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Before and After: A Craft Resource for Graphic Design

Written by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl
February 22, 2011

One of the best things about working with students in digital platforms is that they have an opportunity to bring visual design to their writing, leveraging talents, interests, and modes of expression that would not otherwise find a place on an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of lined paper. The opportunity to work on the text, but also express the text visually, seems to draw in many writers who otherwise might have held back from a writing task. But this also opens up the question of finding resources to enrich their understanding of the craft of design…something that might not be readily at hand in many writing classrooms. 

While some students might be very adept at design, many are ‘enthusiastic novices’ (like me). One resource I’ve found that succeeds in making principles of graphic design accessible to novices is Before & After Magazine. Before & After does just what its name suggests: it takes readers through a simple makeover process to illustrate an element of practical graphic design. The video above, on simplifying a visual scene, is a good example of their practical and accessible approach. In watching it, I am reminded of many of my own students who, as they design their blogs or build websites, start with the principle of adding, adding, adding. This video urges us to identify the element with the most power and focus the design around its presentation. Resources such as these could form the basis of individualized feedback and learning in a workshop setting.

Before and After Magazine is available through subscription, but also provides a wealth of online content at their YouTube channel and on iTunes.

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