I’m trying hard to identify why the look of something matters to me more and more, often rivaling the importance of the thing itself. Why, for example, does a clear, attractive handout matter to me as much as what’s on the handout?
Stephen Fry, in an article which has absolutely nothing to do with teaching, kinda nails it for me.
Apple gets plenty of small things wrong, but one big thing it gets right: when you use a device every day, you cannot help, as a human being, but have an emotional relationship with it. It’s true of cars and cookers, and it’s true of computers. It’s true of office blocks and houses, and it’s true of mobiles and satnavs. [It’s true for me of lessons and handouts. -ed.] A grey box is not good enough, clunky and ugly is not good enough. Sick building syndrome exists, and so does sick hand-held device syndrome. Fiddly buttons, blocky icons, sickeningly stupid nested menus – these are the enemy. They waste time, militate against function and lower the spirits. They make the user feel frustrated and (quite wrongly) dense. Mechanisms so devilishly, stunningly, jaw-dropping clever as the kind our world can now furnish us with are No Good Whatsoever if they don’t also bring a smile to our face, if they don’t make us want to stroke, touch, fondle, fiddle, gurgle, purr and coo. Interacting with a digital device should be like interacting with a baby.
So, yes, beauty matters. Boy, does it matter. It is not surface, it is not an extra, it is the thing itself. Le style, c’est le truc, as De Buffon would have written today.
It’s the fact that these handouts, these lessons, these presentations, are a daily thing for us and our students. They have to be pretty to look at and touch.
I need to start tearing pages out of all your playbooks on how to make a pretty classroom. If you haven’t already seen my playbook, here’s how to design pretty handouts.