Design Tips for the Classroom Part 2

Welcome to part two of the four part series Design Tips for Presentations.  In last week’s blog, we explored the first of four tips – layout.  We also learned that in order to enhance understanding, it’s better to minimize cognitive load. Using effective layout design in presentations improves the flow of cognition. This week we will explore the influence imagery has on presentations.

Images (1)

In order to convey effective themes and ideas, imagery is a must!  Why use images? The human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text.  According to a study done by 3M Corporation, visual aids have been found to improve learning by up to 400%.  In addition, people retain 10% of what they hear from an oral presentation, 35% from a visual presentation, and 65% from a visual and oral presentation.  So why does that matter?  Think of how your students can benefit from the images you use.  Let’s look at some tips for effective use of images in presentations.

Avoid Crammed Spaces

How many of you have tried to cram as much content into as little space as possible?  I’ve been guilty of it.  Just because we can process images faster than text, doesn’t me we should splatter the page with pictures.  The brain will have to decide which picture to process for retention, which may not be the one you want the learner to focus on.  A better solution would be to spread out the content over multiple slides/pages.  In the example below, there are four images along with text in the first slide and then three separate slides with same content and images.  Compare the first slide with the other three and see for yourself which would make more impact.

lincoln-1 lincoln2
lincoln3 lincoln4

Maintain Image Consistency

What does image consistency mean?  I think of consistency as two-fold.  First, keep clip art with clip art and photos with photos.  Try to avoid the cutesy cat clip art with an actual photo of a dog.  We really don’t see that in real life.  Second, do your best to maintain consistency in sizes of subjects in presentation when using comparisons.  For example, adults know that whales are not the same size as a lion and that a bat is not larger than an elephant. But a Pre-K or 1st grader may not have the same prior knowledge you do.  Try to minimize that cognitive load by maintaining image consistency.  Adding an artsy clip may be nice.  But, for the sake of charm are you introducing new content with incorrect imagery?  Look at the examples below.  Comparing the two, which provides accurate proportions?

image-01 image-02

Textual Images

Basically, if you can say it with a few words and use pictures to get a point across, then by all means use few words and a picture.  I think there is some innate need in us to put lots of wording on a slide.  However, we can get the same message across by using images with text.  Remember, visual aids improve learning by 400%.  Take a look at the examples below.  The first is a text.  Most often the presenter will read each bulleted item, which is unnecessary and boring.  The second example shows how you can take a few of the bulleted items and make a bigger impact by using an image to enforce or enhance the concept or content.  This causes the reader to focus and not jump ahead.  Additionally, the color scheme and fonts help pull it all together.  Would you rather sit through 30 minutes of the first or the second examples?


gym-03 gym-02


To recap, the research shows that using visuals improves the chances of the learner understanding of what is being presented or taught.  Try to avoid splashing the slide or page with images.  You may think you need all the images on one page but spread the love throughout more slides.  Your audience will appreciate it.  Remember less is more!  Use images consistently!  Either go all clipart or go all photos.  My preference is photos or icons.  Do you want your learner to decipher the image pattern or the content?  Lessen that cognitive load.  Lastly, when you can use an image with little text…do it!  I think we have all sat through presentations that have bored us to death.  Don’t do that to your audience.  Spice up those slides!

Join us next week for Design Tips for Presentations Part 3: Color!


Here are some free and paid resource site for your presentations.  Good luck searching!

Image Credit

SMART Technologies
Google Images
Presentation Advisors
Claudio Zavala Jr.


Dalzell, Tom, and Eric Partridge. The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English. Milton Park, Abingdon,: Routledge, 2008. Print.

The Milwaukee Journal 2 Apr. 1961, Latest ed., Part 5 sec.: 2. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

Sweller, John. “Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning.” Cognitive Science 12.2 (1988): 257-88. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Web.

“How the Human Eye Reads a Website.” How the Human Eye Reads a Website. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <;.

“Study Reveals Content Is Viewed in F-Shaped Pattern – ‘Net Features – Website Magazine.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015 <;.

“3 Design Layouts: Gutenberg Diagram, Z-Pattern, And F-Pattern – Vanseo Design.” Vanseo Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <;.

“Nielsen Norman Group.” F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <;.

Thomas, John. “Http://
Presentation-Tips-PA.pdf.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 8 June 2014.

Sweller, J., Instructional Design in Technical Areas, (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research (1999).

“Cognitive Load Theory of Multimedia Learning (Sweller) | Learning Theories.” Learning Theories RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2014. <

Morton, Jill. “Why Color Matters.” Why Color Matters. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2014. <

“Color Scheme Designer 3.” Color Scheme Designer 3. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2014. <;.

“Color Trends + Palettes :: COLOURlovers.” Color Trends + Palettes :: COLOURlovers. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2014. <;.

“Typotheque: The Science of Typography by Ellen Lupton.” Typotheque: The Science of Typography by Ellen Lupton. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2014. <;.

Sweller, J., Van Merriënboer, J., & Paas, F. (1998). “Cognitive architecture and instructional design”. Educational Psychology Review 10 (3): 251–296.

Cooper, Graham. “Cognitive Load Theory & Instructional Design at UNSW.” Cognitive Load Theory & Instructional Design at UNSW. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2014. <;.

“3M Meeting Network – Polishing Your Presentation.” 3M Meeting Network – Polishing Your Presentation. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

“12 Reasons to Integrate Visual Content Into Your Marketing Campaigns [Infographic].” 12 Reasons to Integrate Visual Content Into Your Marketing Campaigns [Infographic]. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

Osha. (1996). Retrieved from


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