Teaching IS designing

Whether you teach in a traditional classroom or online, you have experienced what it’s like to design a brilliant lesson that resonated with your students. Interested in taking those same design skills in a new direction with some graphics? Fear not, the basic prinicpals of design are at your fingertips.

Whether you teach in a traditional classroom or online, I’m sure you have experienced those moments of great fulfillment, and giddy joy, when you created a masterpiece of curriculum for your students. The lesson was brilliantly composed, painstakingly crafted, incredibly adaptable, and it was fit for a museum gallery. Admit it, you felt a little bit like Monet (or even Picasso) and you should have.

Up the ante.

Why not take your skills in a new direction? How about using what you already know about communication and audience to get your message out beyond your classroom?

Social media is all about short messages and strong images. A photo can help your audience quickly understand why they should care about what you care about, too. Powerful imagery can help transcend language barriers, cultures, and generations. And, a shareable graphic that speaks to your audience can go viral with a just a few likes, shares, and tweets.

You may be thinking that you have no experience in graphic design, but as a teacher, you already understand the most essential elements of creating engaging messages.  You have the head and the heart to share your message in a way that gets heard.

Don’t worry if your hands don’t yet have the practice to create images because CTQ is here to help. In each new blog post, I will share information about how you can create your own Facebook cover photos, social sharing images, and even infographics.

Let’s get started!

Here are the core principles of design to consider. If you’re ready to jump in, focus on one of these elements at a time in the images you have in mind. Check out the images I created for a fictitious organization to illustrate each one:


Contrast creates juxtaposition and can help emphasize a part of your visual message. I used a contrasting color for the word “immigrants” to call attention to the message.



Recurrence of a shape, color, or object can create balance and connectedness for your design.  I reused the color of the hands in the call to action box. Really brings this Facebook cover photo together, eh?



Use graphic elements to create visual connections and intentionally create order with symmetry and balance. Using the hands as a guide, the text is aligned to keep the reader moving down through the information on the flyer. No way they’ll miss this rally.


Playing with spatial relationships creates visual units or sets elements apart to get noticed. The tightness of the text and emotional image encourages people to click this image and sign a petition. The color balancing draws attention to the message too.


Get out your gestalt.

With these principles in mind, start brainstorming your own graphics right now. Remember that you don’t need to get too wrapped up in the nitty-gritty of designing at first. Just think about your message and the passion you have for sharing it. All you need to create an engaging visual is some gestalt – your own unique sense of visual unity and passion for a purpose.


  • JustinMinkel

    Brilliant and accessible. Thanks!

    Kate, I love this post.

    I was struck in a recent blogger webinar by a point Jason at CTQ made about how much simply having a photo beside your blog description increases page views. I’ve found in the past couple of months that just making the time to insert a photo (or, in the case of blog entries that describe a unit or project, five or six photos) brings a definite increase in views and comments.

    We’re visually hungry beings. You have encouraged me to take it to the next level.

    One last thought: I listened to a Fresh Air episode last night about the founder of Fox News and approaches the network likes to use including repetition, sex appeal, and false balance. I think I sometimes confuse the intention with the strategy, looking down on fast flashy techniques because they’re usually used to sell Big Macs or U.S.-led invasions.

    There’s a reason these techniques work, and if we can become adept at using them to grab attention and harness action for the right causes, we’ll be strengthening our potential as teachers, leaders, and teacher leaders.

    • KateAlbrecht

      McMessaging got you down?

      I’m so happy you pointed out how messaging and graphics can be used to push out propaganda and even used to distract people from the real story. Now more than ever, I really want to share graphic design pointers with great teacher leaders like you to get your voice heard and get your story told. Looking forward to seeing what you start designing. If you want some feedback, feel free to send to me or post in the Comms Lab for others to respond to!

  • JasonParker

    Ways to inlude images

    If you’re looking for images (and you haven’t designed your own, yet), Bill Ferriter wrote a great summary of how to use Creative Commons images in your classroom and in your blogging activity. Read it here.

    Kate, looking forward to additional tips on how to effectively design images to convey core messages! And, the tools that we can all use to do basic design work.

  • ReneeMoore

    Problems with images in posts

    Ok, so I just posted a blog with what I hoped would be a great visual. Unforturnately, I could not figure out a) how to get the caption, attribution, and license info directly under the photo, or b) how to get the photo the actual size and alignment that I wanted. Guess I need more practice??  Also, it took a COUPLE OF HOURS to find an image I could actually use. Partly because I was talking about Dr. King and there are very few images related to him that are not under heavy copyright. More reason to consider making my own graphics using photos I’ve taken I suppose.