Here we continue our review of what makes health information actionable.
In other words, what about information facilitates or inhibits a reader’s or
listener’s decision-making and action steps?
We are using the SAM Suitability Assessment of Materials tool to assess
Beginnings Guides’ suitability for promoting health literacy. This Part 6
begins a consideration of graphic elements: the cover image, illustrations,
lists and charts, and captions. We start with the cover.
People do judge a book by the cover
Information is like medication. Before it can have any effect on the learner,
she has to hold it in her and swallow it.
We take medication to solve a problem we have now. Same with reading.
Adults learn in order to solve a problem they have now. The purpose of the
cover is to attract the intended readers’ attention, compel her to pick up
the material, and lead her into the learning. That requires a graphic that,
in a few seconds, convinces the intended learner that “this information is
about me and my current concern”.
First, the cover graphic must be friendly. Not necessarily to the writer
and designer, but specifically to the reader. When she identifies with the
graphic and feels an emotional response, she will consider the text; you
have led her into the learning. If the graphic does not speak to her, or
if it goes against the grain of what she knows and believes, she can only
conclude that the information is not for her.
If the image is friendly, it might catch her attention. Capturing your readers’
eye is becoming increasingly competitive. Today’s readers are visually
sophisticated with high expectations and millions of images per day
vying their glance. Your cover graphic may be realistic, like a photo,
or artistic like the graphics on Beginnings Guides.
When selecting a cover image, start by reviewing what you know about your
audience; end by testing three images. Make the final selection based on the
responses of representative learners. For Beginnings Guides, we chose Laurel Burch
drawings for their compelling colors, and simple, spiritually and emotionally rich
portrayals of the mother-baby relationship. The art avoided issues like the
presence or absence of wedding bands, and dating elements like dress styles,
and ethnic issues like hair styles (I always remember the tester who asked “When
will health education materials stop showing all black people with hair like
broccoli?”) In testing we noted that mothers saw in the art what mattered to
them. And what they saw was often surprising, and surprisingly different from
what others saw. That is the mark of a strong image.
Most important the graphic must portray the purpose of the materials.
If the purpose is unclear, so is the reason to read it.
Beginnings Guides gets SAM’s Superior rating for cover graphics since they are friendly,
attractive and clearly portray the purpose of the materials. We know because
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide cover art by Laurel Burch
conveys that mothering begins in pregnancy and that
this information is for pregnant women. In testing we
learned that pregnant women of all ethnicities have
similar questions and concerns. Pregnancy makes
them more alike than different.
Laurel Burch designed these mini-masterpieces especially
for the Beginnings Parent’s Guide. A single mother of
mixed race babies, she was sensitive to ethnic and cultural
A message from the artist
To all mothers
As a young mother-to-be at age 18, my own personal circumstance was
one of loneliness, without a family or spouse supporting me in this most
profound event of my entire life. I found comfort in knowing that I was
not alone. Mothers all over the world would be giving birth at the very
same moment as I would.
My drawings for Beginnings came from the challenges as much as from
the joy of finding my path as a mother. My first born, daughter Aarin,
is 39 now. And I am still learning the art of motherhood! If I can share
just a fragment of my support in these heartfelt drawings my artistic
mission will be accomplished.
We need not figure out the pearls of wisdom that have sustained mothers
through the centuries on our own. That is what Beginnings is all about.
Comfort and support. Knowledge and belonging. It is my joy and privilege
to be part of your new journey to motherhood. It is my hope that these
simple lines on paper inspire your own rainbow spectrum of color as each
day unfolds with the miracles and blessings of being a mother.