The making of the ‘More than blended learning’ book

As described by Gary Frost of Frost Creative

The More Than Blended book

 

What were you trying to achieve with the book?

Something different. Most of the learning resources I’ve seen are not exactly inspiring in the visual sense. They’re very generic and quite safe in terms of their design. I wanted to up the ante slightly with the More Than Blended book so that it was visually compelling.

There may be lots of text in a book like this but there’s no reason why you can’t create something visually appealing. I also wanted to be creative with the typography so that, as readers are flicking through the book, there’s always something in there that can grab their attention.

We tried to vary the chapter pages as much as possible. We wanted to set the More Than Blended book apart from other resources so that it’s not only more engaging for readers but also stands out from the books of competitors.

How did you set about designing the book?

We started with a brief from Clive. One of the things that’s interesting about our work is that we rarely need face-to-face meetings. Digital technology enables us to work remotely but together as you do with your clients. This directly influenced the design we created and the brand identity. I produced a range of logos and branding suggestions and the one chosen was carried forward into the book design.

We used a palette of muted earthy orange and green, which is quite different from the look applied by others, who often use bright primary colours, bold reds and blues which look very corporate, very generic. I wanted to move away from that and provide a unique identity.

It’s also easy on the eye, and not offensive. Some people get turned off by loud colours which is why we stuck with this muted approach.

For the book I used the same process that I do for all projects. We start by sketching out layouts and ideas internally and then work those up in InDesign. Clive provided a draft copy of the book and also briefed me on what illustrations needed to go in there with mood boards of possible illustration styles. That helped steer the design direction.

First I provide concepts which are typically cover ideas and a couple of spreads. I don’t design the entire book until I’ve provided a complete impression of how the completed book would look.

I received feedback on the preferred cover and internal layouts and I then worked up the final book in that style.

Who worked with you?

I designed the concept and set the tone of the book. I have an art worker called Mike who supported me and flowed all the content into the styles I set up and sorted out the pagination. Once that was done, I jumped back in and individually designed the chapter pages at the end.

What tools did you use?

Pencil and paper primarily at first and then InDesign for the layout and Illustrator for the diagrams, icons and illustrations.

How happy are you with the end result?

Really happy. As a designer who’s picky anyway, when you look back at things there are always things you could improve. There are certain spreads that I could have approached differently but in general I am really happy. It’s the biggest book I’ve worked on and it was a great chance to play with the typography and a chance to be quite experimental. I’m excited to see how the project develops.

Spreads from the book

Applying the six characteristics


Concept

As it says on the cover, the book aims to help the reader design world-class learning interventions. That’s quite a benefit. On the other hand, some readers may be put off by a book that looks to heavy and academic. That’s why we went for such a light and spacey look and an unusual square shape – in other words, it doesn’t look like a boring text book.


Structure

After a brief introduction, the book starts with a number of stories, which allow the main ideas to be revealed without a lot of abstract theory. This is followed by straightforward summary, which will be useful to anyone who wants a quick refresher. The main body of the book is interspersed with seven in-depth case studies, which help to ensure the ideas stay grounded in real practice.


Media

As you would imagine, the book is primarily textual but with a strong visual element. The case studies are also available as documentary videos as part of the extended offering.


The words

Well this is Clive’s work of course and I know he’s a great believer in friendly, conversational language with the minimum of jargon. I think he achieved that.


Storytelling

As I mentioned, storytelling is used extensively, both fictitious stories to bring out the ideas and real-life case studies. Clive’s enthusiastic about storytelling and it shows in this book.


Challenges

Well, this is not an interactive product, so it can’t challenge the user directly, but throughout the book the user is challenged to reflect on their own practice and to test this against the ideas offered for blended learning. Anyone who takes a workshop or online programme on the More Than Blended Learning model will, of course, be challenged more directly to apply what they have learned to case studies and real projects.

What now?

You can buy the book at Amazon and other online resellers.


Gary Frost
Gary Frost heads up Frost Creative