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Design for Young Learners



“Designing for Children” is quite a blanket term, as different age groups will be at different stages of comprehension. It’s far more than just arranging illustrations and text; it's a delicate collaboration that engages the learner, sparks imagination and fosters their curiosity, laying foundation to their learning journey.


Despite the digital age, books remain invaluable sources of knowledge and wonder. There was a push to a digital product in recent times but we have found currently that the physical book is still in demand and both can compliment each other when packaged together, appealing to all learning types and teaching methods. Link to page layout blog


There are so many factors to consider when working on Primary material specifically, far beyond any current trend, or ‘what looks nice’. We have explored the subject of educational publishing design previously in our blogs (click here), but want to share some thoughts of factors and considerations directly related to pre-primary and primary design. And it’s something we regularly post about on our social channels, LinkedIn and Instagram.


Colour

The power of colour when designing for young learners is extremely important, but needs careful thought and consideration. Colour use can help; determine where a chapter/unit begins, indicate recurring features, aid readability and accessibility of information. Colour choice can either help or hinder learning, for example; pale yellow (a lovely bright sunny primary colour), when placed on a white background can be hard to read. However, when used properly with appropriate contrast can make an excellent accent colour helping features to stand out.


Alternating colours from warm to cool can help with differentiation between chapters - a pink unit followed by a blue unit will help teachers and students navigate through the book. “Turn to the pink chapter”, may be easier than saying “Chapter 2” for some young children, for example. This can also be the same when getting books off the shelf in the classroom -  please get the “Blue coloured book”!


Colours can also be used to represent progression through the educational material with darker and more complex colours like purple, teals, and navy being set aside for older children, or higher level material. Vibrant hues can also create emotion in the subject. From the warm embrace of reds and oranges to the calming effect of blues and green. When used in the right setting every chosen colour can evoke emotion and stimulate young minds. 



Typography as a Gentle Guide

In the world of young learners, the literacy journey starts with clear letter shapes. Typography for this audience is a gentle guide, inviting eyes to explore the written word. Fonts should be chosen for their simplicity and clarity, and when used in titles or features, add a touch of playfulness – choosing the right font can help. Progressing from the simple shapes that make up words to phonics and phonetics, progressing to writing and spelling, as the learner develops.


The choice of fonts can be a minefield and is a skill in itself. Sometimes, like colour, less is often more. On a pre-primary/primary scheme 4 or so fonts, with their various weights can sometimes be enough. A couple of display type fonts for headers and subheads. A main font and possibly a handwritten form for examples, is sometimes ALL you need with the use of weights and colours helping embellish the look of a page and/or feature. As the complexity of material and ability of the learner progresses additional fonts can be added through realia’s and facsimiles, based on style, material etc.


It would be remiss of us, when discussing designing for young learners, not to mention infant letters and it is a factor to be mindful of from the start. Choosing a font with infant letters, such as; g, k, l and the often troublesome ‘a’, will save any issues later on in the project, especially if individual letters need to be changed through physical sweeps or automations in InDesign, or similar. The same applies to numbers with a font utilising ‘open numbers’ a must for this age group.


Illustrations

Adding engaging illustrations with fun characters for young students can be like bringing a friend to aid in learning and narrating the material. Expressive faces, relatable quirks, and a touch of whimsy can bring pages to life. If curated properly the artworks can be companions to the teaching material and aid learning, by making abstract concepts tangible and relatable. As the learner develops, illustrations can be used to soften the more challenging material, helping the student retain and absorb the information.


The use of a character/characters is common in many of the projects we work on, and for good reason, growing with the learner as they progress. It is important to do more than create a character that’s ascetically appealing — children need something they can relate to and want to learn from. Great characters don’t necessarily have to be human though, and animals work particularly well for a child audience.


Illustrations possess a broader benefit to young learners than simply something nice to look at, encouraging visual engagement, comprehension, evoking creativity and enhancing memory retention (the brain is wired to remember visuals easier). Combining text and images forms stronger associations in their minds, helping students remember more details. At the start of their journey illustrations help introduce colour, shapes, numbers and more complex aspects like emotion.



Learning Styles

To make material appeal to the broadest group of students, essential for many of the projects we work on, it’s important that several learning styles are catered for. A classroom is likely to have a students with a variety of preferred learning styles. Learning styles such as; visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetics, should all be considered. The subject is one we have touched on previously, if you’d like to check it out, then please click here.


Our thoughts above only touches on the considerations to be had when designing for the primary/-pre-primary market. When done correctly the combination of these elements can make pages fun, inspiring, conveying a silent language that connects with young minds. The heart of designing for young learners is the recognition that every page is a stepping stone in their educational journey. It's an invitation to explore, to question, through thoughtful design, opening doors for young learners to flourish.


If there are any others aspect of ELT design you like to see us blog about, then we’d love to hear from you. Plus if you have a design project you’d like to chat to our designers about then please do get in touch.


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