Today we’re getting into one of my favorite topics, using Canva in instructional design. Canva is an easy-to-use website that offers a vast library of templates you can use to create presentations, infographics, one-pagers, and so much more!
Using Canva in Instructional Design
I sat down with graphic designer turned instructional designer Gayle Bower in the latest episode of The Accelerated ID to get the lowdown on using Canva in instructional design projects.
Don’t worry. I’ll share all her tips and tricks as well as the basics of using Canva right here! But, before we get into the nitty-gritty, I want to explain why graphic design matters in instructional design.
Why is Graphic Design Important in Instructional Design?
One of the most common challenges I see amongst aspiring AND established instructional designers is graphic design. You might be wondering, “Shawntay, I want to design training, not graphics! So why would I need an understanding of graphic design?”
This is a totally valid question. And it’s not just one that brand new instructional designers have. I’ve met plenty of established instructional designers whose role is purely instructional design who haven’t flexed that graphic design muscle.
Here are six examples of when graphic design skills complement instructional design work:
- Thoughtful choice and placement of images in eLearning or other course materials
- eLearning and slide templates that engage (not distract) the learner
- Font use in digital and printed course materials
- Appropriate layouts of one-pagers, participant, and facilitator’s guides
- Infographic design
- Visual storytelling in slides, eLearning, or video-based instruction
You can see that all of the above are important value-adds to many different training formats. To summarize, understanding graphic design allows the instructional designer to guide and engage the learner more effectively in any visual training materials.
Which Instructional Designers Need Graphic Design Skills?
I’ve talked before about the different types of instructional designers. While all instructional designers need to understand good visual design, not all instructional designers will have to do the design work themselves.
For example, the instructional design purist may never have to use a tool like Canva because they have a separate graphic design team that takes over.
However, graphic design skills are a fantastic way to add value to your training projects and your resume. If any of the following interests you, you might benefit from upping your graphic design skills by using Canva in instructional design.
Do you want to:
- Create eLearning templates in PowerPoint or Articulate Storyline
- Edit custom images for your course materials
- Design infographics to avoid relying on long paragraphs of text
- Use professional-looking templates for your portfolio or job proposals
- Develop your eLearning courses or video-based training
If so, you might benefit from working on your graphic design game!
How Can Instructional Designers Learn Graphic Design?
Often, instructional designers lack confidence in their visual design skills. As a result, I hear a lot of questions about how to improve in this area. There are tons of guides and mini-courses geared towards graphic design best practices in instructional design. Check out this article, Visual Design Can Be Learned, for more on that.
While I agree that it’s essential for instructional designers to understand the basics of graphic design to produce training materials that are engaging and effective, I’m also a fan of working smarter, not harder.
That’s why I love using Canva in instructional design projects!
Getting Started Using Canva in Instructional Design
When I worked with Gayle during the Instructional Design Tech and Accelerator Program, I was always blown away by the quality of her deliverables. From her learner persona to the graphics in her Storyline project, each project that I reviewed had such impressive visuals!
I finally asked her how she accomplished the imagery and animation. I was convinced she must be using Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop. So imagine my surprise when she told me she used Canva alone!
Well, if Canva is good enough for a graphic designer, it’s good enough for me. So let’s get into how you can use Canva in instructional design.
Let’s talk about some of the basic info you need to get started using Canva.
You can create an account for free or choose to start a 7-day trial of Canva Pro. One helpful hint Gayle gave us was that Canva’s free version has a lot of capabilities. So we recommend starting there to experiment, learn, and see how much you can do.
If you want to upgrade eventually, the Canva Pro version is $12.99 a month. You can check out a comparison of Canva’s free and pro versions here.
When you first sign up for Canva, there’s a helpful tutorial that guides you through your first project. It’s an easy way to get to know the different tools and options available to you. We’ll run through some of them here too!
Canva’s home page displays suggested project types to get you started. The menu on the right allows you to browse your designs. The dropdown menus at the top display tons of options for templates, features like stock images and icons, as well as a whole library of courses and tutorials to help you get the most out of Canva.
Gayle recommends starting in the templates section. After that, you can browse by category, but she also suggested using the search feature to type a shape or design idea. For example, try searching for ‘diagram.’
Templates are the easiest way to start a project. You can customize the elements by selecting and editing them. You can also bring in elements from a second template you like by adding them to a new page to your design, copying the shape or text you want, then pasting that into your design.
Gayle demonstrates this at 21:44, be sure to check that out!
Making a Design in Canva
Once you start a design, you’ll have a workspace view like the one pictured above. Your top toolbar (outlined in pink) changes based on what you’ve selected. For an image, it allows you to change the color and position. If you select text, you can also change the font and spacing. This is where you’ll find the option to animate your objects.
The left menu, outlined in yellow, displays options for your whole design. You can see there’s a shortcut to the templates section, followed by elements—more about elements below. You can also use this menu to upload your assets, add text, audio, charts, or logos.
Elements in Canva include animated gifs, lines and shapes, graphics, stock images and videos, audio effects, charts, tables, frames, and grids.
Searching within the elements tab will bring up results for any elements that match your search term.
Once you’ve chosen an element to add to your design, you can click it to add to your workspace or drag it into a component within your design to replace that element. You can watch Gayle demonstrate this using an image at 12:00.
Effects and Animation
Choose to animate an object within your design by selecting it, then choosing animate. Careful, if you add an animation without first selecting an object, the animation will apply to your whole design!
Hover over the animation to see a preview in your design!
Choose the effects button from the top toolbar when text is selected to add an animated effect.
Once you select a style or shape for your text effects, you’ll be able to customize things like the direction and color of the effect. Gayle recommends finding a template that already has a font style you like then copying the text (effects and all) into your design.
Gayle’s 10 Tips for Using Canva in Instructional Design
I rounded up 10 of my favorite tips from Gayle to share with you all. Click the links in each tip to skip right to that section in the video.
If you like these video clip tips, be sure to hit subscribe to our YouTube channel so that we can share more tips with you in the future!
- Browse the templates section before you even have a project in mind. Gayle suggests using the starred designs option to save templates with designs, images, or icons you like. This is also a great way to get inspiration for your projects!
- Use the stock videos in Canva to add special effects and animation to your video-based training. Grab the video that has the animation you like, swap out the images, and add your text.
- Group and ungroup objects within templates to further customize your designs.
- Draw the learner’s focus to text by using a font combination element.
- Use guides and rulers to ensure text and images are aligned and consistently spaced. This small detail can elevate your training materials, and anyone can do it!
- Import data from Google Sheets or manually enter it for an easy but accurate chart or diagram. Great for infographics!
- If you have Canva Pro, use the automatic background remover to edit your images. Her graphic design mind was blown when she saw how effective and easy this tool is.
- Use Smartmockups to create a masking effect for your images. This is when you make a photo appear as though it’s displayed on a computer or phone screen, for example.
- Mix things up and add intrigue to your training resources using Canva’s magic effects.
- Import and work with video edits directly in Canva.
Wrapping it Up
Talking to Gayle about using Canva in instructional design was so inspiring! I already use Canva to create templates and infographics for my learners. I can’t wait to hear how others have used Canva in their own instructional design projects. You’ve got to head over to The Hangout, a community for instructional designers of all levels, and tell me how you use Canva.
Before you go, you might have noticed Gayle referenced the deliverables she worked on as part of The Instructional Design Tech and Accelerator System and Certificate program. Are you interested in accelerating your instructional design career? Be sure to check it out!
FTC Disclosure: Hey, there! If you happen upon a link to a product or tool, you should assume that it is an affiliate link. If you click on it and like it and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission. We only promote tools and products that we believe are helpful and good.
The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShield