By Daniel Rhone
As your organization grows, your procedures and methodologies become more complex. The number of individuals responsible for executing technically complex tasks increases. These individuals may not be centrally located. They may, in fact, have different cultures and languages. The visual design process for the production of training materials must be adaptable to the dynamics of your company’s growth. I’ve broken down three aspects of design production that you may wish to consider.
A STRONG VISUAL / ICONOGRAPHIC LANGUAGE (Look good)
Strive to create graphics and illustrations that fully express the concept of the training topic, to the point where the information may be understood even if there were no sound or text. Clearly rendered and organized visuals can tell almost all of the story, thereby streamlining the written content and reducing the length of audio. This means that the training materials become less of a reading assignment and are not slowed by excessive voice-over. Your trainees are allowed to move through the materials at a faster pace without losing important information. Strong visuals may be easily interpreted across language barriers and help minimize the costs of translating excessive text and voice-over.
But this is not to say that it’s ALL about the visual design. The production of effective training materials requires designers to coordinate with writers (and sometimes programmers) as a team. Working separately often results in over-written content and illustrations that are too complex. Working together allows writers and designers to create the appropriate combination of images and text while solving complicated teaching issues.
REINFORCE YOUR BRAND (Tell your story)
The design of your training images (colors, fonts, visual style) should complement the branding of your organization. When engaging with your training materials, trainees should know on a conscious and unconscious level that the quality and style of the visuals represent the quality and tone of your business. This requires customized design whenever possible.
Training applications that are full of randomly collected clip-art – images gathered from different sources with different looks, styles, and levels of quality – create inconsistent visuals requiring the trainee to learn a new visual system with every turn of the page, thus slowing the learning process. Trainees need to easily connect to the visual language you are employing; colors, line styles, and use of arrows and markers must be consistent from one topic or course to the next so trainees know how to decode the visuals instantly and begin to absorb the information.
Your brand is your story. The information conveyed through your training materials should be expressed in the context of that story. Showing how an electron moves through a wire is basic, but I’ve done it a bit differently for each client because in the end, it has to be THEIRS. Your designers should be creating materials that are as much a reflection of your organization as they are a conveyance of technical information.
HAVE A CLEAR PRODUCTION PIPELINE (Have a system)
Growth of your organization means the addition of new products and procedures. It may mean old products and methodologies are updated. It is possible that you will change or increase your design staff or contractors. The ability to find art assets and to create new designs in the established style is imperative. Work with your artists, writers, and the rest of your team to establish naming conventions and file storage strategies that you fully understand. Insist that contracted designers use these same organizational methods.
Ideally, you should have a system that allows the project manager to immediately know where an art asset is and how to access it. A new artist on staff or new contractor should know how to pick up where another artist left off. Always have your art assets where your PM and staff can get them. Immersed Technologies employs an asset management and back-up system ensuring that all project elements are accessible by the team and protected from hard drive failures – like the one I had yesterday.
I didn’t get into color pallets or how to make a trainee emotionally connect to an animation of an intake valve. All that is great and I’ll cover them in later writings, but designing training materials is so deeply connected to the function and advancement of a business that I saw it fit to address design from a business perspective. Art that shows quality connects to your brand. And art that is immediately accessible for updating and expansion is not just a good idea, it is a must.
It’s a whole new world. A stack of oil-stained loose leaf clipped to the wall next to the Snap-On tools girlie calendar is no longer sufficient as a training resource. Now, your training materials may also be leveraged by your marketing department. The same design assets you use for technical training could end up in an app downloaded by your sales team or even customers. Being prepared for this means producing training experiences that fit well within the larger context of the ever-expanding media-enabled lifestyles of your trainees and customers at large. When a trainee launches your training app, she shouldn’t feel like she’s just gone back in time.
Your training materials must be relevant to keep your personnel relevant. After all, the reason you are growing your organization is to stay relevant.