Tool 21: Working With a Designer

Most curriculum projects require illustrations, diagrams, photographs or other types of original artwork. These graphic elements can serve important roles in educational learning materials. First, they can help make the content easier to understand. This can be accomplished by diagrams, charts, graphs or step-by-step illustrations of processes. Second, graphic elements can help support the visual organization of content. For example, a set of symbols in a unified style can be used to indicate different sections of a curriculum. Third, graphics can keep the reader or viewer interested in the material. For example, "spot illustrations" can help the learners envision themselves in the learning process as well as provide a visual break. This tool is designed to offer hints for working with a graphic designer on a curriculum project.

  • Authors frequently have illustrations in mind as they are developing a project. Place notes and reference material in your manuscript describing these potential illustrations. This will help the designer get a good sense of the number of illustrations needed. After the manuscript is edited and approved for final production, the designer will suggest a visual treatment and indicate additional artwork that might be added to highlight content. If you feel that a particular style of design is best suited to the content and audiences, it is helpful to provide the designer with examples. For example, if you feel that illustrations need to be highly rendered and realistic as opposed to cartoon-style, it is important to indicate this need before the design work begins.
  • Diagrams, figures, cartoons and other illustrations with text need to be edited and proof-read. Make sure that the editor working with your project has had the opportunity to review all materials being included in your material.
  • Because the designer is probably not an expert in the subject matter, it is very helpful if you can provide accurate reference material to work from. The designer is responsible for ensuring that, for copyright purposes, all illustrations appear "original" (not having a recognizable likeness to other published works.) If a likeness of artwork from textbooks, periodicals or other sources needs to be included, you should work with the editor to obtain written permission from the original publisher. See Addressing Copyright Issues for more information.
  • If you need to include technical illustrations, provide the artist with references such as well-labeled photos, sketches and textbook drawings.
  • Plan time to meet with the designer/illustrator to explain what the artwork needs are and then to review the designer’s working sketches. Be specific! For example, if a certain type of clothing needs to be worn by people in the illustration, provide a description. If an animal is required in an illustration, provide references showing the desired breed or body type. If a particular setting is desired in the background of an illustration, please describe or provide references.
  • If a curriculum project involves photography or video, a content specialist will probably be required to help arrange the location and other content details as well as to be on hand for the final "shoot." Consult with the graphic artist or the video specialist if your project involves this aspect.

Last Updated: July 29, 2009; Last Reviewed: April, 2009
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