Good Design Could be a Matter of Life or Death

After the snafu at the Oscars this year, people became a little more aware of the role poor graphic design can have on people making errors. The following video highlights this, along with poorly designed voting ballots and medical pill bottles.

But what does this have to do with schools?

At our school, like the majority of schools I know, we have a number of students with serious allergies – some of them life-threatening. Knowing which students have allergies and how they need to be treated is extremely significant.

Our sharing procedure (following meetings at the start of the school year) was to have this list of students up around the staffroom and in key areas staff gather (names/photos have been blurred for privacy reasons).

On an A4 sheet of paper, each student photo is about the size of one fingernail. Pretty hard to distinguish in a hurry. The text was also tiny, so if a quick assessment of a student’s allergies was required, a teacher would have to read through a tiny font to find out the details.

I thought about what information was most important for staff to know about the students with allergies. I came up with bigger images, an icon to represent each allergy, together with the class & grade the student is in, and a description of what to do if they are having an allergic reaction.

I designed icons using Keynote and used Pages for the template.

My redesign looked like this (borrowing my son’s name/image for template purposes!):

The finished template is also an A4 piece of paper, but is much easier to recognise students and allergies due to the size of the image and icons. Names and class information are also easier to see, along with descriptions of students’ allergies and medical plans.

Graphic design could be a matter of life or death. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to see if your health and safety information is as clear as it needs to be.

I would love your feedback 🙂

Technology + Musical = Awesome

We are up to our necks in rehearsals for our Grade 6 musical, Once on this Island, but I had to share the role of technology in making the musical run smoothly. Honestly, I don’t know how we ever did a musical without it. Here’s what we’ve been doing so far:


YouTube now provides us with access to other schools/theatre groups who have performed the same musical. The Director (my husband Miles) and the backstage crew have trawled the web for the best examples of choreography for each song, and we have ‘borrowed’ the bits we like to supplement what was already in our minds. It has saved a lot of time, and we can watch the videos as many times as we need to get a particular set of moves down.

Video Trailers

Every Grade 6 student has a role to play in this musical, and we simply couldn’t do it with our backstage crew. A couple of them have created video trailers for the show to promote interest, and one student is producing weekly videos for our school newsletter to keep the community informed of our progress. These have proven to be engaging and above all, entertaining, for the grade 6 students and our school community. We have used iMovie extensively for this purpose.

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at AM 09.40.45


Our talented backstage crew are also helping out with filming rehearsals, and assisting our Digital Media Specialist in manning the cameras for the actual performances.

Google Apps

The backstage crew have created surveys using Google Forms to source costumes, and have used Google Docs extensively to organise and share resources. A spreadsheet was created with a cast list and costuming needs, as well as documents with videos for choreography (including how to learn to waltz for one particular scene), images for face painting ideas, and a list of props needed for each scene. The shared editing feature has been invaluable for backstage organisation.

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at AM 09.41.10Tickets & Posters

Students have produced tickets and posters for the show using Pages, which have helped publicize it around our school.

I am proud of the way students are taking ownership throughout the show, including taking on the roles of stage managers, lighting, sound and PR. This is what we want our Middle School students to be doing, and technology is helping them along the way.