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Design for Non Designers

There are some basic principles, rules and methods, which allow you to produce some top looking designs in your eLearning.  This series of blog posts will explore these basics and allow you to get your designer hat on!

The C.R.A.P. principles of design (yes ok let’s all snigger at the rude word)

These 4 principles lie at the heart of visual design.  Everything else builds from, or on top of these when you are creating a design. Visit the links for posts on each one.

  • Contrast simply means ‘difference’. A boring design is where everything looks the same. If you want to draw people’s attention to something specific, make it look different.  Not just a little different, but a lot different. Our brains look for differences all the time “which of these things are not like the other…and why?” It engages our brain and gets it thinking. We notice things that look different.
  • Repetition simply means reusing graphics and elements, to give a sense of unity to the information you are communicating. Good repetition is when you use consistent colouring, typefaces, image styles and (to a degree) layouts.  If you use a template or style guide to design a course then you have repetition already built in. Repetition shows that the slides belong together.  An example of poor repetition is when every slide in your course uses different styles, fonts, or colours. Another example is when you mix photos, clipart and line drawings, all in the same course with no sense of unity between them.
  • Alignment. Nothing in your module design should look like it was placed randomly. A prime example is that if you left align your text on a page, make sure you left align ALL of your text items. Having text boxes thrown around with random alignments (left align here, fully justified there, centre aligned over at the side.) looks unprofessional, messy and forces the learner to process extraneous stuff that is not relevant to what they are learning. Beyond text alignment, all of the assets on your slide are connected by an invisible line. Even items that are far away from each other. Always try to align assets (graphics, text boxes, shapes) with other assets. A grid is your best friend when it comes to aligning items on your page. One of the best kept secrets in your authoring software, is the ‘align’ menu option. Practice using it all the time. Having everything aligned on your page, registers subconsciously in the learner as a much cleaner layout, and is easier for them to process as a whole.
  • Proximity is simply moving things closer or further away from each other to achieve a better ‘look’. Items that relate to each other should be grouped together, so they are viewed as a whole, not as individual components. The learner shouldn’t have to translate what subtitles or captions belong to what images, videos or media. By grouping the relevant caption with its item, the learner doesn’t have to think about what belongs with what, and their brain power is focused on what they are learning, not on what they are viewing. Cognitive overload is something we as learning designers, need to avoid at all cost.  Doing so increases engagement, and gets the learner focusing on what they need, not trying to understand what they are looking at.

Beyond these basics we also need to be aware of:

Finally, and one of the most important things we need when designing anything is this:

Inspiration.

Where do we get our ideas from for a design?  How do we get creative? Everyone is creative at their core.  Even those who don’t think they are.

The crux of creativity is having the courage to explore, experiment and learn!

By utilising the basic principles, on top of your creativity, you will create some amazing designs.

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