Exploration of Typography in Education


Prior to this course, I was not aware of the impact typography (and graphic design, as a whole) had on online learners.  Generally, I chose my typography in my designs based upon principles I had created in my own mind.  I understood that certain portions of my designs needed to draw the learner’s attention, and I used the standard tools of bold, underline, italics, and color to do so.  However, I now know there is much more to typography design than simply drawing the learner’s attention.

I am currently in the process of creating a unit/course about the Community of Inquiry Framework (see for more information if interested).  Part of creating the course is selecting four words from the unit and representing the words using instructional typography methods and best practices.  I studied the chapter on typography in Lohr’s book Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance: Lessons in Visual Literacy (2008) to build my schema.  You can see the results I created in Photoshop above.

Justification of Typography Design

  1. Describe your users (people that will see the typography in the unit).

The users of my unit will be educators, either undergraduate or graduate level, that are learning the Community of Inquiry Framework in relation to online course design.  It is assumed that they are adults with at least one student experience in online education.  The users would be capable of reading college-level material.

      2. Why does your typography design solution work?

I will address each word of the graphic separately.

Inquiry: You will notice the center of the word inquiry appears larger than the rest of the letters.  Additionally, the word has almost a “rounded” effect to provide the illusion that the word has a magnifying glass over the center of the word.  The effect is symbolic in nature, as the word inquiry relates to the act of questioning and discovery, similar to the act of peering through a magnifying glass at an insect, for example.  Lohr explained that decorative typefaces of this nature should not be used extensively, but “they can be used quite effectively in small amounts to create a mood or act in part as a metaphor for a topic” (2008, p. 224).

Social: The font used in this graphic is lucida handwriting.  I intentionally chose a font that looked like handwriting to convey that handwriting is social, as it is a form of communication.  This word was challenging as I wanted to add so much more than typography to address the meaning of the word, but I compromised and included an arch, and a reflection of the word, as well.  The arch is metaphoric in nature to reflect “bridging a gap”, and the reflection below symbolizes “seeing something from another perspective”.  I wanted it to be evident that the act of socializing is the same as the act of communicating.  Contrast was used between the two examples of the word “social” to draw attention and to elaborate the difference between the two examples of the same word.

Teaching: It is obvious that the “T” in this word is designed using cueing devices.  Cueing devices inform the reader that a change has occurred (Lohr, 2008, p. 242).  The Community of Inquiry Framework does not work if there is not a leader or facilitator evaluating the social, teaching, and cognitive presences of the course.  I increased the size of the “T” to alienate the letters more.  The kerning between the “T” and the rest of the word was adjusted to appear closer together.  Without adjusting the kerning, the “T” did not look as if it went with the rest of the word.

Cognitive:  The font used in this graphic is Curlz MT.  It is classified as a serif typeface due to the elaborated curls in each letter.  The font was chosen to represent the cyclic nature of acquiring knowledge.  I imagined rolling a small snowball (one’s schema) up a hill, and the snowball continually getting bigger and bigger as it acquired more snow (knowledge).  The slope of the word represents the increase of knowledge.

All Words Together:  Inquiry is the framework, and each of the three types of presences are the other three words.

3.  What did you learn from the “user-test”?

My user-test was conducted on a well-educated individual, but without any frame of reference other than the parameters of the assignment.  The user accurately explained the designs of “social” and “teaching”, but was not able to verbalize the significance of the designs for “inquiry” and “cognitive”.  The user explained that his interpretation of the words inquiry and cognitive were limited in reference to his lack of background in education, and after explaining my design methodologies, he agreed that the designs represented my intentions.  I was limited in selecting a user for my user-test, and I need to ensure I have more users available in the future.

4.  What changes did you make to the design after the user-test?

The example you see above is the edited version.  I edited “social” to add the contrasted word below to increase the understanding of the metaphor described above.  Color was suggested, however, I am uncertain of the color scheme I would like to use for my unit.  Color will be adjusted at a later time.


Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle                    River, NJ: Pearson Education