Research & Reviews

How to Build Furniture by Yourself

Ikea logoOne of my favorite examples of learning from media comes from Ikea. Any owner of an Ikea product (that you assembled yourself) knows exactly what I’m talking about here. Over the years Ikea has built up a treasure trove of do-it-yourself assembly instructions for a wide variety of their products – from couches to cabinets, to bed frames, to kitchen tables.

If you haven’t experienced buying a couch or dresser from Ikea before then let me explain… Continue reading How to Build Furniture by Yourself


How Tronc’s Content Optimization Works

In a recent installment of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver diatribed on ill-fated newspaper companies of the modern day. Suggesting that you get what you pay for – free access to puppy videos – John spent a considerable amount of time exploring the financial demise of local newspapers and shining a spotlight on what is considered “journalism” today.

Specifically, he called out the graphic that was used to explain how Tribune Publishing was rebranding itself. Tronc, or Tribune Online Content, described its content optimization strategy by showing this graphic:

Tronc Content Optimization
Tronc HR video

Continue reading How Tronc’s Content Optimization Works

The Process of Making Whiskey

yamazaiki 12 yearOne of the benefits of publishing on my own site is the freedom to choose my own topics to review – so why not write about whiskey?

Making whiskey is not a simple process and there are about 5 or 6 stages, depending on the explainer, which contain numerous steps and sub-steps. Let’s look at a few attempts to explain graphically how whiskey is made.
Continue reading The Process of Making Whiskey

Explaining how the Electoral College works

Electoral College 2012Today we’re going to look at another topic that is often made more complex by good intentioned graphics – the Electoral College. To be fair, there are a lot of great ideas out there that can help novices understand how the electoral college works. Let’s look at how a few graphics (and a video) attempt to educate a broad audience on this topic.
Continue reading Explaining how the Electoral College works

Explaining how Bitcoin works

For my first post in this Research & Reviews area, I’ll spend a little time explaining the methods I’m using to critique graphical overviews and other media being used to explain a topic. Today’s topic is Bitcoin. I’m not even close to being an expert on it but I find cryptocurrency to be incredibly fascinating. Nevertheless, applying principles of learning theory does not require one to be an expert on the subject matter – I’m merely finding ways to make a complex topic more accessible for novices through various techniques.


For today’s topic (and most that I’ll cover in this blog) I’m assuming the audience has limited or no knowledge of the topic. Most evidence-based guidelines, from multi-media learning and cognitive load theory especially, are applicable to novice learners in particular. Only in rare cases will I focus on high prior knowledge learners (advanced in a given subject) and comment on how they could be better supported. In order to avoid personal style and bias while evaluating content, I’ll reference guidelines or principles that are frequently cited in the field of instructional design.

Now, let’s get started with how Bitcoin works!
Continue reading Explaining how Bitcoin works