In my former life as a professional proposal writer graphic designers played a pivotal role on our production team. I always wanted to “dabble” in graphic design but never had the time. My time was mostly devoted to content development. Fortunately, in my new career as an instructional designer on occasion I am expected to wear the hat of an artist. As instructional designers regardless of our responsibilities it is to our benefit to become comfortable with basic graphic design theory so that, if needed, we can apply it to practice. Below are a few basic recommendations that many Instructional Designers may find useful.
- If you know how to do something that does not mean you should do it. In eLearning, less is more, so if the tool or an option is available to you that does not mean that you should actually use it in your project. This particularly applies to animations. Try to avoid animation whenever possible. Instead, consider separating information into several slides.
- The same principle applies to images. When you add images to slides, always be sure that they are meaningful and are not just there for decoration. Images should help clarify the content, not make the learner figure out their relevance.
- If possible, try to make the design elements of your eLearning project as cohesive as possible. This means that the fonts, colors, and bullets should be similar and consistent. It is always a good idea to repeat specific design elements to ensure cohesiveness of your design.
- Since most eLearning companies buy licenses for stock photography, many eLearning courses end up using the same images over and over again. One way to add uniqueness to your eLearning is to use an editing tool to crop, recolor, and combine images. Also, when you search the stock photo library, consider going directly to the last page of your search as the images on the first page often tend to be overused.
- Make sure that the colors and fonts you use can be easily read by individuals with visual impairments. For the same reason, it is best to avoid transparency and shading.
In Ruth Clark’s piece, More Than Just Eye Candy, she states “Elaborate visual treatments unrelated to the goals of the instruction, while well intended, have been shown in controlled research studies to depress learning.”
Whatever you choose to do, try and stick with a consistent style throughout your course. Avoid mixing and matching which can be extremely distracting. Nothing is more distracting quite honestly than a hodgepodge of random stock photography and random colors. A great idea would be to create a style guide beforehand. This would make your eLearning course look more professional and more engaging.
Until next week….happy learning!