A Quick Tip on Visual Literacy

In the Learning Technologies Group, we encourage the use of images in CLE courses to enhance the learning experience for students. Research shows learning is positively influenced by visuals (Paivio, 1991) and the use of visualization in thinking appears to be increasing (Stokes, 2002). As learners, it is also quickly obvious if an image adds value to our learning, or if it could use some design assistance.

With this in mind, how can faculty and staff improve the learning experience for students by incorporating useful images in CLE courses, while also teaching, researching, and practicing?

Here is a tip – download free images from the Noun Project website to enhance the design of your CLE course and better the learning experience for students.


We use Noun Project images in CLE courses, workshop presentations, Articulate and Camtasia projects, and much more. The Noun Project is free with proper credit (see examples at the end of this post) or you can purchase images at a minimal cost to use royalty free. Noun Project images can be downloaded in the following two formats, with pros and cons for using each:

Portable Network Graphics (or PNG) come as they are. You can paste or place the file in any program. You can’t change the color or shape of the image, and if you try to make the image much bigger, it will get pixelated.

Scalable Vector Graphics (or SVG) are vector images, meaning they’re completely customizable. Make them as big or as small as you want, change the colors, or even change the shapes themselves (using Adobe Illustrator available on UCSF Library Tech Commons’ multimedia workstations).

Here is an example of a Noun Project image being used in a CLE course block:

CLE exampleAnd here is an example of Noun Project images being used in a presentation:

Presentation Example.001
If you enjoy using the Noun Project website and also create your own vector graphics, you can give back to the Noun Project community by sharing your original images.

To learn more about visual literacy, including the Mayer’s Multimedia Theory, Design Principles, Dual Coding Theory, Gestalt Principles and more, check out the Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance, Lessons in Visual Literacy text.

Remember, the Learning Technologies Group is here to help! Have questions about using the Noun Project, but have not worked in Adobe Illustrator? Are you trying to locate the perfect image to represent a concept in your CLE course? Join us at regularly scheduled Tech Clinics at the UCSF Library to locate and customize Noun Project and other images for use in your CLE course.

Image Credits:

  • Scissors” designed by Jo from the Noun Project
  • Waves Icon” designed by Nathan Diesel from the Noun Project
  • Trees” designed by Vicons Design from the Noun Project
  • Mountains” designed by Christelle Mozzati from the Noun Project
  • Bridge” designed by Nick Green from the Noun Project
  • Cactus” designed by Jason Tropp from the Noun Project
  • Meeting Point” designed by Alv Jørgen Bovolden from the Noun Project
  • Search” designed by Norbert Kucsera from the Noun Project
  • Comment” designed by Kirill Tomilov, RU from the Noun Project


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