The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for December, 2021


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - create hand-drawn graphics

Earlier we looked at the essential guide to visual thinking where we discussed how to communicate visually. Coupled with that post, we explored practical ways to apply visual thinking skills to e-learning course design.

One advantage of visual thinking is learning to see the concepts and how to express them to others. Another advantage is that you gain the skills to create real assets that can be used in your e-learning courses.

Today we’ll look at ways to create our own hand-drawn graphics. And of course, you can always download some free hand-drawn graphics in the community:

How to Practice Sketching Hand-Drawn Graphics

Hand-drawn objects can create a personal and organic look. They are a stark contrast to the sterile corporate look that is so common in many courses. This contrast and the organic look can be used to craft an engaging look for the course. You don’t have to be an artist to create and use hand-drawn images.  It just takes some practice.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - create hand-drawn graphics examples

A while back, Blair Rorani facilitated a Twitter Draw-a-Thon. Each day several people submitted their sketch of that day’s object. This was a good exercise to think about the objects and how to draw them.

One thing I learned was to streamline my drawings and use less to communicate more. I also tried to practice different face styles. As you can see, I’m not going to sustain a career in graphic design, but with some practice, I can create a few usable objects.

Start with Basic Shapes

Most objects are basic shapes, so you need to learn to see the basic shapes in the objects. Then practice drawing them. The more you practice, the better you get.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - create hand-drawn graphics by using basic shapes

Once you recognize the basic shapes, you’ll get better at streamlining your drawings. I find that the less detail, the better.

Practice Drawing Common Course Objects

There are a few objects that are common to many e-learning courses. Start by practicing sketching them. Break them into basic shapes and then see what you can sketch. Here are a few common objects to get started. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.

  • File folder open & folder closed
  • Piece of paper & a stack of paper
  • Desktop & laptop computers
  • Envelope
  • Paper clip
  • Phones: mobile & stationary
  • Desk & overhead desktop
  • File cabinet
  • Whiteboard
  • Cork board

My Experience

As I mentioned in this blog post on overcoming instructional design challenges, Blair Rorani live sketched my presentation.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking example of instructional design

I liked what he did, so I tried my hand at live sketching at a workshop. You can see the results below.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - visual thinking ideas

What I learned:

  • Find inspiration from what you like and copy it. I liked Blair’s style, so my first step was to mimic what he did. Now that I feel more comfortable, I can begin to craft my own style.
  • My initial sketches took too long between capturing the big idea and trying to make it work with technology (I used the iPad and Adobe Ideas). However, once I completed a few of the sketches, I developed some basic procedures that helped make it faster.
  • Spend some time practicing before doing it live or as you sketch for your e-learning courses. One idea is to capture something going on at home. This would also probably produce a lot of laughs, too. Or just turn on the news and sketch what’s being discussed. The main point is to practice and to apply the basic concepts discussed above: use basic shapes to create objects and then practice sketching ideas.
  • Don’t worry about everything being perfect. Just do it. They look nice as they are and there’s something engaging about the organic look. However, I do recommend that you practice writing text, especially if you’re using an iPad. For the iPad I use the Cosmonaut stylus because the thicker pen helps me hold it more like I would on a whiteboard than on a piece of paper. I feel like I have more control when I draw. The newer PC tablets have pen input, and some come with a stylus.

We’re not all going to be artists who can crank out the best graphics. However, with some practice we can learn to communicate visually and streamline our graphics, so they do work in our courses (assuming the proper context).

Do you draw your own objects?

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice visual thinking skills for e-learning

In a previous post, we discussed visual thinking concepts and where they fit with e-learning design. Now, let’s look at ways to practice sketching your ideas so that you’re able to move past understanding the concepts and actually applying them to your course.

How to Practice Your Visual Thinking Skills

The first step is to get a handle on the basics:

  • Practice using the basic shapes to create specific objects. The more you practice the better you’ll become at seeing the shapes and sketching something that looks like what it’s supposed to be.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice visual thinking skills for e-learning by creating shapes

Practice Activities for Visual Thinking Skills

Some people have innate skills and sketching isn’t too hard to start. But many don’t have those skills and feel like they can’t do it. But they can. A key point is to feel comfortable sketching.

Remember, this isn’t about becoming a graphics design professional. You want to get a feel for the flow of drawing with your pen, especially if you’re using a computer or tablet. Then develop some fluency and clarity. And that will take a little practice.

Here are some practice activities.

Activity 1: Create basic shapes over and over again.

Work on getting lines straight and completing the desired shape in less strokes. Can you create the shape in one movement and still have it look like it’s supposed to? For example, I notice that if I create a triangle really fast, then the sides start to bow in. However, if I am more deliberate my lines remain straight. The goal is to get straighter lines at a faster speed. A circle should like a circle and not a blob.

Activity 2: Creating common objects.

Look around your office and identify 10 random objects. Break them down by the basic shapes and then create them a few times. For example, here’s a quick sketch of my desk. It’s mostly rectangles and a few circles.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice visual thinking skills for e-learning example

Another thing is to recognize what makes the shape unique and identifiable. For example, an elephant stands out because of the trunk and large ears. By focusing on the essential shapes you can convey the idea of an elephant without having to create the entire thing.

Activity 3: Convey concepts with your objects.

Start to practice sketching whole ideas. Identify three TED videos and capture the core concepts as sketches. It may be easier to just start with three main ideas from each video. Or if that is too much, just focus on a single point. The good thing about video is that you can pause it and rewind. Here are three to help you get started:

Activity 4: Improve your penmanship.

Sunni Brown has some good advice in her book Doodle Revolution where she says to trace over letters. Find a font type you like and type out the ABCs and save as an image. Then load the image into your drawing app and practice tracing over the letters. Eventually you’ll develop the muscle memory to create nice legible handwriting for your sketches.

When I was a Finance Specialist in the Army we were taught to use block letters so that our writing was more legible. To this day, I still do a lot of printing with block letters and it helps when I write, especially smaller text.

Examples of Visual Thinking Skills in E-Learning

Here are a three examples of people who do a great job sketching their ideas and are part of our industry. They also offer tips via twitter and their blogs.

  • Kevin Thorn of NuggetHead Studioz. I ran into Kevin at a Devlearn conference. He showed me his sketch note of the Neil deGrasse Tyson keynote. Obviously we don’t all have Kevin’s innate drawing skills, but if you look past the drawings it’s mostly print and a few basic shapes.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice visual thinking skills for e-learning sketch

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice visual thinking skills for e-learning ideas

  • John Curran of Designed for Learning. I love John’s sketches. Again, they’re not overly complicated to create,
    but they convey good information and the hand drawn style creates enough contrast to engage people visually.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - practice visual thinking skills for e-learning another example

The key in all of this isn’t to become a pro graphic designer. Instead it’s learning to think visually. E-learning is a mostly visual medium and anything we can do to better communicate our ideas will only serve to make the courses we create better.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




 Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking for e-learning

Here are two common challenges when building online training courses: knowing what content needs to be in the course and then having the right visuals to support the learning of that content. One way to overcome these challenges is to increase your visual thinking skills. You’ll learn to focus on the right content and then find the right visuals to support what you’re teaching.

What is Visual Thinking?

The essence of visual thinking is to convert your text-based information to images and text that show concepts and the flow of ideas. I like the way Dave Gray describes it as a way to “move beyond the linear world of the written word, lists, and spreadsheets and entering the non-linear world of spatial relationships, networks, maps, and diagrams.”

Dan Roam does a nice job drawing a distinction between our “verbal” and “visual” mind by using a fox and hummingbird analogy.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking dan roam linear nonlinear

And this is where visual thinking is relevant to e-learning: most e-learning is on the fox side of things. We’re info-centric and lean on our verbal minds to push out information. Yet, e-learning is a mostly visual medium. So it’s ripe for us to use our visual minds to present information and concepts in a way that’s less dependent on text. This helps us move past bullet point lists.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking convert bullet to concept map

How to Learn More About Visual Thinking

There are all sorts of great resources on visual thinking. Below are some videos to get you started and a few good book recommendations for those who want to dig deeper.

In the videos below, both presenters share how to get started with basic shapes and a consistent approach to capturing the big ideas and concepts. The videos also complement each other because while they’re similar they do use slightly different approaches.

Of course there’s an investment of time watching the videos, however they’re not too long and you’ll learn quite a bit. Just treat them like a visual thinking workshop that you get to attend for free.

Dan Roam Presents

I like the work Dan Roam does. Here are some free videos that are part of his Napkin Academy. He shows how all drawings start with five simple shapes and also provides a grammar structure that guides what to draw.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking all shapes

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking and visual grammar

Dave Gray Presents

Here are three good videos by Dave Gray, founder of Xplane. He expands on Roam’s basic shapes using a visual alphabet (glyphs) and explains how to know what to draw and when to do it.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking and visual thinking basicsArticulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking and visual thinking concepta

Good Books on Visual Thinking & Communication

I like videos, but I also like books. There’s something about holding them in my hand and making my own notes in the margin. Here are some good visual communication books to add to your elearning library.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking book recommendations

The links to Amazon books may produce a slight commission.

Your Next Steps…

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - essential guide to visual thinking and creating images on your computer

Learning about visual thinking is one thing. Actually applying it to your course design is another. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Watch the videos above to get a good overview of concepts.
  • Practice sketching some basic shapes. For the image above and the header image, I used an iPad and Cosmonaut stylus.
  • Convert a bullet point slide in one of your courses from fox to hummingbird.
  • Don’t worry about being perfect. You’ll get better the more you do it.

The key point in all of this is to train yourself to think visually. And then apply those skills to the construction of your e-learning courses. Keep in mind, e-learning is mostly a visual medium and unfortunately most courses are heavily text-based with deficient visual consideration. Thus, if you learn to think and communicate visually, you’ll only get better at building your e-learning courses.

Have you applied any visual thinking concepts to your e-learning courses? If so, I’d love to learn more about what you did.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.