On The Spectrum

May 28 2019

Student, Shaun Keegan discusses using coloured paper to create learning resources for children with autism

While the digital revolution continues unchecked, there are many sectors and situations in which there’s just no substitute for paper resources – and in education, this is particularly important for people with learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorders.

The quality, weight and colour of the paper stock used to produce learning resources and visual support systems can be crucial for these individuals, supporting improved absorption and retention of information.

One person who knows this better than most is Shaun Keegan, a third year graphic design student at Leeds Beckett University, who also happens to have autism.  Shaun recently embarked on a project to explore the ways in which colour, grammage, typography and overall quality of paper resources could impact on learning, using paper from Wigston to produce a unique, colour coded visual support system designed to help others overcome the issues he faced in his own education.  We asked Shaun to tell us more…

The Problem

“The idea for this project came from my own experiences going through school as an autistic person.

Whilst in school I used Visual Support Systems to assist me throughout the day, but there was always an issue with the physical and visual quality of the supports.

More often than not they were simply laminated pieces of 90gsm printer paper, with some clip-art style imagery printed on.

This meant that which ever support I was using would likely be creased or have air bubbles under the laminate. The lack of consistency in production quality and visual style was always an issue for me and other autistic people at my school.

The Solution

When I was given a brief at university to create my own project, I knew I wanted to create something which could be used to help children who are in the same situation that I was in.

This required me to create a system for design first to ensure a visually consistent look. I started by setting some rules for my artwork, set colours of red, green, blue and yellow are easily recognisable and traditionally applied to different emotions. The typography throughout the entire piece is consistent too, the font family doesn’t change and the spacing is always consistent. There’s a lot of smaller things which you wouldn’t see if you looked close but your mind still sees and connects everything together, the radius of curves are the same throughout.

Paper choice was a major concern during the planning stage of the project. I knew that high quality and hard-wearing paper was required to create a product which can stand the test of time, and be tactile enough for an autistic child to have fun engaging with.

Since I would be debossing onto some card it had to be thick enough to get a deep enough deboss to add to the tactility of the product. To achieve this I chose to use paper from the Senses range.  The 700gsm card stock was perfect not only for the debossing on the emotion cards but also the range of colours available meant that there really wasn’t any other option. This stock also proved to be perfect as a backing for the communication key-rings too, thanks to the durability of the card.


Since I was creating something for autistic children colour was a big focus, and the Gmund Volume range of corrugated board was the perfect choice to create the box. The colours within the range along with the stock’s ability to bend without tearing the outer paper really gave the box a clean look whilst being fit for purpose.

Overall I think the project was a success, but it wouldn’t have been quite as successful without the choice of paper stock.  The vibrancy and quality of the stock really help to elevate the work to another level.”

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