Design Ideas

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are asked to submit a proposal and you need to take the thoughts and ideas of the design and turn them into a form that your potential client can see?

As an Instructional Designer, you are confident of the instruction piece of the design, but you don’t have access to a really good graphic designer that can create some really cool custom graphic design.  At least, not at the proposal stage.  What to do?

If you are a graphic designer, no problem.  But most graphic designers aren’t instructional designers, and vice versa.   Just like most carpenters aren’t electricians.   Now, most carpenters can probably run some wire and connect a simple switch and most electricians can pound a nail.  But I wouldn’t want an electrician to frame my house!  (No offense to those of you that can do it all – I know you’re out there – but that’s not most of us)

But, we are all creative.  We all have ideas and thoughts of what a scene could/should look like.  How do you turn that idea, that image that’s in your head, into something your client can see?

One of the first things I do is jot my idea down on paper.  I usually have a bunch of ideas so i try to jot them all down.  And I do it quickly.  Rough pencil sketches that capture enough of what I’m thinking so that when I look at it later I can jog my memory about the “big” or “complete” or “filled in” picture I was thinking at the time.

Here are some examples.

train integration page portal and interactivity ideas

Once I decide on a theme or idea to continue with, I will look for existing images that match , or closely resemble, my sketch.

This is where it can get challenging because I rarely find an image that exactly conveys my intentions.

What I will do is Google an image using keywords from my idea.  Below is an example of a search result for a recent proposal:

highway animation


I needed a background image and this had elements I was looking for (highway, bridge, concrete) but had an element I didn’t particularly want (picture-in-picture insert).

This is where I got “creative”.  To “hide” the insert, I duplicated the image and cropped it down to where it just showed the blue sky in the shape of a rectangle the size of the insert.

I moved it over the insert and blurred the edges.  There was still an “edge” that cut off the clouds so I duplicated the original image again and cropped it down to a section of the clouds that I then used as a “blend” element to lessen the “edge”.

I “Recolored” the image to “Color Mode” = Washout (I used Storyline but you could do the same in PowerPoint or an image editor).

I put in another modified picture I had Googled and added by text and the result was a decent looking Title Slide that I used for the proposal:

title slide

Could it be better?  Sure.  If you were seeing it for the first time and didn’t know what I had done and weren’t looking for the imperfections, would you notice?  Probably not.

I think this approach works when putting together a proposal that you don’t want to spend a ton of time on (because you’re not getting paid!) but you want something that is contextual and original.

Your comments are welcome!

Until next time…


Doorknobs and e-Learning

I was changing out the doorknob on my front door the other day.  And, let me be the first to tell you that I am not a handyman.  Never was.  Never will be.  So, there I am, happily reading the instructions, I had all my tools gathered about me, and was installing the parts step-by-step.  I had never replaced a front door doorknob so this was new to me.  I was doing a fine job.  Everything was going just like the instructions said.

I got the last screw screwed in and was feeling the excitement as I proudly looked at my handy work and went to close the door.



It didn’t close.  That thingy that sticks out of the door and is supposed to slide inside the door and then slide back into the hole in the door jamb wasn’t sliding into the door.

What the…?

It was backwards.  The thingy was backwards.  It has a flat side and a slanted side, you know, so it can slide inside the door when it’s being closed.  Except I had installed it backwards so it just thunked against the door jamb.  No sliding in the door.  No closing of the door.

Then it hit me.  You know what I had just stumbled on?  Delayed judgement.  Intrinsic feedback.  Consequences.  I made a mistake.   I was allowed to get to the end without some rectangle with the word “Incorrect” glaring at me the moment I made that mistake.   No picture of someone appeared in front of me and politely said, “You have just installed the thingy backwards and the door will not shut.  Try again.”

I was elated.  Wow, I thought.  I actually was allowed to get to the end before figuring out, on my own, what I did wrong.  And, I was forced to undo all my good work and try again in order to successfully complete the task (lest I have a front door that wouldn’t close – not an option) and be allowed to move on (to the next task on my honey-do list)

This is exactly what good e-learning should allow you to do.   You should be able to practice a task, and make mistakes, and figure out yourself why it didn’t work (aka think).  You should have to go back and do it again before you can go on to the next task if that task is dependent on the previous task.  You should be able to get a hint if you can’t figure it out or skip steps if you think you “know it all” (I went back to the instructions and, sure enough, there was a picture, clear as day, of what I was supposed to do, but I had ignored it)

Yep, that’s exactly what good e-learning should do.  Would I have installed the thingy correctly if I had just read a slide telling me how or watched someone tell me how?  Maybe. If I was installing it at that moment, maybe.  But what about six months from now.  Or a year or more from now.

I guarantee you, I will not make that mistake again, no matter how long it is before I change my next front door doorknob!

Until next time…