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Center for Health Literacy Promotion Blog

Promoting Health Literacy with Beginnings Guides Part 6: Cover Graphics

Here we continue our review of what makes health information actionable.In other words, what about information facilitates or inhibits a reader’s or listener’s decision-making and action steps?
We are using  the SAM Suitability Assessment of Materials  tool to assess
Beginnings Guides’ suitability for promoting health literacy. This Part 6
begins a consideration of graphic elements: the cover image, illustrations,
lists and charts, and captions.  We start with the cover.
People do judge  a book by the cover
Information is like medication. Before it can have any effect on the learner, she has to hold it in her and swallow it. 
We take medication to solve a problem we have now. Same with reading.
Adults learn in order to solve a problem they have now. The purpose of the cover is to attract the intended readers’ attention, compel her to pick up the material, and lead her into the learning. That requires a graphic that,in a few seconds, convinces the intended learner that “this information is about me and my current concern”. 
First, the cover graphic must be friendly.  Not necessarily to the writer and designer, but specifically to the reader. When she identifies with the graphic and feels an emotional response, she will consider the text; you have led her into the learning.  If the graphic does not speak to her, or if it goes against the grain of what she knows and believes, she can only conclude that the information is not for her.
If the image is friendly, it might catch her attention.  Capturing your readers’ eye is becoming increasingly competitive. Today’s readers are visually sophisticated with high expectations and millions of images per day vying their glance. Your cover graphic may be realistic, like a photo, or artistic like the graphics on Beginnings Guides.
When selecting a cover image,  start by reviewing what you know about your audience; end by testing three images.  Make the final selection based on the responses of representative learners. For Beginnings Guides, we chose Laurel Burch drawings for their compelling colors, and simple, spiritually and emotionally rich portrayals of the mother-baby relationship. The art avoided issues like the presence or absence of wedding bands, and dating elements like dress styles, and ethnic issues like hair styles (I always remember the tester who asked “When
will health education materials stop showing all black people with hair like
broccoli?”)  In testing we noted that mothers saw in the art what mattered to them. And what they saw was often surprising, and surprisingly different from what others saw. That is the mark of a strong image.
Most important the graphic must portray the purpose of the materials.
If the purpose is unclear, so is the reason to read it.
Beginnings Guides gets SAM’s Superior rating for cover graphics since they are friendly,  attractive and clearly portray the purpose of the materials. We know because we asked mothers.

Beginnings Pregnancy Guide cover art by Laurel Burch conveys that mothering begins in pregnancy and that this information is for pregnant women. In testing we learned that pregnant women of all ethnicities have similar questions and concerns.  Pregnancy makes them more alike than different.

Laurel Burch designed these mini-masterpieces especially  for the Beginnings Parent’s Guide.  A single mother of mixed race babies, she was sensitive to ethnic and cultural issues.

A message from the artist

To all mothers

As a young mother-to-be at age 18, my own personal circumstance was
one of loneliness, without a family or spouse supporting me in this most
profound event of my entire life. I found comfort in knowing that I was
not alone. Mothers all over the world would be giving birth at the very
same moment as I would.

My drawings for Beginnings came from the challenges as much as from
the joy of finding my path as a mother. My first born, daughter Aarin,
is 39 now. And I am still learning the art of motherhood! If I can share
just a fragment of my support in these heartfelt drawings my artistic
mission will be accomplished.

We need not figure out the pearls of wisdom that have sustained mothers
through the centuries on our own. That is what Beginnings is all about.
Comfort and support. Knowledge and belonging. It is my joy and privilege
to be part of your new journey to motherhood. It is my hope that these
simple lines on paper inspire your own rainbow spectrum of color as each
day unfolds with the miracles and blessings of being a mother.

With love,

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