I recently had a Zoom conversation with my elderly uncle. He is in his 90s. He is aware that I am in Limerick University studying “something to do with computers”. Unexpectedly, from a simple but very surprising question, he reawakened a part of me I had buried. He simply asked “have you the cards designed yet? It was always in your DNA.”
This question really got me thinking.
As a child I was very creative. I loved western calligraphy and everything to do with art. From a young age, I won many calligraphy competitions at national level. I just loved studying artistic handwriting. I spent many happy weekends practicing the ebb and flows of each letter, studying the weight of the lines while admiring the individual features of letters and numbers and their serifs. I gathered, like a squirrel, any occasion cards destined for our postbox which I happened to like. I kept thousands of samples in my Design File.
I loved the simplicity of Bookhand and I would write my cards to my closest friends using this style. More distant acquaintances or people I did not particularly like received my cards scripted in Chancery or even Old Gothic. After all, these scripts were more formal and complicated.
It was not just fonts. I never signed my name if I could draw my emoji. The big E always caused problems. Is it Elizabeth or Liz? Is it formal or friendly? And how do you correct someone who is calling you Liz for years when you want to be called Elizabeth? My simple little visual, which everyone understood to be me, was easier to display rather than making my name choice. My emoji also allowed me to convey my feelings without having to think about an appropriate word. After all, I could draw a cross face, a happy face and a cheesed off face. Three classic widely felt emotions people could relate to. Do not laugh at my choice of three. Indeed they covered most scenarios.
Is it in DNA?
There are many theories about design skills and whether we are born with them or need them in e-learning and instructional design. Personally, I do not think design skills are necessary because there are so many tools available. However, I think a critical quality in this field is to have empathy with learners. After all, it is all about them at the end of the day. A good designer will want to find a way to reduce barriers to help learners to learn.
Even though I undertook the MA in E-Learning and Technical Communication for work reasons, it has ended up being the best present I have gifted myself. It has been an amazing journey. One I am still on. The course has reawakened my artistic side. Last year I loved learning about the design of instruction, typography, fonts, colour, visuals, and everything to do with Edward Tufte.
After 24 years of teaching, I was tired of it. Since finding this reawakened interest, my job has new life and new air. I now give my notes and overheads a good deal of thought. I am enjoying my work once again. Equally, I am interested in my learners opinions on my design choices. In fact, I have found questions on design to be good ice-breakers.
One good piece of advice I picked up this year is to start collecting design ideas. During an interview, which was part of an assignment, I was advised to start using an app called Pocket to save ideas I like. I have started to do this. I have a new Design File.
I will get designing those cards once I know who my audience will be.