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 🙂

The icons of today’s generation

A while back, I thought back to my first computer, and the associated peripherals that were involved (discs, joysticks etc).

It amuses me to think that technology that is already obsolete is still being used today in icon form – case and point being the save icon:


The kids I teach have never seen a floppy disk, yet that is the icon they need to click on to save a document. If we had to create an icon for ‘save’ today, what would it look like? A cloud? A microchip? A thumb-drive?

This in turn prompted me to think about what icons are more familiar to our students.

Embed and Link are the icons of today’s generation.

Embed Icon

Link icon

And do you know what? That’s just how I think it should be.

I want kids to be creating, sharing and linking. It’s what learning is all about!

Everaldo Coelho


GNOME Icon Artists