Potentially Patchwork – Developing Design

Attribution Share Alike Some rights reserved by Ian Muttoo

I was driving to work this morning and despite a lack of sleep I was thinking about my last blog post when I thought about how course design is like designing a patchwork quilt.  The reason I thought of a patchwork quilt is I guess because my mum is finishing making a beautiful one for me but then I got to thinking further that it really is reflective of the practice of designing for learning.  I love looking at patchwork quilts and the detail and thought that has gone into it.  You take a brief look at some quilts and it looks like there is not much to it, but take a closer look, and there is detail and design in there that you might have missed had you not stopped to digest it.  But then you say, you don’t have to digest it because it just all works and looks great together in one quilt.

When I think of a well-designed learning resource, be it a course or just a handout, it may seem that it is very 2D, black and white but its been through a process.  A quilt has so many elements to its design: colour, texture, pattern, alignment, balance, unity, contrast and repetition.  I first saw the colours that would be in my quilt and I was unsure it would look any good together but as the quilt took shape I loved it.  (It’s blues and pinks) Reflecting on course design and learning resources designed I am aware that we go into it with a basket on elements and things that must be included and sometimes some prerequisite branding, which might dictate colours etc.  How is this put together?

A patchwork quilt may be a serious of squares but cut those squares and restitch them another way and the quilt takes on a whole new life and design.  Rearrange those squares to show contrast in patterns, textures and colours and you develop a very interesting quilt that will draw the eye and attention of viewers.  A well-designed learning resource might do the same.  It may take a set of ordinary elements, information and activities perhaps, and put them in one order or another, take them apart and rearrange to provide diversity and further opportunities for engagement, increasing motivation.  Like a quilt with its stitched lines that unify the many squares (and perhaps other more unconventional shapes), if our course is aligned with objectives, outcomes and curriculum it has a solid foundation to ground it and grow it into a beautiful design.

I’m sometimes not very creative when I design something but I think I might think about it like it were a patchwork quilt from now on and not just place squares in a line but rearrange it until I get contrast, balance, repetition, movement, colour and so much more from what may be only static information.  I will look for ways to create an overall picture and then develop interest around smaller elements that create the whole.  Well, these were my thoughts as I drove along but I will as always continue to think on it as there is never a definitive black or white in this area 🙂


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