Friday Design: Redesigning an Instruction Handout

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and looking forward to a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend. Today I want to share with you a look at my process for redesigning an instruction handout. As schools are back in session, those of us who teach are probably thinking a lot about handouts so I thought it would be useful to go over some tips and inspiration for redesigning handouts. Also, because the entire Pinterest and Instagram perfect pics of creativity and creative processes don’t do anything but make me feel like I’m not good enough, I wanted to share some parts of what my process looks like when I’m walking the talk of graphic design in libraries.

As with any graphic design project, I start with thinking about what I need to accomplish with the project. In this case, the handout I’m redesigning is for a biology class I’m going into to talk with students about literature searching, source evaluation, and citations. That’s a lot to cover and I know that no one will remember everything we go over. So my handout redesign needs to be comprehensive enough that a student can use it as a reference source when they are working on their assignments later so they aren’t lost. A basic outline isn’t going to cut it.

So, after I’m clear on why I’m designing and who I’m designing for, I move onto brainstorming. And this is where it gets messy and oh-so-not-Instagram-like:

First, rough thumbnails, notes and sketches:

photo of list of pages and thumbnail sketches for redesigned instruction handout another page of thumbnail sketches from redesigned handout

Both of the above images show my messy first sketches and notes about what I want to keep from the old handouts, what I want to add, and how I’m thinking it will fit together on the page based on length of information, context, and layout. I am redesigning the handout so a lot of the information I already have in documents so I don’t need to go as deep as I otherwise would in writing out content at this stage.

Then I move into the digital work after I have my head on straight about why I’m creating this handout and what I want in the handout. For many handouts, I work in Word or Publisher, but I’m trying to get more proficient with InDesign so I decided this was the perfect project to experiment with the program. Overall, it was more fun than frustrating, which I think is a good sign.

image of first page of redesigned handout mockup with scribbled notes for changes

Even after I create the draft handout digitally, I have to print it out in order to revise and markup. I can’t do this on my screen as I miss too much. As you can see from the above image, I have my basic layout completed, but I still have a lot of little things I want to change, correct, and revise to make the final handout better. I’m always thinking about visual impact, conveying my message in the best possible way, and how the information will be received by the students.

final first page of redesigned handout

This is the final, first page of the redesigned handout. It will live in print and online in the students’ Blackboard site, if the professor chooses to post it there (it will also be posted to our library’s LibGuide for biology).

So that’s how I get from messy first drafts to final product. My sketches aren’t Instagram-perfect, but they work for me. And, in the end, I care more about getting my thoughts on paper and getting those thoughts translated into whatever design I’m creating than whether my sketchbooks (when I even manage to do drafts in a sketchbook) are ready to be shown online.

What I hope you’ll take away (in addition to maybe a few ideas for your own handouts), is that your sketches don’t have to be “art” or even understandable to anyone except you. The important thing is that you sketch and get your ideas down on paper so you can create the designs you need to create to solve problems in your library and in the world. Beautiful photos are great, but don’t let them get you down on how your sketchbook or datebook or journal isn’t as organized and perfect. Just create your work how it works for you. Your library and community will thank you.

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of all good things. Our local independent bookstore is having its grand opening this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited for Books on B! I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

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