Design Principles

Learn how to apply visual design and usability principles to public-facing materials.

This course provides a deep dive on visual and content design for public-facing communication materials. We’ll go beyond the typical best practices – honing in on topics, questions, tools, and examples relevant to people who serve the public. With an emphasis on ethics and accessibility, you’ll leave this course ready to assess your institution’s existing materials, propose improvements, help create new designs, and work with designers to pull it all together.

course outcomes

  • Describe design principles and best practices related to visual design, accessibility, writing and readability, color, font, and translation.

  • Use these principles to assess designs and suggest ways to improve them.

  • Know when you can take action yourself, and when to bring in professionals, such as designers, accessibility experts, and translators.

Online self-paced
Start Date
Start anytime
4-6 hours

What you'll learn

  1. What to expect+

    • Course overview

    • Preparing to learn

    • Getting started checklist

  2. Seeing like a designer+

    • Principles of usability

    • DIY vs. contracting out

  3. General Principles: Public Institutions+

    • Keep it concise

    • Make it easy to understand

    • Emphasize action

    • Communicate consequences

  4. General Principles: Visual Design+

    • Create a clear hierarchy

    • Use white space

    • Group things logically

    • Use consistent patterns

  5. Accessibility: What Is It?+

    • Why accessibility

    • Leading with accessibility

  6. Accessibility: Guidelines+

    • Web accessibility guidelines

    • General accessibility guidelines

    • Tools and resources

  7. Voice, Plain Language, Readability+

    • Writing for humans

    • Voice, tone, and word choice

    • Structuring content for readability

    • Tools and resources

  8. Colors+

    • The case for color

    • How to use color

    • Accessible colors

  9. Using Fonts+

    • Choosing and using fonts
  10. Translation+

    • Writing for translation

    • Choosing languages

    • Selecting a translator

    • User testing for translation

  11. Wrapping up+

    • Expert Walkthrough: Design Assessment

    • Tools and Resources

    • What’s next

Enroll as a team

Learning is better as a team sport. Practica supports collaborative learning through paid cohorts: 6-month group learning experiences facilitated by Civilla staff. Together with your colleagues, you’ll participate in workshops, be guided through one or more Practica courses, get coaching from Civilla design experts, and make significant progress applying HCD to priority projects.

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