- Appreciate visual aesthetics as historically and culturally contingent.
- Make a habit of considering the ways visual and symbolic communication can be inclusive, cover the under-covered and mitigate bias and prejudice.
- Practice constructive design criticism.
- Produce some work for your portfolio.
Think about ways to engage students in “communication across the curriculum” or CAC, which means planning ways for each student to engage your course through:
- Creating & Designing
Students also bring varieties of learning styles to the classroom. Think “V.A.R.K.”: visual, aural, reading, kinesthetic. Many students are reading/writing learners (the writers). But some are visual/spatial infographic-memorizing learners. Others are aural or listening learners—as in the great oral traditions. Still others will be kinesthetic body learners or doers. Most of us are some combination of learning styles. So account for that in lesson plans. Test your own learning style at www.vark-learn.com.
Next, plan great beginnings and endings for each class meeting. Make the start of each class memorable, and use the end of each class to recap and reflect on the day’s takeaways.
In between, shift focus several times during a class session to keep students awake and engaged. Even the best students have short attention spans. Teachers have to be heroic to hold students’ attention for longer than 10–20 minutes at a time.
Rather than lecturing for an entire class period, mix and match these active-learning teaching practices to de-center the classroom and invite students to participate in their own learning:
- The Mini Talking Head (Teacher shows & tells)
- Teacher’s Helpers (Students take the floor to present & teach new information)
- The Treasure Hunt (Students go find it)
- The Limited Partnership (Students partner with a peer to
- Flying Solo (Students practice it alone)
- The Gallery (The group critiques individuals or teams seminar-style)
- The Reality Check (Students do small-group peer feedback)
- The Voyage of Self-Discovery (Students revise their work)
Sometimes students are reticent or fearful of this new visual curriculum. One way to deal with this anxiety is to mix it up between low- and high-risk active-learning exercises. Low-risk activities let students “try on” new material with little to lose in terms of either grades or social face. Then use high-risk activities later on to demonstrate learning outcomes.
Or you might employ the cafeteria approach, which gives students a greater sense of control by offering choices and options. For example, you might let students choose a homework assignment among two or three options or choose between taking a test versus producing a design project, etc.
However you plan it, active teaching for active learning uses a four-step process:
- Share the Goal.
- Teach the Concept.
- Engage Students in an Activity to Demo the Concept.
- Regroup the Class to Recap.
Make your goals and expectations for student learning and performance clear—preferably in writing. Then provide feedback. Quickly.
Share the responsibility for evaluation:
- Peer feedback (in-class or as homework)
- Self-evaluation (students grade themselves and provide rationales based on your rubric or criteria)
- Student feedback of teacher (this is all good, too)
- Teacher feedback (you know the drill)
Teaching Resources by Chapter
Unit Ideas & Assignments
Preface to the Assignments
These projects were developed as part of the Publication Design coursework at the University of South Florida School of Mass Communications. The class met twice weekly, for a 70 minute lecture and for a 2-hour lab session later in the week.
Covers Chapter(s): 2, 3 & 4
Topics: Thumbnail sketching, basic layout, the Works-Every-Time layout, common amateur design errors.
Go to Ad Re-Design Assignment
Composition Idea Book
Covers Chapter(s): 5 (adaptable to Ch. 6, 7 & 8)
Topics: Elements and Principles of Composition
Go to Composition Book Assignment
Covers Chapter(s): 7
Topics: Typesetting & Logo Design
Go to Menu Assignment
Feature Story Layout
Covers Chapter(s): 6, 9 & 10
Topics: Page layout, selecting and using photos and images, creating and using infographics
Go to Feature Story Layout Assignment