Skip main navigation

Language, colours, typography, graphics and images

In this article, Professor Hughes explores the affordances for learning design of language, colours, typography and graphic elements.
Photograph of a suited man in a room holding a torch, which he is using to create patterns of light in the air.
© University of Nottingham

In this activity, we explore the role language, colours, typography and graphic elements play in the online dimension of blended and hybrid courses. To help us, we draw inspiration from the work of the Italian painter, sculptor, designer, writer and teacher, Bruno Munari. Described by Picasso as the ‘new Leonardo’, he is widely considered to be one of the most influential figures in 20th century design.

In many respects, Munari was a designer ahead of his time. He was already exploring how best to mediate the tension between usability, functionality and aesthetic elements in both graphic and industrial design in the 1960s. This was long before Steve Jobs and his iphone or James Dyson and his vacuum cleaner had come along. As Munari (cited by Muszynski, 2013) said:

There must be no art detached from life, beautiful things to look at and ugly things to use.

To start to assess the role that these elements play in balancing Munari’s three principles of effective design in your course, try asking yourself the following questions:


Is the language I have used clear? Does the way I have used language, colours, typography and graphic elements mean that:

  • All learners including those that use assistive technologies perceive, navigate and interact with the content without barriers?
  • Students can complete learning activities and assessments both efficiently and effectively?


Does the way I have written my course:

  • Adequately explain the alignment of content, outcomes, learning activities, and forms of assessment?
  • Explain the balance between face-to-face and online learning?
  • Introduce topics effectively?
  • Trigger prior knowledge?
  • Introduce and scaffold engagement with content?
  • Provide opportunities for interaction?
  • Use a register that students can draw on as a model for their own academic discourse?
  • Provide opportunities for student feedback on their learning?


Does the way I have combined language with colours, typography and graphic elements:

  • Give a positive first impression?
  • Look inviting?
  • Look good on all devices?
  • Support usability and accessibility?

Use the comments area below to share ideas and thoughts on this step. For example, if you are currently teaching or studying in HE, to what extent is the online dimension of your courses/modules consistent with the model of a well-designed course that the above questions suggest?

© University of Nottingham
This article is from the free online

Blended and Hybrid Learning Design in Higher Education

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now