Three Design Principles for Good Instructional Design

Good design can be an elusive concept for a novice instructional designer.  However, expert graphic design skills are not necessary in order for an instructional designer to create online presentations with visual impact.  What they do need to know are the basics of good design.  This report explains the key concepts that make the difference in designing an online presentation that imparts knowledge and is visually appealing. Three basic graphic design principles will be introduced: how to use layouts to convey relationships, how to use patterns and repetition to organize content, and how to use just the right graphics and multimedia to support your objectives.

Use Layouts to Convey Meaning and Imply Relationships

      An instructional designer must take care in choosing the layouts for his instructional design.  Poor organization can make it difficult for the student learner to understand the relationship between what’s being taught and what’s being presented onscreen.  It is the instructional designers task to create relationships visually and textually in order to enhance the learner’s understanding of the content presented.

Use Repetition to Organize Instructional Content

      Repetitive elements and patterns can assist the learning process.  Instructional designers can better organize content by providing the learner with visual cues so that they can follow content and understand how it all fits together.  This is particularly true for online learners, as these learners will quickly scan the screen for information.  If the information is not organized appropriate, it will be more difficult for th learner to determine where everything “fits” into the scheme of things.  By repeating something, the learner intuitively knows that those things are important.  Repetition and patterns can help the learner sort through lots of information comfortably and with relative ease.

Use the Right Graphics and Multimedia

      The graphics an instructional designer uses must support the content and/or objectives of the course being taught.  The graphics should contribute, not detract, from the learning objectives.  They should enhance the communicative process.  Instructional designers should never use a graphic that has no relationship to the content being taught.  Images should be able to tell the learner something even before they’ve read the text.  Decorative images and graphics have no place in instructional design.

      When it comes to multimedia, the instructional designer must insure that they are absolutely essential to the message being conveyed.  Browser compatibility and plug-ins must be considered when choosing the form of multimedia being used.  Also, the user must be able to easily access the plug-ins required to run the multimedia files.  The instructional designer should utilize default plug-ins when possible.


      The use and layout of visual elements in an online presentation are an important part of instructional design.  A good design can tell learners where to look for the most important information.  The information, graphics, and layout should all work to enhance the learning experience and support the learning objectives of the course.

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