The Selection Principle

I created these two graphics after reading a chapter of Lessons in Visual Literacy by Linda L. Lohr called The Selection Principle. The Selection Principle describes how readers need to be able to see what’s important in an image to get meaning from it. In an educational context, you want the important information to be looked at and not distracted by the non-important information. In my books and lessons, I often show screenshots of the programs I am teaching. In my Game Physics and Coding book, I have a lot of screenshots. Screenshots of programs can have a selection problem because so much is going on. There are so many numbers and panels that the information I want the students to see is often lost. I created the graphic below by enlarging the panel I am discussing in the text, drawing black boxes around the panel, and then adding visual cues that show where the enlarged panel comes from. I also blurred everything in the shot except for the panel I am discussing. The text discusses dragging the curser across the label to interactively change the value so I created a curser how it would look to the user of the program.

position change-blur-arrow-box

The second graphic comes from a section that discusses the “gizmo” that changes the viewport in the program. Pressing on the colored cones will move the view to look down on that axis. The gizmo is so small in the program that it is hard to isolate to show the viewer, and enlarging it just made it pixelated, so I recreated the gizmo in a 3D Graphics program. I placed the larger gizmo in the original screenshot, placed cues showing where it is coming from, added a drop shadow, and then added a whitewash overlay to the background to make the gizmo the prominent feature of the graphic.


I had the idea to blur out and whitewash the non-essential parts of the graphic when I was reading about Figure-Ground distinctions being important to the selection process. The “figure” part of an image is the part you want the learner to focus on. The “ground” is everything else in the image that provides a background of information but should not be so distracting that it takes the focus off the “figure” part of the image.

The image below is of the page that contains these images.

Image of page 2 of Game Physics and Coding by Tony Farley

Image Justification:

Learner Description
My books are targeted at the high school level. I create my books so teachers can use my books in their high school classes within a larger unit of study. My students are general ed physics students, not honors or AP. I have 30 Macintosh computers in my class so students are able to use my books in class.

Why it works
Blurring and washing out the background of these images makes “the most important information stand out. When you do this,you help the learner focus on what is critical” (Lohr 2008 p. 102). Also, enlarging the information and outlining it in the first image and rebuilding the gizmo in the second graphic creates  “a clear distinction between the figure and the ground” (Lohr 2008 p. 108)

My wife Cheryl is who I bounce all my ideas off of and she does not like the blur added to the first graphic on the page above. I decided not to include it as a submitted graphic because I don’t like it either. I was hoping a bit of blur would take the focus off the menu text, but it kinda brings attention to itself because it is blurry text. Cheryl thought the blur and whitewash on the other two graphics worked well to isolate the figure from the ground.

After finishing this assignment I decided to go back and rework that first graphic. I made the Cube menu background blue, like you would see in in the program. For some reason taking a screenshot does not show the selected text so I had to put the blue in and reverse the text to white. Then I created a selection of the menu and applied just a whitewash to the background.

Here it is. I think it works better than the blur.

Image of "Create Cube" menu



Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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