Tablet with Working Dog Resources store on the screen, a backpack, and school supplies. Background of a blackboard with text designing resources for learning

How the Functional Graphic Design Process Works in Resources for Learning

Great resources for learning take students on a journey of discovery. They are interesting, engaging, inclusive, and fulfill a need to achieve a learning outcome. Effective resources for learning are well-designed and a well-designed product that achieves these goals will sell on TPT and other online marketplaces. A well-designed product will be welcomed and will receive great reviews. Let’s talk about designing resources for learning.

What does it take to design a high-quality resource for learning

  1. Have a clear instructional purpose to meet desired learning outcomes.
  2. Be clear about what is required to complete the task.
  3. Are engaging for the learner to enhance the learning experience.
  4. Make positive connections with the learners’ current knowledge.
  5. Build upon current knowledge and introduce new concepts seamlessly.
  6. Make positive connections with the learners’ identity by being inclusive and fair.
  7. Make positive connections with the learners’ comfort by being just and ethical.
  8. Be clear for the teacher to put into practice.

And last but definitely not least point number 9:
Are well-crafted by being structured, functional, and aesthetically appropriate for the age of the learner. This is the essence of the role of functional graphic design when creating resources for learning.

In summary, high-quality resources for learning made with functional graphic design will:

  • help avoid common questions like “what do I do here?” from students
  • will be visually attractive to students and teachers
  • will deliver learning outcomes logically, and 
  • will make it easier for teachers to incorporate into their toolbox. 

And lessons that just make sense will sell to your teacher audience.

The role of functional graphic design in resource design

The role of any design is primarily about functionality and graphic design is no different. Yes, graphic design should be aesthetically pleasing but it’s not just about how pretty a product is. 

  • Design is structure.
  • Design is order.
  • Design is functional.

While we all want products to look pretty, it is not the end-all of product design. At the end of the day, we need lessons that are adaptable into a teacher’s curriculum, we need lessons that students can follow with little confusion, and we need lessons to look professional and achieve their ultimate goal of delivering learning outcomes. 

For a great insight into the function of graphic design when creating educational resources
check out my free video
Functional Graphic Design 

Computer with the free mini-course Functional graphic design by Working Dog Resources on the screen.

How to make learning resources coupled with great graphic design 

Ultimately any learning resource should be well-crafted, structured, functional and aesthetically appropriate for the age and situation of the student.

Your product design should guide you into functional graphic design and the styling for functional graphic design should stem from the development of your product. It is important to consider product development as a leader into the design process. 

Both product development and the process of graphic design can be done in parallel to one another. It is the product development that will ultimately guide the graphic design but that does not mean designing on the fly. 

Designing in parallel is something very different. 

In a nutshell, what I am saying here is don’t make graphic design an afterthought. 

Make it part of your product creation process. 

We don’t design layout and graphics as a secondary process to product development we design in parallel. As the product develops these two processes of product development and graphic design should be intrinsically connected.

Think of it this way – graphic design:

  • Creates order and function.
  • Leads the reader logically through a product (and fewer questions from students for you!)
  • Acknowledges readability is of the highest importance. 
  • Recognizing the legibility of font choice is important as is font size, line space, and line length. 
  • Utilizes graphics and fonts that are age appropriate. 
  • Utilizes graphics and images that enhance the learning experience.

Therefore, product creation and graphic design work hand in hand to craft a well-structured learning resource. 

Infographic of the graphic design process when designing resources for learning.

The process to design teaching resources

As we begin to define and ideate our product, we can also begin the process of planning for graphic design. We can research and start thumbnailing. As we develop the idea behind our product, we can conceptualize the graphic design too. That way when we develop the resource content, we have a structure moving forward for layout, hierarchy, and flow.

Let’s break down the functional graphic design process in relation to product design.

Infographic of step 1 in the graphic design process for designing resources for learning: Plan.
  1. Ideate: Develop a journal to keep on track with the goal for the product.
  2. Research: Browse design styles for idea generation and market research.
  3. Scope: Outline a timeline and deliverables in accordance with learning outcomes.


The planning phase covers the project definition and scope. In the planning phase we conduct research – that may include both market research and design style research. We define our ideas and write a creative brief outlining the design. The planning phase is the initial conceptualization of what the final product will be. Having the final product in mind at this point is essential to ensure specifications for output are being considered right from the beginning and all the way throughout the project. For example, if you wanted your end product to be an escape room reviewing Hellenic Greece you would consider this end goal throughout the entire process. Ideally, we also plan a realistic timeline. 

Infographic of step 2 in the graphic design process for designing resources for learning: Design.
  1. Sketch: Sketch layouts and mind-map flow.
  2. Write: Write and proofread content creating a framework for hierarchical structure and flow.
  3. Visualize: Design a layout sample and build templates.


This is the creative phase. It is about working out what the designed piece will look like and how the content will flow hierarchically. For best results when it comes to optimal workflow it is recommended that any developmental aids such as templates and styles are set once the base design has been determined. It is also time to write and develop content during the design phase. The first round of proofreading and copy editing should be done now too before heading into the development phase.

Infographic of step 3 in the graphic design process for designing resources for learning: Develop.
  1. Typeset: Develop the layout and typeset the content base on the designed sample.
  2. Graphically enhance: Create or gather supportive instructional graphics, clip art, and photographs.
  3. Revise: Do a second round of proofreading content and chech formatting.


With templates and styling in place and all content written, it’s time to head into the development phase. 

For optimum efficiency, it is recommended that all content is written by now. This will help the development phase run smoothly and there should be no guesswork at this point. It will just be about producing. It is certainly okay to tweak and add content, if necessary, but this is the optimum way to head into the development phase to keep things running smoothly and to avoid time-consuming reworking. 

In the development phase, all typesetting and the layout are done. Creation of graphics, gathering of graphics, clip art, and photographs happen. A second round of proofreading is done, as is a check for consistent and correct formatting. 

Infographic of step 4 in the graphic design process for designing resources for learning: Publish.
  1. Package: Gather and collate all components to specification.
  2. Associate: Create any associated collateral.
  3. Launch: Tell the world.


This is the delivery phase. In the planning stage, it should have been determined what the final product will be. This ensures working towards the correct output specifications from the start. Now it should be just a case of packaging, outputting, creating any associated launch collateral, and launching. 

At this point take the time to reflect and consider any continual improvement. Think about what worked and what you could do better next time. You can also consider any additional material that may work for product spin-offs or lines. Personally, I tend to keep a continual improvement list in my journal right throughout the process.

If you still aren’t convinced that functional graphic design is the way forward with your business, you can check out this free video I made going into detail on why you need it for your business to grow. 

Teacher looking at the free mini-course Functional graphic design by Working Dog Resources on a laptop.

Looking to workshop your graphic design with a one-on-one coach? Click here

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Hi, I'm Stef

Hi, I'm Stef

I provide design tuition and solutions for creating resources to engage students.