“A picture is worth a thousand words.” How many of you have heard that phrase? Now, the thought might be crossing your mind right now, “I’m not a visual design professional because I’ve never had any formal education in the area.” What should you do? It would make you much more valuable to the training and development team if you had visual design instruction that you could share in your courses or sessions with employees.
Don’t fear. You are not alone. Many learning professionals have not had formal training in visual design.
Visual design is a skill that can be learned over time.
I have compiled 5 steps to help you get started with incorporating visual design into your learning solutions. Following these steps won’t get you a degree or a certificate. These steps can, however, help you better communicate important concepts to your learners.
Raise Your Awareness
As you review other work or take classes or attend workshops, get into the habit of examining what you see. Analyze the designs you are viewing and imagine how those designs might work in one of your training courses. If you want to be a great writer, you need to read and write constantly. If you want to be good at incorporating visual design into your learning solutions, it helps to analyze and review everything that you see.
When someone sends over a picture or graphic from the design team, don’t just accept it as passable. Even if it looks great, look at it with critical eyes so that you can see exactly what they did. Look at the colors that they combined. Check out the different fonts and text sizes that they used. Pay attention to borders, shapes, and whitespace. What I’m trying to say is don’t just gloss over content over and over. The mindset of “I’m not a design professional so I can’t help there” is just completely wrong. Learning begins with trying. Every time you see the design, focus on a specific aspect of it and try to figure out what the designer was thinking.
Learn the Basics
Now you might be thinking “alright duh, I need to learn the easy things.” But the simple parts of the design are key to building a foundation in the area. Here are some things that you need to understand about visual design.
- All straight lines have width, length, and are proceeding a specific direction.
- To create a shape, an artist uses lines that follow certain patterns.
- Typography is important to become familiar with. It involves font size, style, readability, and popularity. Knowing fonts is a key skill for many visual designers.
- Texture can be defined as what a surface feels like. You might not be able to actually feel a fuzzy carpet on a photo, but you can tell that it’s fuzzy. That’s texture.
- The term “form” relates to three-dimensional shapes. This term is referring to their mass and consistency.
There are more design areas that you can learn as you go, those points are just some of the basics that should help you establish a bit of a foundation as you go.
Research to Learn and Find Inspiration
The best instructional designers and training developers are good learners. Good learners are always willing to do their own research. If you really want to improve the visual design of the training solutions you create, pay attention to the around you and know the basics.
One tip that I find to be super helpful is to look at designs that your marketing team has created and analyzed them. Why was the design good, and who created it. It might even be helpful to call them up and ask “What did you do here?” That will give you an inside look at the mind and ideas of a professional graphic designer.
You should be using compelling visual designs in your online courses and live training sessions. One of the best ways to keep the audience engaged is by creating visual designs that capture their attention. You can do this by emphasizing the key concepts in the course. So how do you find a design that you love that works for the message you are trying to share with learners?
While you are researching your content, research to find inspiration as well. Check out other training courses that cover similar topics to what you are creating. How did they design their content? How did they use shapes and textures? What was their font like and how did it capture the learner? Did the font make the concept easier to understand?
Being inspired is one of the best parts of being an artist. You see something that someone else has already done and you love it. Then, you create something similar that is unique to you. That should help you as you begin to create a visual design on your own for one of your courses. Which leads us right into our next point.
Experiment with Visual Design
Now it’s time to put all of the previous steps to the test and start creating! There are so many tools out there that you can use to source graphics and photos to create compelling visual designs in your courses. I like Canva for creating infographics, one-pagers, course companions, checklists, social media graphics, and etc.
The free version will allow you access to many different graphic styles, fonts, and professional images.
For PowerPoint slides and online courses created in Captivate, Storyline, and other authoring tools, I source photos, images, graphics, videos, music, and more through Envato Elements. Envato Elements requires a subscription, which may not always be feasible. Other great sources are Pixabay and Unsplash.
These tools provide the elements you will need to create stunning visual designs that reinforce the key messages of training facilitators and online learning experiences. Taking the time to create intentional visual designs is really helpful because it can push your instructional design skills to the next level. Doing this will also maximize learner engagement and learning. Visual design isn’t just about good image selection. It goes much further with the seamless integration of images with graphics, numbers, content, colors, and more.
As you go about designing various learning experiences, incorporate the basics of visual design as well as anything that has resonated with you and fits from the works of others. I have a folder on my phone loaded with photos that I have snapped of visuals I have liked from workshop presentations, online courses, marketing materials, and magazines. I use the pictures as my inspiration to get my creativity flowing when I am brainstorming the perfect visual design. The goal is to use the design to communicate a key concept in my learning solution. You can take designs that you have seen and liked and create your very own inspiration portfolio to look through when you need it.
Ask for Feedback and Improve
Being able to ask for and receive feedback is a key component of success. Being open to feedback is a sign that you are open to growing and becoming a better instructional designer and training developer. Feedback is a collaborative process that has one goal: improvement.
I have personally found that it is much easier to get feedback than it is to give feedback, but giving honest feedback is just as important as receiving feedback. Your feedback is your investment in the growth of someone else.
Now, you are going to have to be proactive and really work at developing your skills. You can’t ask opinions on the visual design of your training projects if you haven’t created any. So you are going to have to sit down and work on a few training projects where you have been intentional with your visual designs. One of the CEOs in a company that I used to work at used to say: “Fail forward fast.” I suggest you get busy failing forward fast so that you can grow your skills fast.
Summing it All Up
As you embark on the journey of becoming a visual designer of learning experiences, it is important to learn from the success of those around you. You see examples of visual design hundreds of times per day. Simply pay attention to the videos you watch on social media, the training courses you take, the magazines you read, the content you consume online. Take a look at billboards on the way home. Analyze what you see, and file it away in your inspiration portfolio for ideas at a later time.
Practice the basics and fail forward fast. If you are really interested in Visual Design, I love the book “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds, if you want to check it out.
Ready to dive in and become a full-stack Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer without getting another degree? Check out my 12-week immersive program: Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program.
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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.
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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.
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“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