From Blahs to Ahhs: Creating Awesome Visual Content through the Universal Principles of Design

Concurrent Session 9
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Today’s learners have high expectations for visual content. When text-heavy PowerPoints just won’t cut it, instructional designers can utilize design principles to ensure high engagement and usability. Come and get a behind-the-scenes look at practical tips and production strategies that will help you take your content from blah to ahh!


Jing is a multimedia instructional designer from the Innovative Education at University of South Florida. Jing helps design, develop and implement online courses for the colleges of USF. Partnered with college professors, Jing tackles the complex content topics and tames them into creative and interactive learning presentations. Previously worked in the STEM and K-12 education, she has a passion for applying design theories and technologies to practice. Jing holds a MS in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies from Florida State University.
Menglu is the instructional and multimedia designer of Digital Learning at USF’s Innovative Education. She is an instructional design enthusiast and loves helping people learn! Prior to joining Digital Learning team, she was instructional design intern at AT&T, Capital City Bank, and Florida State University. Menglu received her M.S. in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies from FSU and B.A. in French Language from SISU (China).

Extended Abstract

Content presentations are often key in online courses. Screencast videos and animated presentations convey content through auditory and visual channels, thus create a multi-sensory learning environment. However, without proper instructional design, it may reduce student satisfaction and decrease learning effectiveness. For presentations that do not contain useful audio/visuals, students reported they could just easily read the transcript for the same information (Hibbert, 2014). How do we solve this kind of problem? What can be done to enhance students’ learning?

Following design principles can ensure a surefire way of producing successful products. Online courses are no exception; these principles can be used to develop great courses. The universal principles of design provide ways to enhance usability and influence perception. The principles have been used as the set cross-disciplinary design guidelines for engineers, architects and designers (Lidwell, Holden & Butler, 2010). This workshop will introduce four of the Universal Principles of Design: Alignment, Consistency, Storytelling, and Garbage In Garbage Out.

To fully understand the value of the design principles is to apply it first-hand, which is why we are proposing to conduct an Express Workshop. We will explore these principles then bring participants through four hands-on content development scenarios applying each principle.

Upon completion of this workshop, the participants/attendees will be able to:

  • Identify the four mentioned universal principles of design
  • Explain the reasons for applying each principle
  • Illustrate strategies of implementing these principles
  • Apply these principles in different course content development scenarios



Hibbert, M. 2014. What Makes an Online Instructional Video Compelling? In EDUCAUSE Review online.

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., Butler, J. 2010. Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions