Adobe Spark – a design tool for non-designers

Non-designers ≠ unprofessionalScenario 1: You want students to present their report / reflection / portfolio in a media-rich format so that they can bring in image, voice and text to represent their experience…but the technology keeps getting in the way of what they want to say. You’re all for building digital literacies, but Photoshop and Adobe Premier are overkill for this student need. Do you need to fall back to Microsoft basics? 

Scenario 2: You want to make your Interact 2 site more engaging – but aren’t keen on just adding superfluous images that don’t add meaning. Sure, you can play with some image editing tools, but it never looks that professional, and it takes AGES of fiddling. You could put in an SRS request, but you need it NOW. Do you need to wait for next session?

Enter Adobe Spark: A design tool for non-designers

Adobe Spark is simply one of my favourite tools. It allows non-designers to create good quality images, single scrolling webpages and videos in an AMAZINGLY short amount of time (because it’s so easy)…and it’s free. What more could you want?

One of the reasons creating these resources is so fast in Adobe Spark is that it has embedded a lot of design tools within the application itself.

  • Where you’d normally look around a wide range of sites, such as Pixabay and Flickr to find images, you can search for them directly from the app, or upload your own directly or from other applications such as GooglePhotos or Dropbox. Same goes for adding music to videos.
  • Instead of fiddling for ages on the layout and design or your image or page, Adobe Spark has a wide range of layouts and design filters you can choose from and adapt (and it uses ‘magic layout’ to automatically move your text as you explore different layout types).
  • Once you’ve selected a particular design and layout, you can play with the shape, colour, font, spacing, alignment and opacity – and it has this great ‘style wheel’ that lets you just scroll from one style to another, until you find one that you like.
  • You can choose image sizes to perfectly fit a range of social media, as well as your standard ones for posters, slides, cards or banners.
  • And you can select colour palettes that group different colours that go together and apply these automatically to your images. Adobe are the masters of design, so you can be confident that it will work!

With all of these features, it seriously cuts your design time back to a few minutes, which is perfect for your everyday design needs.

Take a look at the following slides, which I presented at a recent Unconference event held by UImagine, to find out the basics regarding benefits and limitations, as well as potential applications:

Show me some examples

So how have I been using it?

For myself: If you take a look at this blog, you’ll notice that a lot of the featured images (including the one at the top of this post) have images overlaid with text. Yep, those were done in Adobe Spark, most in less than a couple of minutes, including finding the images. (Adobe Spark allows you to source free, creative commons images from within the application itself. Of course, you can upload your own as well.) I’ve also used it to create images for our Faculty newsletter, and sending emails with a bit more personality…such as when saying ‘thank you’.

With academics: We’ve used Adobe Spark to create images:

  • for feature pages in Interact2 modules (e.g. FAQ pages)
  • within topics for drawing attention to key points, adding quotes, or creating simple graphics
  • for organising and ‘branding’ discussion forums so that the purpose is abundantly clear.

You can see some of these examples in the presentation above (Slide 2), and you can see the use of images in the discussion forum below:

Adobe Spark forum example

We’ve used the ‘video’ function to create some simple scenarios, setting a scene and asking students to reflect on what they might do. And we’ve used the ‘page’ function to create a scrolling landing page that tells a visual story about the subject for students before session starts (shown in the video below):

But some of the most exciting potential, for me, is with student generated content. This Adobe Spark page shows what could be done with a student portfolio (or report, or …).

Portfolio - Adobe Spark

And it’s easy for students to share these with each other in a single space. For example, take a look at how this academic has provided a Padlet for students to share their final media-rich reflections, all created in Adobe Spark pages (click on the image to open the showcase site).

Adobe Spark example reflections

Extend that idea a little further, and you could have students creating media-rich stories, project summaries, portfolios, reports, work placement reflections, research…with the confidence that the technology is so simple that it won’t get in the way of the task. Let your imagination go wild.

How do I do it?

If you are signed up to Lynda.com (as all CSU employees are), you can learn all you need to know about Adobe Spark from their Learning Adobe Spark online course. Here’s the welcome introduction:

If you don’t have access to Lynda, a quick search of YouTube will reveal recent tutorials, such as this one from Teacher’s Tech.

Where to find out more

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