What a Load of CARP!

Over many years of working with online learning design and development topics I have learned about CARP several times. I've attended conference sessions and meetings where presenters talked about and showed examples of CARP principals in action, and have read about these principles many times in instructional design books. However, it happens so often that it's the 15th time I revisit a topic or theory, that it really becomes meaningful to me for the first time. Reviewing CARP in connection with infographic design has lead me to new discoveries.

I don't draw and have always looked to people who do as having a kind of magic I cannot understand. I have, however, always had a bit of an "eye" for visual design even though I'm no kind of artist, and because of this, as software and the internet, and of course stock photos and graphics made it easier to take other peoples' art and arrange, edit or rearrange it to create a visual, I have done a bit of "graphic design". I often question my choices and wonder if my designs are good.

The CARP principles are based on how our brains make sense of visual information. Remembering to use these principals in our graphic design (even as a method for checking your work), really helps to add more science to designing visuals that remind us to remember the learner, not just make attractive pictures.

The CARP principles are as follows:


The state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association.

Make elements that are not the same clearly different, not just slightly different.” Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen


Is defined as arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.

“Nothing should be placed on a page arbitrarily.” Robin Williams, The Non-Designer’s Design Book


The action of repeating something that has already been said or written. Repetition in design is about reusing different elements to create a theme, feel to the overall design of a piece.

"We must be conscious of where our eye goes first when we step back and look at our design." Robin Williams, The Non-Designer’s Design Book


Nearness in space, time, or relationship

“Related items should be grouped together so that they will be viewed as a group, rather than as several unrelated elements.” Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen

I used two different examples of information from the Ford motor company. One is a timeline story about Ford's history, the other is a history specifically of the Ford Mustang. I chose these two, not necessarily because they are stellar infographic examples, but more because they have similarities to the infographic project I am currently working on. To me, these infographics helped me work through many of the CARP cautions and opportunities for doing timeline infographics. When you're trying to synthesize a lot of information, such as in the Ford history timeline, it can be easy to over complicate and confuse your readers/learners. In the end, I thought the Mustang timeline used CARP more efficiently.

Example 1:

Example 2:

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