Think Visually

Inspirational Nugget: Think Visually

For my first blog post with NAU’s Learning & Professional Development team, I deconstructed a lengthy definition of Instructional Design that I’ve kept tucked away at each desk I’ve occupied during my career. Included with that definition are what I’m calling “inspirational nuggets” about Instructional Design.

Lately I have been thinking about this simple idea: Think Visually

I’m not an artist, but I understand and appreciate the need for good design, especially when it comes to online training. Think about how close your audience is to the content you created. When your audience is inches away from the screen, you can’t take visuals for granted.

There are so many elements to consider, so let’s go in chronological order. I like to keep scratch paper nearby, so when I need to figure something out, I can scribble away whenever I need. I use plain scratch paper for chunking out content or drawing out a potential branched scenario.

Once my outline and course structure is pretty solid (even if it’s just in my head), I like to come up with a visual theme that I can easily carry throughout the training. I usually scan the outline or script for concepts or ideas that could build a solid analogy or repeatable story. A “mind map” is a good exercise for when you want to design each element of your project. This article, from the Articulate E-Learning Heroes blog, includes a download of a free mind map that you can use to unify all of your fonts, images, and concepts. Guest blogger Kegan wrote an in-depth article about mind maps that also includes some great resources.

Next let’s think about color schemes. In Savannah’s recent blog post, she provided several really great color combinations you can use for your background, text, and highlight colors. You can create simple or complex color schemes using tools like Adobe Color. Online color wheels are powerful tools that provide visually appealing color combinations to keep your training looking professional, yet fun.

When you think about how you want your training to look, think about how you can use one simple color scheme throughout the project. Consistency is key when it comes to color schemes, so why not build it into your eLearning software? It’s incredibly easy to customize a color scheme in both Storyline and Captivate. To create your own color scheme in the software, follow these simple steps:

Articulate Storyline:

  1. Click the Design ribbon.
  2. Expand the Colors dropdown list.
  3. Click Create New Theme Colors.
  4. Select your colors.
  5. Give your color scheme a name and click <Save>.

Adobe Captivate:

  1. Click Themes.
  2. Click <Theme Colors>.
  3. Click <Customize>.
  4. Select your colors and click <Save>.

If you work for a company that uses an approved color scheme, grab the RGB codes and enter them into the whichever tool you use, so you never have to hunt for them again. For more information, check out these blog posts on color schemes for Captivate and Articulate Storyline.

One final thought… keep in mind that “think visually” doesn’t have to refer to only the visual elements of your training.

  • Visualize how you’d like your customer meeting to flow.
  • Picture your audience going through your training.
  • Keep samples of clever icon designs, fonts you’d like to use, or pictures of cool stuff around you for visual inspiration.


How do you “think visually”? Do you have tips for creating a consistent visual theme?


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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