3 Ways Design Print Communications Skills Can Cross Multiple Disciplines

by Alex Gay

posted on 04-01-2019

“Almost 90 percent of respondents believe students who excel at creative problem-solving will have higher-earning job opportunities in the future,” found a study by Adobe. Students are asked to solve problems all day, but are they given the chance to be creative? As students use digital creativity tools like InDesign, they become more digitally literate. This allows them to develop soft skills like critical thinking, creative problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration.

So how can educators incorporate digital design skills into their curricula across disciplines? One way is by taking written projects students are already doing and altering them to be print communications design projects. Adobe Creative Cloud allows students to create persuasive and informative communications for print. When educators incorporate digital print design into their assignments and curricula, students learn how to make complex things simple, communicate more effectively with specific audiences, and be better collaborators.

First, let’s talk about design as a whole. At its heart, “designing is a problem-solving process, and design problems are usually described as open-ended, unstructured,” says Wayne A. Nelson, a professor of design at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “Whether designing something highly technical, like a computer-based flight simulator to train future pilots, or something far less technical, like a centerpiece flower arrangement for a formal table setting, we cannot design without inherently thinking and working in a problem-solving mode. Through both design and problem-solving, we are focused on “changing existing situations into preferred ones.”

But when it comes specifically to print design, “It’s all about organizing large amounts of information in logical, visually appealing, and easily digestible ways,” says Scott Morris, an e-learning writer at Skillcrush.

For example, faculty might assign students in science courses to create a magazine that explores current, relevant topics. Students conduct research, synthesize what they learn, write articles for a general audience, and use Adobe InDesign to design each article. As they design, they have the opportunity to explore their rhetoric more deeply. What layouts will have the highest impact? What images, fonts, and colors will support their message? Through this project, students deepen their understanding of the subject matter as they communicate complex ideas simply. They develop creativity and critical thinking, two skills increasingly in demand in the modern workplace.

As educators prepare their students for the modern workforce, it’s important to note that print media is still important to consumers. One survey found that 85 percent of consumers said they are more likely to shop with a business if it has custom print materials like business cards, signs, flyers, and banners. Ninety percent of consumers in the survey said that the quality of printed materials “is an indication of the quality of service the business provides.”

Whether students are creating content geared toward their professors, peers, or audiences in their future career, print materials need to be well designed so they target their intended audience.

To create targeted and effective print designs, students need to conduct targeted and effective research. Research for effective print design gives students the opportunity to learn about a wide array of subjects and may include:

In a humanities setting, for example, students might learn about the “history and cultural significance of zines (powerful, subversive publications that were used to question social mores, cultivate communities for LGBTQ folks, people of color, and other marginalized groups, and share knowledge in low-cost, accessible ways).” They would then create their own zine, carefully curating research for their chosen audience. The goal of this project would be “to deepen their understanding of their final research project by producing an analytical work that resonates both inside and outside the classroom.”

As students learn how to think like their audience, they become better designers, communicators, and empathetic professionals. Developing these skills is important in part because communication and emotional intelligence (of which empathy is a huge part) are among the 10 most important soft skills in the modern workplace.

In the “real world,” digital print design is integrated with other aspects of content creation and business administration. Learning digital print design skills will give your students the opportunity to collaborate and learn from their peers (and professors) across disciplines — writers and editors, designers, and subject matter experts. Beyond the classroom, understanding digital print design principles will enable students to be more valuable employees because they will be able to offer insights into marketing, design, consumer behavior, sales, and so on. Print design will help students be better coworkers and better in their interactions with consumers.

“Scaffolding students’ experience with collaboration by providing guidance [and feedback] will help to increase productivity — and will allow students to practice a skill that most of them will use intensively after graduation,” according to Usable Knowledge, a publication by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

For example, faculty could assign students to design a board game, “honing their reasoning by encouraging them to think critically about design and mechanics. Students must collaborate concerning these issues as well as work as a group to create a functional design and appealing aesthetics with Adobe Illustrator, prompting creativity and encouraging team building, all while keeping the perspectives of prospective consumers in mind.”

Whether through formal collaboration or simply through adding a print design element to coursework, gaining print design skills prepares students to be collaborators in the workplace.

As students learn how to create persuasive and informative communications for print, they don’t just learn how to make printed items look good. They learn how to make complex things simple, how to communicate more effectively with specific audiences, and how to be better collaborators.

Gather ideas by seeing how other educators are using Adobe Creative Cloud to teach digital print design skills.

Topics: Industry, Education, digital literacy,

Products: Illustrator, Creative Cloud