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Inspirational Nugget: Look for Inspiration

My team has been designing some new templates and branding elements lately, so today’s Inspirational Nugget is inspired by inspiration! I know it’s easy to get into a rhythm when creating training content, so it’s common to reuse design elements and eLearning features to create training efficiently. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with what works, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and try to see things from a new perspective. So today, take a step back and look for inspiration all around you.

I want to start out by recognizing that not all Instructional Designers can use a new design template for every project. Many organizations want their training and documentation to have a consistent look and feel, which is why a well-built template is so important. But it’s important to keep our content looking fresh and modern, for one reason or another, so hopefully the tips in this post will help you find inspiration for your next training template.

Software Templates

Most (if not all) of the tools we all use every day to create content come with templates built into the program. These templates are a great way to start because you can explore different color combinations and find new ways to format your content. The key to exploring existing templates is to apply one to your content. You really won’t get an idea of how things will look unless you use content you’re familiar with.

Some tools now have premium templates that you can use for an additional cost. Adobe Captivate has partnered with the eLearning Brothers  to provide enhanced templates and assets. Many are free, but it won’t take long to realize that paying for a membership is worth it. The new Articulate 360 suite of applications also comes with a Content Library with some designs that can be unlocked for an additional fee.

In many situations, a pre-built template might be exactly what you need, but don’t stop there. You might find a couple elements from a template you really like and others that you have no need for. Try creating slides of your own using those great elements as inspiration and see where that takes you.

Website Design

Another place to gather inspiration is just around the internet. Take a look at the most recent Webby award winners  for cutting edge design and technology. Think about regularly used design elements that work on the web that you could adapt for eLearning.

Blog sites come with loads of templates to get people started, so why not peruse those too? Many blog templates have carefully selected every element so you can see how fonts and textures can play into templates as well.

Print Media

I have young kids, so we have plenty of picture books floating around. Why not borrow from your favorite children’s book illustrator’s designs? Professional eLearning can still be colorful and whimsical, depending on your context. Comic book themed eLearning has been utilized a lot lately – how can you use a classic children’s book style in your eLearning?

Example from a Maira Kalman children's book
Example from a Maira Kalman children’s book

Try flipping through the magazines at the grocery store checkout line. Pay attention to how magazines make use of layers to highlight the latest in paint colors or scarf trends. Can you stack elements together on a page in a similar way to illustrate a collection or theme? Or focus on text within the magazine. What fonts do they use and how do they mix their fonts together within one story?

Everywhere Else

Sample eLearning pins
Sample eLearning pins

Have a Pinterest account? Create an eLearning board where you pin all those great ideas you found in one place. Don’t limit your pins to traditional templates or eLearning related ideas. A ball of yarn, a picture of a sunset, or an infographic on dog breeds could all be great sources for ideas.

Have you ever seen pins where a color palette is made from a photograph? You can create your own in Adobe’s Kuler tool. Just click the Create from Image button to upload your own photograph.

Image imported into Kuler to create a color palette
Image imported into Kuler to create a color palette

Inspiration can truly be found anywhere – so why not use what’s around you to spruce up your eLearning designs. What’s your favorite place to get inspiration? I’d love to find new sources so share them in the comments below!

After receiving a Master’s Degree from NAU in Literacy, Technology, and Professional Writing, Sarah returned to her home town of Omaha, Nebraska where she gathered almost 10 years of experience in Instructional Design. Sarah loves utilizing technology to create training, whether to teach people how to use a computer system, improve their sales numbers, or incorporate a new process into their daily routine. Her background in English and Technical Writing helps keep her focused on writing and editing to provide clear and concise content for training. When the opportunity opened up with the Learning & Professional Development team, Sarah and her family (which consists of a bicycle-obsessed husband, two energetic daughters, and an annoying German Shepherd) jumped at the chance to move back to Flagstaff where they can ride bikes, hike, camp, ride bikes some more, and generally enjoy the outdoors without humidity or mosquitoes.

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