I'm designing a booklet about science facts and stories for kids. The format is based on questions and answers between a teacher and a student. It's text based; few images/graphics are used. The booklet tries to emulate a real interaction between a student that wants to learn more about science and the teacher. My question is how to visually format all those questions/answers in an easy to follow the story?

Things that I want to avoid.

  • Enclose the spoken words with quotation marks. The whole booklet is a "dialog", so it will look quite ugly having every sentence/paragraph quoted.

  • Using an indicator like A: and Q:. That can help separate the questions from the answers, but it doesn't indicate who is "talking", if is the teacher or the student.

I initially thought of separating the content by colours. For example. When the teacher "talks", the font or background would be in blue. The student will be yellow. My concern is that a) it will increase the printing price b) it may become "too" colourful. So, I'm not sure now.

  • 4
    This sounds more like a visual design problem. Have you tried asking over on graphicdesign.stackexchange.com ? (By the way, there are creative ways of using a single print colour to convey two different tones - different tint/background combinations could work for example) Sep 26, 2017 at 7:33
  • Sounds like the Vivekachudemani.
    – user67695
    Sep 27, 2017 at 16:17
  • if you want to really tell a story, tell a story oatthegoat.co.nz/intl.html Jul 5, 2019 at 14:40

6 Answers 6


Teacher: How to visually format questions/answers to easily follow the story?

Student: I think that using "T" as prefix for Teacher and "S" as prefix for Student may help. You may also use the full word (see also) at the beginning. Do not omit this if roles can be inverted or the flow will be soon unclear (unless this is your creative intent.) Consider to repeat the full word when normal T/S/T/S sequence is subverted (like in this discussion.)

T: You're right but how can you distinguish between questions and answers?

S: I think you don't need to, after all questions are short and they probably end with a question mark, a visually uninterrupted flow may be read as a fluent speech instead of a bulleted list of points.

T: I'm not sure it's enough and not all questions end with a quotation mark. Also note that question text might become pretty long and it may be easily confused with other answers. Take this one, for example.

S: I think it may be useful only to quickly browse the questions to find a specific point but, if you really think it's not enough, you may use some subtle formatting like italic to denote questions. Alternatively another (paired) font, clearly distinguishable from the normal one (in size and/or style). I am a mature guy but if the book is for young children then you may use a serious font for the teacher and a comic one for students. In the Chicago Manual of Style QA, for example, questions are dimmed and printed in gray. I don't especially like it: you put emphasis on answers but often questions are as much important as their answers. APA suggests to use bold for questions but it may be visually distracting and it puts too much emphasis on questions.

Student: What do you think about it?

T: I admit it may work, if questions are not too long then even just italic won't add too much noise. In this way I may also keep color for something else (if any). If I'm not wrong I think I saw this technique (sometimes using bold or even bold italic) used very often in printed magazines. I think I saw also answers in italic and questions in bold but that makes everything confusing: I do not want to read a long text in italic and I do not want to over-empathize questions unless they're searchable titles.

Teacher: Do you have any other idea instead of italic/bold text, just in case? I'm not sure they fit graphical style I have in mind.

S: An answer is logically related to its question then you may also drop italic text and use indentation. You may also use them both, in typography the limit is only our creativity.

T: Can you give me an example?

S: Of course, it's my pleasure!

T: Do you think it works?

S: Yes! Clear spatial separation may also help children to follow the path.

Note that above suggestion applies to traditional printed material, electronic and/or interactive content has more options and you do not have to keep it simple because of printing costs (color Vs b&w and text Vs imagery/graphics). I'd suggest to also ask to your typographer, their experience is invaluable.

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    Good suggestions, however I didn't notice that the student answered a question (the large paragraph), and then immediately after asked one. I had assumed the teacher was the one asking all the questions and stopped looking at the T and S prefixes. Sep 26, 2017 at 13:32
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    @maxathousand no, that's on purpose to show why S/T are useful (I also just added a clarification about this in the first paragraph). If roles can be inverted than it helps to keep track of who is speaking. Sep 26, 2017 at 13:34
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    I agree that the S and T got me straightened out, but I think the italic pattern betrayed me. Personally, when I'm reading a conversation between two parties, I use a slightly different voice in my head to imagine the conversation more realistically. The italic text, at least for me, was also a way to distinguish the Teacher's voice. When the italic text switched to represent the student's voice, I found that there was no obvious tie between the typography and the voices, except for one character at the start and now I have to work harder to comprehend the conversation. Sep 26, 2017 at 13:49
  • 1
    I agree and I do exactly the same when reading! Unfortunately when roles invert you can't completely avoid that confusion (maybe, in that case, the full word Student is better than its abbreviation S which may easily go unnoticed) Sep 26, 2017 at 13:51
  • 2
    When similar things are done in magazine interview articles, the first question and answer typically has the full name (Teacher / Student) and then all other responses have the abbreviation (T / S)
    – icc97
    Sep 26, 2017 at 15:06

I'm not sure what tone you're going for, but I'd consider going with a chat-style UI, with one person's speech aligned on the left, and the other (perhaps the one with which you'd like your reader to identify) on the right. This pattern is widely recognized as an exchange between two (or more) people.

iMessage conversation

If you'd still like the questions to be easily scannable, you could utilize some of the following techniques:

  • Ensure the questions are in a standalone message
  • Bold the keywords in each question
  • Use headers to separate the conversation into topics
  • 1
    It's a way to go, but don't you think this approach relies too much on visual cues?
    – OldCastle
    Sep 26, 2017 at 14:00
  • 2
    @OldCastle What other cues could a booklet give than visual ones?
    – Bergi
    Sep 26, 2017 at 14:12
  • 2
    @OldCastle The colors aren't your only cues here. This pattern utilizes alignment of the callouts as well to provide the same information as the color does. The callouts extending from two separate locations tips you off as well. Sep 26, 2017 at 14:24
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    And I want to add - if your target audience is rather young, this look will most likely feel very familiar to them, because it looks like a whatsapp/snapchat/facebook conversation. And since screenshots of funny conversations are rather popular there is a high chance this design will make the posters more attractive to a young audience
    – Falco
    Sep 26, 2017 at 14:47
  • 1
    I think going with something like this, especially if you've not going to have colours makes more sense. All you need is the outline of the speech bubbles, you can use a 'sketchy' style UI such as Balsamiq which doesn't rely on colours and it will still be relatively visually attractive for kids to follow
    – icc97
    Sep 26, 2017 at 15:22

Concept 1: Screenplay

There is a standarised method of having dialogue for screenplays:

enter image description here

Concept 2: Timeline

If you want simple with very few colours, you could use some kind of a timeline style:

enter image description here

  • My upv, I actually love screenplay idea! It may even be funny for kids. Sep 27, 2017 at 17:03

OldCastle is asking questions, which Jeff Zeitlin is attempting to answer. OldCastle’s questions are larger, and bold, while Jeff’s answers are in normal text.

How can I separate the student’s questions from the teacher’s answers?

Since, presumably, the answer will be an explanation, rather than a short sentence, you could format the question as a header, and leave the explanatory answer in normal text. You don't need to call out the one as question and the other as answer, because it will be obvious.

Does this break the paradigm I want to establish, of it being a dialogue between the student and the teacher?

I don’t believe so; you can always explain the convention in an introduction. Since each question is presumably a new topic, it’s not unreasonable for each question to start a new section in the book.

Is it really going to be one question per topic?

Only you, the author, can answer that for sure. But it seems reasonable to assume it, initially.

But what if it's not?

In that case, subsequent questions on the same topic can use the next heading size down (I did this one two sizes down, only because of the formatting that SE uses as the default for interpreting MarkDown).

I don’t understand. It doesn’t look like a dialogue.

It won’t, because we’re used to dialogues looking like Q: Natter? A: Grommish. But it’s still a dialogue, because you’re presenting it as alternating questions and answers, and wording both as though they were people talking.

  • 2
    This is essentially the FAQ style
    – icc97
    Sep 26, 2017 at 15:07

I'd give a picture of a teacher and a student with a speech window callout for each. Using a picture will easily distinguish who is asking the question in the order they are shown.

  • Read the question again; this is for a booklet, not an app. Sep 26, 2017 at 13:35
  • 1
    @JeffZeitlin I did. Booklets have pictures as well. Where did you get app from? Sep 26, 2017 at 13:38
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    "speech window" - booklets may have pictures, but they don't usually have windows. Apps have windows (yes, and Windows has apps). Sep 26, 2017 at 13:39

left-right motive I see the left side of the page stating the question of the student, and the right one the answer of the teacher.

colour scheme every left or right page has one distinctive, repetitive colour scheme. either background colour or font colour. try out, which is best for your purpose.

graphics whereever there is blank space there comes an explanatory graphics.

these three elements seem quite vivid but harmonious to me.

i think this is also a question for the graphicdesign group :)

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