Thursday, 13 November 2014 04:40

Portfolios and Multimedia Design Principles

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Portfolios and Multimedia Design

McLuhan (1964) stated that, "the medium is the message" (p. 7). By this, he meant that the medium we use to convey our messages is as important as the message itself. In your portfolios, the attention you make to the detail in presenting your work and making it clear and accessible for your audience tells us (almost) as much as the work itself. Are you organized? Have you tried your best to make my (the audience) experience as rewarding as possible? Have you paid attention to the clarity of your writing, the quality of your graphics and images?

McLuhan and Powers (1989) discuss the idea that visual knowledge, which they view as more traditional, is linear, connected, and best represented by the printed word. In our current world of electronic media, they argue knowledge is now more acoustic in that it surrounds us from all sides and is “simultaneous, discontinuous, and dynamic” (p. 14). How does the layout of a portfolio affect its ability to present acoustic information? 

Mayer (2009) offers a set of multimedia design principles that can help you to present your information in more coherent manner. These are outlined in Table 1. I have added a description of how the principles can enhance portfolio design for the audience.



Table X:

Mayer’s (2009) Multimedia Design Principles and e-Portfolio Application


Mayer's Definition

Portfolio Application


Extraneous or unnecessary material is excluded

Older materials should be archived and the most important materials highlighted in the best locations.


Directed curations are provided for specific audiences.


All materials should be intentional and reflect competencies


Labels and titles for materials and information are provided

Artefacts and sections of the portfolio are clearly labeled and may even follow an agreed upon format or layout. 


The significance of everything is obvious or indicated


Avoid redundancy in displays to reduce unnecessary cognitive processing

Curations allow for exemplar artefacts to be presented.


Supplementary information stored elsewhere.


Corresponding or related information is presented physically near to each other

Related artefacts should be easily found near each other.


Lesson plans and supporting materials should be on the same page or visually located together.


Corresponding or related information is presented at the same time

Information and artefacts related by time should also be visible at the same time without having to click forward to see additional work.


You may need to balance this with spatial contiguity


Information is better presented as segments rather than a larger whole

Balanced with coherence, larger chunks of information or documentation should be split into manageable amounts.


Use more paragraphs rather than less.


Use point form where appropriate.


Use white space appropriate. Do not leave 'empty' space. Leave intentional space for ease of reading and scanning.


Learning is enhanced by previous knowledge of main concepts

A map may be presented to highlight organizational structure or certain terminology.


Imagine that someone is looking at your portfolio without you to explain it.


Conversely, avoid terminology not suitable for your expected audience.


Learning is enhanced by using different modes (seeing and hearing) to receive information

Use a variety of media to present and explain the relevance of the artefacts.


Very much overlaps with multimedia principle


Learning is enhanced by using two media rather than one.

Within the preparation of individual artefacts, presentation can be enhanced by using text and images and audio, etc..


Learning is enhanced when a narrative style is used rather than formal style

When providing a narrative or description, talk to your audience.


A more formal style can be confined to the presentation of papers and projects that require academic language.


Mayer, R. (2009). Multi-media Learning 2nd Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media. Cornwall: Routledge.

McLuhan, M., & Powers, B. (1989). The Global Village. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Dr. Paul Leslie

Associate of Taos Institute:

Education is a Community Affair. 

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