Online Northwest: 2, 4, 6, Great: Handouts They'll Appreciate

by: Anna Johnson

Used to be a document designer, now an Instruction Librarian from Mt. Hood Community College

Crash course in document design, then differences between web and paper as delivery platforms, walk through of making handouts that are useful to users.

Goal: To have people want your handouts.

Edward Tufte (
document design, design display
famous about attacking PowerPoint
Designers know less about the content than the average user of the content
But in libraries, librarians are content experts
Just need to learn basics of document design
Give handouts before hand so people can get the information and then you can discuss the points

Just referring to handout instead of going over the handout
Make handouts more content rich
More time for active learning

Johnson argues that more information is better, make longer handouts, mostly 4 pages long (11×14 paper with 4 faces)

Webpages should be interactive, paper doesn’t have to be
Paper handouts should stand alone
Need handouts to work longer, even with changes on the library website
Therefore paper handouts need be relevant longer if people keep them
Different reading styles online versus print

Presentation is a summary of your handout instead of your handout being a summary of your presentation. Give more information to take home with the handout.

90% of effort in making a Word document handout
Using Word because everyone has Word
Need to be sharable resources

Construction of Handout:
Design in tables to align text and graphics
Create hyperlinks from words, useful when turn Word document into a pdf for the web
Need colors that print correctly in black and white for photocopies
Page length: should be even number of pages so you don’t waste any paper

PDF is very important, locks in style, (but problem of accessibility)

Use color paper instead of color ink, more cost effective way of getting color into your handouts

Can adapt handout style to class syllabi too

Summary: This presentation was an ode to Edward Tufte and his design principles. I’m not buying all of this; but this is definitely food for thought.

Take home message: You want users to have content to use when you are not there. Design is important, as are handouts.