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Area 49

This guide provides information on how to use technology within Area 49, as well as guides for digital technologies and physical projects. Area 49 is available for use by all current students, faculty, and staff.

Creating Visual Material

On this page, you will find resources and information for creating meaningful images and visual media. Students, you might decide to use this information to guide you through developing visuals. Instructors, you might use this information to develop classroom activities designed to assist your students in making their ideas come to life.

However you decide to use this page, you may also contact Area 49 to get a sense of maker resources available or to tailor activities and processes to your particular needs.

Take a look at the library's Visual Literacy LibGuide for more information on finding, analyzing, and using images!

What to Create

LittleTrashmaid.ShinyEarrings!What's your message?

Always figure out your message first, rather than letting your medium dictate what you will say. To start, look at your research and determine what needs to be said. Consider the following:

  • Is there a gap in the research that you can cover?
  • Do you have a strong opinion that you feel others need to know?
  • Is there an important idea that people don't understand well?
  • Is there a specific audience that doesn't have this information, but could benefit from it?

Your message can either convey a generalized idea or a very specific part of the idea. Usually, a general idea is much more difficult to convey than a specific one, so it's often a good idea to narrow down the subject. Here are some options:

  • Respond directly to a specific piece you have encountered.
  • Look at your idea through a new lens. You could look at it as someone from a specific audience would, or you could even consider how the ideas might change if you combine it with something else. For example, your general idea might be about ocean pollution, but combining the idea with a beloved children's movie could cause the message to be more powerful for both adults and children. 

The Little Trashmaid - Part of Your World The Little Trashmaid - Underwater Balloons

The Little Trashmaid Icon



s0s2. (2019-2020). "Shiny Earrings!" "Part of Your World," & "Underwater Balloons." The Little Trashmaid. Webtoon.

Decide how to convey your message

Once you figure out your direction, then you can move on to deciding on a method to convey your ideas. There are many ways to do this, but you may find the following approaches helpful.

  1. Context - What is the cultural and ideological context you are responding to? In other words, what is the situation surrounding the idea?
  2. Audience - Who will this message be directed to?
    1. Figure out a specific population to hear this message, since directing it to "everyone" will make your message too general. For example, if you want people to vote, a sign that says "Vote" would be applicable to everyone who can vote, but might not be as effective as developing advertisements around the specific causes that your targeted populations care about.
    2. What kinds of resources does this audience engage with? If they get most of their information from blogs, then developing a blog might be appropriate. However, if this audience prefers to develop their own interpretations, then creating a sculpture, painting, or other entirely visual item may influence the audience more. See "Conveying your credibility," below.
    3. How will your audience be called to respond? if this is interactive, give your audience the space to interact easily and in a way they are already familiar with.
  3. Purpose - Likely, your message will do more than simply inform. Consider:
    1. What do you hope to accomplish? Is this a call to action? A call for changing a mindset?
    2. Is this a counterargument arising from a point in a source?
    3. How do you want your viewers to feel? How will your work elicit this emotion?

Selecting Your Medium

Consider your time frame

Your time frame is important to consider. Developing something manageable for a quick turnaround time will be more successful than taking on a large feat in a few days.

Play to your strengths

Use a medium or skill that you know will be effective for your audience. If you don't feel proficient in the medium, your message may not come across as intended. If you plan to learn a new skill to complete the project, make sure you have enough time to learn it without adding stress before your due date.

Operating within an assignment

When producing visual materials for a course project, consider the parameters for the project and which options might be more appropriate to complete the assignment. If you have a big idea that's not in line with the assignment, always check with your instructor first to see if your idea will suffice the assignment requirements. In some cases, you may need to develop your creative visuals to enhance your message, rather than to replace a traditional means of conveying the information.

Conveying your credibility

How do I cultivate credibility?

Credibility comes from being able to demonstrate a keen understanding of what is happening within the context, but being recognized as credible looks different in different contexts.

  • Example 1: In a written academic piece, your credibility comes from the ability to join the conversation by responding to scholarly sources in the field.
  • Example 2: In the fashion world, an outer demonstration of credibility would be to wear fashionable clothing, but you would show a deeper knowledge and understanding by being able to talk about a diverse array of styles, colors, stitches, fashion cultures, and more. You might learn this from experience or from engaging with fashion magazines, blogs, and more. How did Meryl Streep's Devil Wears Prada character convey her fashion credibility in the clip below?

How will your chosen audience see you as credible?

What specific moves can you make that will label you as an insider? Use context, audience, and purpose to determine the ways in which you could convey your credibility. Keep in mind that the types of sources you invoke will have a direct impact upon how your audience will react to your message.

Planning Your Work

Planning your work

Planning your work and figuring out what you will need to complete your project will keep you from hitting a wall in the middle of your project. Here are some great ways to plan out your project.

  • Sketch out your idea. What will this look like? What materials make most sense to use for each part? This will also help you anticipate the skills you may need to complete it.
  • List all the items you will need. If you don’t have access to them, check around. You might have access to them though Area 49. You might also be able to develop your own great substitution.
  • Make a timeline for creating your project. Build in time that will allow you to revise your strategy if something doesn’t work out as planned. Depending on what you make, you may need to allow time and supplies for multiple iterations.
  • Prototype your idea. Develop your visual with lesser materials first. This will give you the opportunity to change your item's construction without using up your final materials, and your final product will work better, since you will have put more thought into prior iterations.

Design Strategies & Creativity

7 Elements of Design Quick Reference Sheet (Infographic). Line, shape, color, texture, value, size, space. Line: A line is a mark between two points. There are various types of lines, from straight to squiggly to curved and more. Lines can be used for a wide range of purposes: stressing a word or phrase, connecting content to one another, creating patterns and much more. Shape: Height + width = shape. We all learned basic shapes in grade school - triangles, squares, circles and rectangles. Odd or lesser seen shapes can be used to attract attention. There are three basic types of shape: geometric (triangles, squares, circles etc), natural (leaves, animals, trees, people), and abstracted (icons, stylizations, graphic representations etc). Color: Color is used to generate emotions, define importance, create visual interest and more. CMYK (cyan.magenta/yellow/black) is subtractive; RGB (red/green/blue) is additive. Some colors are warm and active (orange, red); some are cool and passive (blue, purple). There are various color types (primary to analogous) and relationships (monochromatic to triad) worth learning more about as well). Texture: Texture relates to the surface of an object; the look or feel of it. Concrete has a rough texture; drywall has a smooth and subtle texture. Using texture in design is a great way to add depth and visual interest. Printed material has actual, textile texture while screen material has implied texture. Value: Value is how light or how dark an area looks. A gradient, shown above, is a great way to visualize value — everything from dark to white, all the shades in-between, has a value. Use value to create depth and light; to create a pattern; to lead the eye; or to emphasize. Size: Size is how small or large something is: a small shirt vs. an extra large shirt, for example. Use size to define importance, create visual interest in a design (via contrasting sizes) attract attention and more. Space: Space is the area around or between elements in a design. it can be used to separate or group information. use it effectively to: give the eye a rest; define importance, lead the eye through a design and more.Elements of Design

Use the 7 Elements of Design together and in varying ways to create unique visuals with ideas that pop.


"Elements of Design: Quick Reference Sheet." Paper Leaf. Retrieved October 20, 2020.

4 Principles of Design: Quick Reference Poster. Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, Proximity. Contrast: Unique elements in a design should stand apart from one another. One way to do this is to use contrast. Good contrast in design - which can be achieved using elements like color, tone, size, and more - allows the viewer’s eye to flow naturally. To the left, you can see 4 ways to create contrast in your design (color, tone/value, size/shape, and direction). Alignment: Proper alignment in a design means that every element in it is visually connected to another element. Alignment allows  for cohesiveness; nothing feels out of place or disconnected when alignment has been handled well. Repetition: Repetition breeds cohesiveness in a design. Once a design pattern has been established - for example, a dotted border or a specific typographic styling - repeat this pattern to establish consistency. The short version? Establish a style for each element in a design and use it on similar elements. Proximity: proximity allows for visual unity in a design. if two elements are related to each other, they should be placed in close proximity to one another. Doing so minimizes visual clutter, emphasizes organization, and increases viewer comprehension. Imagine how ridiculous it would be if the proximity icons on this graphic were located on the other side of this document.Principles of Design

Use the principles of design to manipulate the elements for unexpected, yet professional-looking visual results.


"Principles of Design: Quick Reference Poster." Paper Leaf. Retrieved October 20, 2020.

Quick Tips

  • Try using alternative methods of including your visuals. For example, if you are using pictures from a magazine, try tearing them so the edges are frayed. This will add more texture than perfectly cutting out the images.
  • Use items that are already available to you. Even if you don't have what you need, you might be able to use something as a substitute for your intended item and develop something even better.
  • Look online at zines and visual journals to get ideas for art styles, how to overlap items to generate an idea, and found items to incorporate into your visual.


For a quick view of what Area 49 has to offer, check out the gallery below. You can also take a look at activities, tools, and resources on the Area 49's LibGuide. We're adding more all the time!

Area 49

Area 49

Area 49 promotes creativity, collaboration, analysis, and experimentation, and can be used beyond academic reasons. We can even help you figure out how to approach your ideas, even if you are not on campus. Ask us for help with unconventional projects, determining which technology to use to complete a project, or figuring out how to make your ideas happen! 

Use the arrows to take a look at Area 49's many spaces and services.

Tech Desk

Borrow Technology at the Area 49 Desk

You can borrow all kinds of technology from the Area 49 Desk on the second floor. Take a look at our Borrow Technology page to see our selection of DSLR cameras, video cameras, tripods, audio recording equipment, circuitry kits, and more! Most items are available to check out for 7 days.

EZ Video Studio

EZ Video Studio

Record your videos here! All you need is a USB drive (available at the Area 49 Desk). Plug it in, and the system will let you choose backgrounds, show content from your computer via HDMI hookup, and record yourself against any backdrop using the blue screen.



Use the Makerspace's crafting and DIY materials for low-tech making or get trained to use our 3D printers, laser cutter, CNC Router, vinyl cutter, and sewing machines. The Makerspace is free to use, except for select materials sold at cost for use with certain machines. You can also submit a 3D print or large format print and have us print it for you. Take a look at the Makerspace page for more information.

Visualization Lab

Visualization Lab

The room-width screen in the Visualization Lab is great for seeing all your information at once from our high-powered computers or from your HDMI-enabled laptop. The HTC Vive virtual reality headset is great for gaming or even developing games or environments. Take a look at our Visualization Lab page for more information and how to get trained. 

Photogrammetry Lab

Photogrammetry Lab

Here, you can create high-quality, digital models of 3D objects. The camera will take pictures of the object from all angles, and the software will stitch them together to develop the model. You can then use this model in other programs or even 3D print it!

Gaming Lab

Gaming Lab

Play a game! The Gaming Lab contains an Alienware gaming PC, an Xbox One and Xbox 360, a Playstation 4 Pro, and an Atari CX2600-A. You can check out games, controllers, and headsets at the Area 49 Desk, or you can bring your own. We also have classic consoles with preloaded games available for 7-day checkouts. These are NES, SNES, Atari Flashback 9, and Playstation Classic. Take a look at our Borrow Technology page for a complete list of gaming checkouts.

Multimedia Lab

Multimedia Lab

This computer lab supports professional-grade media production. The computers area loaded with software such as the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, and GarageBand. Take a look at the Multimedia Lab page for a full list of software.

Technology Instruction

We offer trainings on our machines and spaces and workshops on all kinds of making and creation. We update the list on our Technology Instruction page all the time, but as you roam the second floor, look for current offerings on the Area 49 whiteboard wall and on the digital display above the Area 49 Desk. 

We also offer class activities that align with specific course goals and help you think about ideas in new ways. We cover things like design thinking, critical thinking, collaboration, emerging technologies, making, brainstorming, and more. Students, if your instructor books a session for your class, get ready for something different! Instructors, our Technology Instruction page contains more information on how we can work together to build unique experiences for your students, even for online or hybrid classes!

Evaluating Your Creation

Even though you’re probably mentally finished with your work at this point, and would rather not think about it anymore, the finished product sometimes does not match up with your initial intentions, so it is vital that you look at your work at this stage and reflect upon how well you have completed your objectives. Often, another glance will give you the idea you need to pull it all together or polish your work. Consider the following:

  • Does the finished product match up to your expectations?
    • Will it capture your audience how you intended?
    • Does it convey your purpose well? Would a viewer have to work hard to understand your idea?
  • How does your visual fit within the context of the conversation you are responding to?
  • Is this supposed to be a polished work, or a prototype? If it should be polished, what visual minor flaws exist? Can you touch them up before presenting your visual?

For each of the above questions, ask yourself what you could do to make your visual more effective. Is there anything you could add, tweak, or take away to provide a larger impact?

Talking about your work

The ability to reflect and articulate the decisions you made is very important. If you look back on different decisions you could have made, but didn’t, you’ll be better able to defend the decisions you did make.

Be proud of your work, but criticize your own work, too. It will push you to meet more challenges that will give you greater satisfaction in your work, and you’ll also be more excited to show others what you have done.

Grading Possibilities

Instructors, figuring out how to grade creative projects can sometimes be trying, since value is put on a different kind of proficiency demonstration. If you'd like help with grading schemes for creative projects, let us know at We can help! For now, take a look at the content below, which will help you start thinking about the grading component of the project.

Encourage a Maker Mentality

Value positive failure, discovery attempts, and the articulation of process work. Students often think about the end result, while reflecting on the process can be more helpful to troubleshooting their work.

Designing the Learning Experience

Working from a maker mindset means that you are “creat[ing] the conditions for learning,” rather than “prescrib[ing a] learning experience” (Brahms as qtd. In Schlageter, 2017). This can, in fact, help students of all levels learn at their own paces (Burke, 2015), but comes with a different type of learning. One of the most challenging concepts for most instructors will be the difference in learning rates and concepts. Kurti, Kurti, and Fleming (2014) show that engaging in a maker mindset in the classroom means “recogniz[ing] that some peripheral concepts may not be learned by all students. Yet students faced with a common challenge to design their own unique solutions will naturally come to some common understanding” (par. 5). This type of interaction with concepts will ensure that students will be able to transfer their understanding of their (interactions) to new situations. However, they also assert that  a well-planned design [will] allow students to discover the concepts the teacher intended them to learn all along” (par. 4). These methods also encourage collaboration and give students a chance to learn from other students as they develop team-building skills and consider alternate solutions.

Grading Creative Projects

Your assessment strategies will change when you move from directive-based assessment to a more fluid maker-based practice (Lake, 1994). For some, this may mean offering more specific feedback about different parts of a project. Others may find themselves altogether reconsidering what they are valuing from an assignment. Consider assessing concepts such as critical thinking, problem solving, revision, and other overarching concepts that will be manifest in student work.