The PEEL Method

Selection: Figure-Ground Principle


ELA10-2 students despise taking notes so I knew I had to get “The PEEL Method” notes just right. Before this week’s reading I still had no idea how to take a page of notes and turn it into 4 or 6 simple lines while maintaining visual appeal too. Learning about the figure-ground principle really helped me. After reading the chapter I decided to focus on two things: 1) what I wanted the learner to focus on [figure], and 2) conciseness.


In this graphic the text is more important than anything else. In order to make the text stand out so the learner focused on it I utilized a black background with white text. The black background really made the white text pop (contrast). However, key words—even when bolded—didn’t stand out enough. By implementing a yellow font, the key words became visible. This made all the difference. Increasing the font size and using a different colour entirely made the first letter of the word PEEL stand out. Although red seems to bleed on a white background, on a black background it seems to pop–especially if you use a lighter red colour.  Even though the banana image is present it doesn’t compete with the text. It should not compete with the text; it should support it (ground). Hopefully that holds true.

In the end the notes consisted of 6 very simple sentences. This should make the students happy, right?! I also made the language user-friendly and easy to remember. I emphasized (via contrast) specific words to reinforce what the students needed to recall.

To achieve my two goals I reduced the graphic to its most basic elements (p. 102). The image is there but it is small and does not detract from the text. The text really stands out on a black background. Using that background got rid of the dead space.

 User Test

The user test was really interesting this week because I designed two simple graphics. One contained a real photograph while the other had a line drawing of a banana. Initially I choose a yellow background to match the photograph after seeing an ad in a magazine. Not one person liked the real banana graphic—even after I changed the background to black. The line drawing won hands down (p. 100) even though the text was exactly the same—except for the colour (with the yellow background I used a black font and made the word PEEL a dark red). The viewers preferred the line drawing because it took up the least amount of space and was underneath the text. The real banana was found beside the text because it had been photographed standing up. In this instance the real banana (the ground) was competing with the text (figure) so the viewer found it distracting (p. 102). Adding the white border was also popular with viewers. I tried the images with and without the border but everyone preferred (no matter the age group) the graphic with a border. Unfortunately, the white border is lost on a white webpage. I added a picture frame to the image to keep the white border. I don’t know if I like this look or not. It’s the first time I used the  “Command –> Creative –> Picture Frame” option in Fireworks CS6.


Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education, Inc.

Image Source

Banana Line Drawing: http://searchmonkey.ca/