Visual Design Principles in eLearning When You're Not a Graphic Designer

March 24, 2021
6 minutes
This episode is about building a design vocabulary and our confidence to support our own design decisions.

I don't know how to explain "art". But I know what I like when I see it -- I'll bet most of us have felt this way at one point of another.  

Some practitioners in our field come with a background in graphic design, video production, or general design, but not many. The rest of us have learned how important visual messaging is by studying neuroscience or simply experiencing great instructional design with strong visuals. The bottom line is that visual design is critical to the success of all eLearning projects.

On this week’s Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee our guest, Rachel Dillon, reminds us that we often take the reins as designers without years of graphic design training. And that professional graphic designers build their design vocab by critiquing each other's work, and as a result they become better designers. So, in this episode, we brought this practice of critiquing visual designs and defining design theory together with instructional design.

Rachel helped us investigate a few slide examples that may look familiar to you. She critiques the slides and shows us how she improved them. But don't worry, we didn't critique any community member projects. This episode is about building a design vocabulary and our confidence to support our own design decisions.

You can download Rachel’s slides HERE.

To see all the comments from the chat, check out the full session right here.  

And to ask more questions, or participate in extended conversations about this episode, please join us in our new IDIODC LinkedIn Group.  

You can also sign up for our next episode, Evidence-Based Design That Leads to Learning Transfer with Fergal Connolly. Save your spot now!  

If you’re interested in a few more resources about graphic design for eLearning, here are a couple of dominKnow resources (made in dominKnow | ONE, of course!) and a past IDIODC session you can check out:

About Rachel Dillon

Rachel Allen Dillon graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1994, with a Bachelor of Science in Art, emphasizing in Graphic Design. She spent over a decade using her design skills in marketing and web design.

In 2009, her non-fiction children’s book, “Through Endangered Eyes – a poetic journey into the wild,” was published by Windward Publishing, an imprint of Finney Company. She both wrote and illustrated it. Her book received an Eric Hoffer Honorable Mention award in 2010. Rachel has been a featured artist in “Wildscape Magazine,” a contributing artist in gallery and museum exhibitions, and a speaker at Art Educator conventions and conferences. The Nature Conservancy commissioned Rachel to produce two paintings for them in 2015.

Rachel taught art and developed the art curriculum at a private elementary school for three years before going back to the corporate world. Her focus shifted to combine her skillset of design and teaching. Since 2017, Rachel works as a full-time senior instructional designer for a global asset manager. She is also an instructor at CSUS-CCE, teaching eLearning Visual Design and Architecture, and Instructional Design 101.

In 2019, Rachel earned her graduate certificate in Instructional Design from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, she is working toward her Masters in Instructional Design & Technology at CSU-Fullerton with a projected graduation date of May 2022. She is working on her thesis to go deeper into the science behind visual design and learning retention and how instructional designers with graphic design foundations create more engaging learning.


Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee (affectionately known as IDIODC) is a weekly live videocast and podcast that helps instructional designers with pain points and provides best practices and industry insight.  

Every Wednesday morning at 10am ET hosts Brent Schlenker and Chris Van Wingerden guide us through an upbeat and candid conversation with their guests from the elearning and training world. The live cast session encourages peers to participate in the chat and share their own personal insight! After airing live, you can catch the learning podcast on all major streams such as Spotify, Apple and Google Play podcasts, as well as on YouTube.

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