Implementation Of Graphic Design Into Educational Books


In a world where graphic designers have so many important roles from society, technology, businesses, and political matters, the educational book is one of that aspects which is strangely being neglected in graphic design - especially in editorial fields. Book is still the most accessible and affordable method for students to study in school. But the way that most school books are designed and made right now have unintuitive layout and unappealing academic format. The absent of typography and impactful visuals that we’ve seen almost everywhere else like advertising, branding or magazine but we can hardly see them being applied in educational books. So why the idea of incorporating and implementing graphic design into educational books is not a prominent matter? And how it should be approached in the right way? This proposal will describe how graphic design can be used in order to improve the school book as a new educational standard.


School books are often viewed as something secondary in a lot of countries. Students who are able to afford an edition of the school book usually don’t find them engaging to read. This results in students have to go to extra classes in the evening. Teachers have to highlight only a few texts from the school books and on top of it, most of the knowledge students acquire is from the teacher’s own created text, not from the school books. This can result in school books got abandoned and students are rarely studying from them. Instead of getting the most out of the school book, high school students often have to search for additional books outside of the school book collection. This proves that school books in school are inefficient for studying and they don’t transfer information very well. Books that have subjects that are hard to understand by its abstract nature like Math, Physic or Chemistry suffers from this lack of design. The college entrance exam of Vietnam in 2018 showed that three subjects that have the least above-average score are History, Biography, and Chemistry. Unsurprisingly, these subjects tend to have a big amount of knowledge that doesn’t display as text that well in a school book. Subjects that have more imagery, chart, and maps like Geography have a better overall score. This proves that text density overload is a major problem in most academic school books. As once being a high school student in a similar situation, I can easily relate myself to this problem.

Problems and Analysis

According to Brian Bozhen, creator of the Graphic Design and Organic Chemistry book stated that ‘if the job of the student is to learn, then the job of a graphic designer is to take ideas that are complex — and communicate them efficiently’ (Brian Bozhen, 2015). This statement is important because a graphic designer job is to communicate with the audience. For most school books nowadays, there are little to no design elements that have been used to serve the purpose of communicating with the reader. There are three main problems that school books in education can be vastly improved by using graphic design.

Lack of Creative Visual and Imagery

Rich visuals and imagery are underused. When a student picks up a book to study, they will often put the book down because of the lack of white space and engaging visual. The school books nowadays are lacking engaging pictures and illustrations. Not to mention the book covers that rarely have interesting graphics visuals that should be an opportunity to represent the message of the subject. In 2018, a Vietnamese student named Danh Phuong designed a History school book called New History that ‘seeks to maximize the amount of visual content while making the textual components easier on the eyes’. The book featured a better color scheme, clean layout, impactful images and a historical timeline at the bottom of the page. Although the design isn’t perfect since the book still has unbalanced kerning and spacing, this was one of the new approaches in editorial design for school books that utilize rich visual and imagery. While it is important to keep in mind the balance between the text and visual to keep the important data, the visual is always the eye-catching elements for the readers. That’s why it should be used to support the text. This leads to one of the popular visual principles called the Picture Superiority Effect, based on the Dual-coding theory of Allan Paivio. This principle states that pictures are typically remembered better than just words. In school, subjects that have numerous years and dates like History, Geography can be hard to memorize. As graphic designers, we can apply this principle to help aid the text by using relevant visuals. According to The Journal of Consumer Research, it stated that ‘One of the most pervasive findings is that pictures are more memorable than their verbal counterparts. Numerous studies have shown that pictures are more easily recalled or recognized than words’. This showed that no matter how important is the text, the visual will always be the start of your eyes directly. This goes beyond just simply pictures or charts, but also infographic, maps and comic strip – popular graphic design medium that had been existed for years and they are rarely making an appearance in academic books. Perhaps this was a result of the mentality from the teachers that higher study needs to be more serious than elementary study due to its complicated subjects. However, in the book BRAIN – Broad Research in Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience provided insightful research about infographics in academic study. The author of the book conducted research on 163 undergraduate students by giving them visual communication-related statements and the result showed that 83.7% of the students prefer using visual literacy in education. The conclusion of the author was that ‘all the students had a positive opinion about infographics. They remarked that the instructional environment is a rich environment, and this method masters their learning skills, motivation, creativity, therefore, they preferred to study with visual materials rather than books or other types of traditional materials.’This research proved that visual elements are extremely important in conveying complicated academic information to students. As to further explore this matter from a teacher perspective, I have conducted a survey on Reddit, asking what’s the importance of graphics illustrations in a school book and the result was that most people prefer school books that have useful visuals. One of the teachers in the conducted survey stated that ‘Pictures are very important, the text that goes along with it should complement it very well and the topics itself should challenge the student’. Therefore, the typical academic style in school books nowadays should be combined with the rich visual layout and engaging informative design.

Underdeveloped Reading Experience

The student reading experience still has a lot of room to improve. Most school books now suffer from layout clutter and messy orientation of table and chart. It is up to the student to figure out what is the order to extract information and it can cause frustration. This can cause the student learning experience becomes disjointed and complex. In the 18th century, William Playfair invented the bar chart that helped to organize multiple information. This standard has been used to create a graph and table for many later generations. Brian Bozhen took this approach and redesigned the two-by-two contingency table but with graphic design elements. We can see that the hierarchy was designed for the human eyes and data can be more adjusted for reading order and makes numbers easier to understand rather than the generic table format. He also designed a periodic table for electronegativity elements that use color coding and simplified layout for learners. So why is the way that students read and how they experience books is so important? This can leads to a new category that has rarely been discussed: Learner Experience design (or LX Design). In the article Education needs to hire a new role: Student Experience (SX) Designers, the author pointed out that the educational system needs to hire a new role called Student Experience Designer that focuses on creating a seamless learning experience for students. Since the problem of academic format not only exists in school books but also e-book, presentation slides and online document suffer from it. SX design was born to solve these problems and yet this hasn’t made its way into traditional book design.

Theory and Practice Problem

The final problem I want to address is the lack of meaningful ways to engage students in applying theory to practice. In school books, there is so little amount of actual practical exercise questions and interesting topics that students can relate to real-life applications. Besides academic content, school books don’t have any other method of supporting knowledge. Most high school students will forget the knowledge that they have studied during their class because they don’t really read them. The problem of theory and practice still remains a weakness for teachers and educators in today’s educational system as subjects that have abstract nature can be hard to understand without some form of simulation. As mentioned in the journal International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the author concluded that ‘Educators of professional degree programs are constantly seeking ways to show students the importance of a solid grounding in theory in order to achieve excellence in their professional practice. This goal is achieved through both classroom and practice learning experiences’. Why don’t educators and teachers start with the most familiar of studying that is books? Their teaching curriculum can be improved with graphics designed school books and bringing theory and practice closer by starting with school books.

Proposed Practice Methodology

This project aims to improve school books nowadays by using the power of graphic designs and change the way that educators and students view the capability of a book:

  • Improve visual and imagery in school books: Incorporate new mediums that are rarely seen in school books such as illustration, comic-strip, and infographic.
  • Enhance the reading experience for students: Redesign chart, graph, and table to a designed form that can help improve the student learning experience by simplifying them. Adding better color coding for the school book will be essential in this project.
  • Solve the theory and practice problem: Adding sections where students can cut the paper out to form interesting maps, figure or laser-cut panels that we’ve seen in a lot of children’s shadow theatre book.

The design can also take the advantage of technology to incorporate augmented reality application into traditional school books - adding more interesting questions and extra sections into school book that help students get a better understanding of the subject.


Education is undoubtedly a vital part of the younger generations. With the exposure of technology and social media in this digital age, they can be distracted and overwhelmed. This project ambition is to help students escape from that and renovate school books by using the power of graphic design in general and editorial design in particular. Everything should be designed to be better because designing isn’t just about making things beautiful, it is how things work. If school books can escape the old format and turn itself into this new perspective, not only talented students can be inspired but it can also change how the world views graphic designers can be more than just the people who create artwork for advertising - they can be the people who teach.

09 March 2021
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