Design with Purpose

If you’ve read any of the other graphic design-related posts on Designed:2:Learn, I’m sure that you’ve realized our team’s passion for good, effective design. With introductory posts like THIS and THAT, you have all of the tools and know-how that you need to begin making your training and e-learning modules look professional and appealing. Now that you’re using those awesome tips and tricks, it’s time to be intentional with them, making sure that everything in your design has a purpose.

But what does that mean?! I’m glad you asked, because that’s exactly what we’re here to talk (er, type) about!


Disclaimer: If your company has an established Identity Guide or Manual that they would like you to adhere to, be sure to do so! As a designer, I can tell you the true importance of keeping a brand cohesive, even down to e-learning and things that seem as simple as documentation. So if this is you, please stick around for the rest of the post, but keep all elements of the manual in mind when you’re creating or adjusting the visual design of your product.

There’s an unofficial rule of graphic design that goes something like, “If it doesn’t have a purpose, it doesn’t have a place.” In other words, if you have an element that doesn’t serve a distinct purpose (whether interactive or aesthetic), you need to re-evaluate its place in your design. For example, making a button orange because it’s your favorite color isn’t reason enough. But if you made it orange because the other major elements in the design are blue, and blue and orange are complimentary colors, then the color has a purpose!

Interactive elements should be evaluated by the same rule. Ask yourself, “Why is that button/ field/ etc. there? What purpose does it serve?” Depending on the training and the ultimate goal that you want users to achieve, the answer to this could be a wide variety of things. I took a training once that had a “Next” button AND an arrow button that sent me to the next slide. The repetition of the same element confused me, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one!
It’s a short and simple rule, but being purposeful in your design will make a world of difference in the way that you appear to your users.

Savannah is a Graphic Design Professor at Gila Community College, and is passionate about using design to better the world around her. She believes in researched design, and is a major proponent of paper before pixel. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, designing for small businesses and non-profits, and attempting any DIY she finds on Pinterest.

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