WSINYE: For Teachers

Instructors Manual


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:

  1. Layout: rules for deploying type and images in mass media
  2. Design: formalist aesthetics of fine art and graphic design
  3. 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.


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:

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Creating & Designing
  • Reflecting
  • Evaluating

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

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
    try it)
  • 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:

  1. Share the Goal.
  2. Teach the Concept.
  3. Engage Students in an Activity to Demo the Concept.
  4. 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

What is Design? White Space is not Your Enemy Ch. 1

Chapter 1: What is Design?

Step Away from the Computer | Chapter 2 White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 2: Step Away from the Computer

Ch. 3 Works-Every-Time Layout | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 3: I Need to Design this Today

Ch. 4 Layout Sins | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 4: Layout Sins

Ch. 5 Mini Art School | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 5: Mini Art School

Chapter 6 Layout | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 6: Layout

Ch. 7 Type | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 7: Type

Chapter 8 Color | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter 8: Color Basics

Adding Visual Appeal | White Space is Not Your Enemy Chapter 9

Chapter 9: Adding Visual Appeal

Infographics | White Space is Not your Enemy Chapter 10

Chapter 10: Infographics

Storyboarding | White Space is Not Your Enemy Chapter 11

Chapter 11: Storyboarding

Designing for Social Media: White Space is Not Your Enemy Chapter 12

Chapter 12: Design for Social Media

Designing for the Web: White Space is Not Your Enemy Chapter 13

Chapter 13: Designing for the Web

Fit to Print: White Space is Not Your Enemy Chapter 14

Chapter 14: Fit to Print

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.

Read more…

Ad Re-Design

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

Menu Design

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