5 tips for instructional graphic design: Make your course beautiful

Aug 27, 2018Blog, instructional design tips, visual design1 comment

I can say you are a good instructional designer, just by the fact that you are reading this blog. It means that you are looking for improvement in your work. But are you a good graphic designer? There is a sad fact that many eLearning developers ignore the graphic design part. It is just because aesthetics is not on top of their priority list.

In fact, the visual design is not just about beautiful presentation. It can give e-learners appealing online experiences in both the eyes and the mind. In this article, I will list out 5 simple tips for you instructional designers to improve the visual design of your course.


The importance of instructional graphic design in eLearning

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Of course, what makes an effective online course is the instructional content. However, let’s say such valuable content is presented in black and white paper only or the poorly-designed course layout, can you guarantee it will work? Well, at least for the easily distracted by the Internet audience, good design is the positive sign that this is the course they should put their effort in. Hence the design is not just decoration, it is purposeful communication.

So what messages you can communicate with learners through instructional graphic design?

“You are learning from professionals.”

When you invest in the graphic design, you prove yourself as trustworthy professionals that care about the learners’ experiences. The first impression is important as it can impact the prolonged interest of the audience. Obviously, if you can keep satisfying students with eyes candies (and valuable content), you can motivate them more throughout the learning process.

“This is the essential data you should remember.”

Graphic design could do more than just satisfying people’s eyes. Just think about your old school day, you must have used lots of highlighters yourself to feature the important information in the books. Graphic design also shares the same function of creating focal points to navigate learners. With just a change of font styles or colors, you help learners realize the key ideas of the lessons. The same goes for adding relevant images, videos, and data visualization of the topic.

Above are just two basic impacts of the graphic design. You could send more messages to your students depending on your subjects. For example, a change to a brighter tone of the slide could transfer new energy and motivation to online learners. In reverse, a change to a much brighter tone, which may hurt the eyes, could send a signal to students to turn their learning devices off. Graphic design is all about communication, just be careful.


Tips for the better graphic design of online courses

Here present 5 tips to prevent your dear learners from existing your program with graphic design.

Choose the clean fonts

Choosing the right font may positively impact your course design. However, it doesn’t mean that you should throw whatever beautiful fonts in your work. Neat, simple, and defined fonts like Serif and Sans-Serif are designed for better readability on screen. So if you use these types of fonts, you are pretty much in the safe zone. If you want to be more adventurous on the fun side, there are various web-safe and free fonts from Google that you can use to motivate learners. Just don’t go overboard with those fancies or you may found yourself distracting the students.

You may find this tips boring. Well, sometimes minimalism is the best. It is not like you are designing a concert poster though. Your fonts are supposed to support your topic. A clean and readable look might be best for your font options.

Pay attention to hierarchy

In fact, rather than browsing fancy fonts for your slide, you should focus more on the hierarchy instead. Basically, the hierarchy indicates the importance of the information basing on the size of the fonts.

Image Source: Articulate

Increasing the size only doesn’t work because they could look too similar. What makes the difference is the font style. Bold words would make a great contrast with the light or regular ones. The contrast helps you press on the headings or the important matters further. You can use this image as a guideline for your font browsing. The font could be different, but they should imply the same concept. If you are unsure, just try a slide in PowerPoint to check if anything looks off.

Understand the basic of color psychology

The color is the tone-setter of your course. There are various researches on the impact of color on people’s experience and impression. Well, for example, F.Learning Studio is not accidentally orange. Basically, the color of your eLearning program should follow your branding guideline. If you don’t have any branding guideline yet, this chart could help you identify the most appropriate color for your subjects.

Suggestion for a medical training course? Turquoise!

Whatever the color of your choice is, you should stay with the more neutral scheme. The neutral color scheme would give learners a reliable and calm atmosphere, while the brighter one generates a more fun and adventurous appearance. Apart from the fact that too bright color hurt the eyes, such color may trigger danger alert from your students, which is not that ideal for instructional design

Balance the layout

To any graphic designers, and now instructional designers, symmetry is a helpful concept to create the balance in your eLearning slide. A perfected symmetrical design would create a sense of stability, which is highly desirable in eLearning. This concept could also help you navigate the learners’ focus. In contrast, an asymmetrical design will have an opposite effect and may distract learners’ attention to other elements on the page.

Use images with consideration

Images can be the powerful tool if you know how to work with them. Beautiful photos or illustrations would create an aesthetic sense to your course but the visual game also needs caution. The key is to pick up relevant images to your content only. Each image must tell a message, not just something to illustrate a random sentence.

So before you add any visual materials to your course, ask yourself:

  • What kinds of messages you’d like to convey to your learners
  • Do these images evoke a positive emotion in them?
  • Do these images help you clarify the learning content?
  • Last but not least, do they fit the layout?

Images also support learners in their eLearning process by visualizing complicated concepts and information. Basically, visual aids like graphs, charts, and illustrations provide representations of data and statistics to help e-students absorb the complicated information better.

Maybe you are interested in:
> Best stock photography for eLearning developers 2018


Use animations to add a fresh experience

Animations here are not those flying budgets and transitions you often see in the eLearning course. This type of slide animations do bring benefits to the navigation of the course, but they may easily come as distracting for e-Learners. The animated video is a different story. They not only enhance the overall visual design of the course, they give learners new experiences and maintain their interest throughout the learning process.

The idea of producing animations may sound overwhelming, but you could use various tools to create your own videos. Software like Vyond, PowToon or Animaker grants you the easy access to animations with a huge library of templated assets. What you need to do is mostly drag and drop. However, they can hardly illustrate complicated concepts in specialized subjects like science, mechanisms or medication. Hence you should hire a professional studio to create these tailored details.

Let’s see how to add animations effectively in video-based courses:
> Geoff Lawton Case Study: Combine animated videos and talking-head videos in online courses


[Plus] How should you design your eLearning course?

This infographic will point out the pros and cons of designing eLearning course with 2 common option: DIY and hire an instructional designer. Some tips for best design course with each option are included, check it out!





Elearning content is the core value of your course, but graphic would be something to prove your professionalism and engage learners throughout the learning process. The best suggestion is to follow the rule of the neat fonts, the hierarchy, the balanced layouts and break free with visual materials. Visual aids in your program could be photos, illustration, or even animations. Whatever types of materials you see, please bear in mind that everything of your course must have a purpose. Graphic design with a purpose would be communication, not decoration.


Read Further:


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