I am in a position where I am not sure what my future career will be. I could end up as an Instructional Designer in the corporate world, working in for an EdTech department, I could head back to the classroom as a teacher or even wind up in a position I’m not aware of yet. Whatever the future holds, one thing rings true: I will utilize the principles of CARP in any position I choose to pursue.

CARP is an acronym that defines a set of principles that should be followed when creating and designing materials meant for consumption. From website design, slide design, the layout of fliers or handouts, classroom/training materials, posters (and much more) these guiding rules are essential in creating visually appealing content.

The first principle is contrast. Contrast can be applied with different colors, shapes, sizes or fonts and can help bring emphasis to important information. It can also indirectly help guide the eye around the page or slide. Alignment refers to the positioning of elements on a page. A common and accepted alignment is left-justification for text. Alignment brings elements together and helps keep things from appearing disorganized. Justification of text and images can be centered or to the right but it shouldn’t be haphazard. Repetition can be achieved when elements are consciously repeated such as fonts, logos or colors. This can bring things together and make them feel cohesive as one unit rather than separate slides or elements on a page. Proximity has to do with the relationship in space that items have to one another. Text, images and graphics placed randomly on a page can look confusing. Using proximity to build a relationship between items is key.

As you can see, each element has value when utilized alone but, when possible it is best to utilize all four elements of CARP together to create the strongest content. Utilizing the elements together adds a degree of professionalism and attention to detail in your work. The elements each address something different that, when combined, they bring harmony, symmetry and a sense of unity to any piece of work. The elements aren’t just about cohesion and aesthetics, either. Learner engagement is also impacted positively when the elements of CARP are combined and utilized efficiently.

I recently viewed a webinar where the slides were terribly misaligned. Content was strewn across the page, misaligned and squeezed into the slides. While contrast and repetition do matter, alignment and proximity seem to hit you in the face first when they are missing. In their absence, I felt confused and unsure where to look first and I quickly lost interest in the webinar content.

As I continue to develop my skills and work toward my future career, I will keep these elements in mind. Luckily I have begun to notice them out “in the wild” when I view the work of other professionals, browse the web or even notice a billboard on the street. It has slowly become second nature what to do and what to avoid.

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