Designing for Higher Education

June 26, 2017
Green Abstract Image

The 2017 color of the year is PANTONE 15-0343, also known as “greenery.” Why does a university center focused on global health care about color swatches? If you talk to a contemporary designer, he or she might emphasize how color makes a “first impression” – for example, we might see green as “health” and “nature,” or brown as “rich” and “earthy.” If you talk to our faculty director, Sue J Goldie, she will tell you that choosing colors strategically can provide important nonverbal cues that enhance teaching and learning. For example, the use of bright and inviting colors can contribute to learning environments that “feel optimistic”, the incorporation of unexpected visual images can prompt “out of the box” ideas, and the strategic use of color in multimodal teaching materials can illuminate associations across complex interdisciplinary topics. 

Staff members from the Incubator (Michelle Ballas) and the Center for Decision Health Sciences (CHDS) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Meg Harding) recently attended a design conference to help spark their creativity; discover new trends in color, photography, and typography; and learn about best practices in designing for higher education.

For example, they learned that despite the extensive use of digital products and marketing in our current educational ecosystem, nearly three of four students still enjoy or even prefer to consume content via print publications. College age students are working to define their “personal brand” and customizing print materials with personalized details is very important to them. 

The use of images and their integration with text is also essential to overall design. Michelle and Meg learned new methods for designing with this integration in mind. They also explored cutting-edge approaches to font style (handwritten styles are popular) and stock photography; new trends in the use of such images include using simple patterns, floral patterns, moody minimalistic landscapes, bold and bright still life, and novel perspectives or angles. 

The Incubator is already pretty obsessed with infusing color into teaching tools and learning environments. (Take a look at our content prototypes, if you’re curious!) But armed with new knowledge from our staff ambassadors, GHELI and CHDS will incorporate trending concepts in colors, typography, and photography to enhance our educational materials and teaching prototypes, and to explore visual preferences of educators and learners across cultures. 

Oh, and that PANTONE green for 2017? It’s known at the Incubator as “our green” – it’s already a favorite in our offices and our design.