textbook design
June 24, 2010 9:20 AM   Subscribe

What are some examples or principles of great textbook design and writing? How can I maximize understanding, fun, and learning?

I've been asked to produce a textbook for the curriculum I designed at my school, and I will be doing the design as well, using InDesign. It's for young (middle school) foreign language students. I know a little about book and magazine design but I'm searching for advice about how certain design elements are conducive to readability and learning.

I'd appreciate any general advice or interesting articles to read, but my specific concerns include:
- How much hierarchy is too confusing? Each of my lessons are broken into steps, with elements such as reading passages and questions interspersed (it's a workbook, with space to write answers). I've looked at comparable books, and they all seem very busy. And in a standard, letter-sized workbook, what's the best way to style headings-- with size, font, boxes/shapes or bold/italics?

- What's a good tone for instructional language? My audience is foreign language learners, about 14 years old. My inclination is always to be casual and wordy, because I'm trying to make it fun and useful, but I don't know how this will work.

- It remains to be seen if I'll be publishing a separate teacher's edition, or printing stuff in the back or in an insert. What's the best way to design a teacher's component so that teachers will actually read it?

Thanks! I've come across a bit of literature on textbook design but don't know how to evaluate it. I'd appreciate references to any good authors or studies.
posted by acidic to Media & Arts (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Google "how to read a textbook" to get some insight into what typical texts include as well as how most readers use them. This tutorial looks very helpful.

For foreign language learners, I would keep the language as simple as possible and make sure to include some kind of glossary.
posted by NoraCharles at 10:14 AM on June 24, 2010

On the Ask E.T. forum, someone asked Is there a good reference on book design? The whole thread is interesting, but the most useful two sentences are at the beginning of Edward Tufte's response: "Find a few well-designed books in your field . . . and follow those architectures. Even better find out who designed those books and turn the job over to a professional whose work you respect."
posted by James Scott-Brown at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2010

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