Shape Tools for Graphic Design


The use of shapes in communication is as old as the first cave paintings.  Today, we have a wealth of tools at our disposal to create graphics.  Our tools are considerably more complicated and technological than the first tools used for cave paintings, but researchers note that simple shapes are still effective from a “functional and aesthetic perspective” (Lohr, 2008, p. 248).  Additionally, simple shapes in conjunction with words can create powerful graphics that are aligned with the multimedia principle.

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 unit is designing a graphic (above) that uses simple shapes to help convey an instructional message.  I chose to create a graphic related to the three categories of the Community of Inquiry Framework.

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?

This graphic represents the idea that without a “teaching presence” (the base of the balance), “social” and “cognitive presence” would not be able to balance.  Additionally, without the “social presence” circle, the “cognitive presence” circle would fall off the scale.  Lohr explained that there are many tasks simple shapes can represent, such as comparison, focusing attention, etc.  My example represents a process and a hierarchy.  Circles were selected deliberately, as “circles create a natural balance” (Lohr, 2008, p. 250).  The teacher is the one setting the social and cognitive presences, but all three presences must be applied for the course to have a perfect “balance”.

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

My user-test was performed on the same individual from last week’s assignment.  He immediately noticed that each presence could not achieve perfect balance without the other presences.  He appreciated the simple design.

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

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.  The concept portrayed in the graphic was easy for the person I showed to articulate, so I did not adjust the graphic.  I may choose to adjust it is my colleagues have other ideas.


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