The Rapid Elearning Blog

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - not enough branding

Are your elearning courses starting to look like they belong to NASCAR?  Are they plastered with all sorts of slogan, logos, and other corporate branding?  If so, you’re not alone.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is that of branded elearning templates.  Your client or organization wants them; but the templates can really make your courses look kind of junky.

E-learning templates and corporate branding is one of those issues where you can go round and round and never really end at a place where everyone’s happy.  I wrote a little bit about this a while back when I discussed how to change your presentation template to an elearning template.

Personally, I think the branded templates are mostly pointless.  But my personal feelings don’t pay the bills.  So when working with clients, I do my best to convince them.  But at the end of the day, I do what they want, branded template or not.

So today, I want to offer a few ideas that I’ve shared with clients in the past.  Perhaps they’ll help you on your next course.

The Case for Branded E-Learning Templates

Let’s take a quick look at why we have branded templates.  This isn’t an exhaustive overview, but it covers the most common issues.

  • There are a lot of bad looking elearning courses out there.  So it only makes sense that the organization demands the uniformity that a branded look can bring.  Unfortunately, many of the bad courses have the branded template as one reason they look bad.
  • PowerPoint authored elearning isn’t separated from PowerPoint presentations.  While you’re using the same tool, authoring an elearning course in PowerPoint is different than using it to build presentations.  Yet, many people don’t see a difference.  For many customers anything created in PowerPoint has to look the same.
  • People mimic what they see.  Many elearning courses are plastered with corporate brands.  So when a client wants to have a course built, they lean on what they know and have seen.  The expectation is that courses have to be branded and to request anything different is heresy.  Besides, who’s going to know where they work if the company logo is missing from the elearning course?

Whatever the reason for the branding requirements, they tend to be entrenched.  Changing the mindset when it comes to branding issues is a challenge.  However, here are some tips that may help.

Make Sure Your Courses Look Great

A lot of the branding issue is about quality and consistency.  If you want to challenge the branding mindset you have to show that your courses stand out as what’s good and not representative of why the issue exists in the first place.  If your courses look like crap, odds are that no one will listen to you.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - crappy is still crappy, brand or not

Create Alternatives to the Branded Course

Because people are stuck in a certain mindset you have to show them alternatives.  Visual models work better than a bunch of talk.  Have a few treatments prepared.  The first is the branded look that is typical of many elearning courses.  Then create a non-branded look so you can show them the difference and explain why it matters.  I’ve found this approach to be quite successful.

Don’t Tell Them You’re Using PowerPoint

I rarely ran into the branding issue when I worked in Flash.  But when I did work in PowerPoint, branding was almost always an issue.  The secret is to not tell them that you are working in PowerPoint.  All they need to know is that you are going to deliver an elearning course.  They don’t always need to know how you’re authoring it.

If you ask for PowerPoint files from them, never use the original to publish.  Create a very different look.  A good tip is to just ignore the branding on the PowerPoint file.  Wait for them to bring it up and then deflect them using one of the tips below.

Don’t Waste Prime Real Estate

The slide area is prime real estate.  Don’t waste it on a logo or a big design element that essentially steals all of your space.  You don’t want the branding elements to compete with the elearning content.  Treat the slide as elearning content only.  All other branding goes outside on the player.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - branded templates take too much real estate

Minimize Branding on the PowerPoint Master

Sometimes you’re stuck using a branded PowerPoint file.  In those cases try to work with the client to create a PowerPoint “elearning” template.  Talk to them about maximizing screen space and making the branding less intrusive.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - use minimal branding if you have to

Instead of Graphics Use Colors for the Brand

Most organizations that talk about branding requirements will typically have an approved color scheme.  Instead of creating a literal brand where you have logos and catch phrases plastered all over the place, use the brand’s color scheme.

That’s what we did with the Christian Aid course which you can learn more about here.  We used their web color schemes and some design elements to create a template that looked like it was part of the brand, but wasn’t littered with brand pollution.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - make the color scheme and desing elements part of the brand

Brand the Player Template

Keep the slide area free of distracting clutter by moving all of the branded elements to the player.  There are many ways to do this.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - brand the player template

  • Colorize the template to match the organization’s color scheme.
  • Add the logos and taglines in the logo area.
  • Add your branding to the html page outside of the course and player.  Look at the way it was done on this course about diabetes.  They also used the tip below for the intro screen.

Create a Single Slide Introduction

Treat the branding like you would a movie introduction.  Start with a single slide that says something like “this training brought to you by XYZ.”  Keep in
mind that if the learners can’t remember where they work and need all of the branded reminders, you may have more than a training problem on your hands.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - single screen branding ideas

Click here to view the branding demo.

In the demo above I offer three ways you can create a single-slide brand.  The key thing is that you can add branded elements to the intro screen and then get rid of them on the rest of the screens.  This keeps the screen space free of all of the clutter that the branding creates, but lets you appease those customers who want some branding.

Create an E-Learning Style Guide

Be proactive.  Don’t let others tell you how to do your job.  Create an elearning style guide and determine how you will brand the courses. When someone wants to include the branding and it looks like crap, tell them you can’t do it because of the style guide.

Think about it this way, when you want to use the company logo, there’s some marketing and PR group that has a style guide on use of the logo.  Did they call and ask for your input?  Probably not.  Instead, they used their professional expertise to determine what is appropriate and what isn’t.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - create an elearning style guide

You should do the same.  Use your professional expertise to create the organization’s elearning style guide.  It’ll save you lots of headaches and any time you don’t want to do something, just write a prohibition into the guide.  [By the way, that’s a joke for those who are about to email me and complain.]

My only warning about the style guide is make sure you don’t become what you hate about the branding police.

There are a lot of ways to deal with the branding issue and the branding fascists in your organization.  You could try the Aldo Raine method, but the tips above are a little less controversial…and probably more practical.  How do you deal with the branding issue in your courses?


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30 responses to “9 Easy Ways to Deal With Corporate Branding in Your E-learning Courses”

Hi Tom

It’s nice to read some sense about this. Regardless of the kind of learning, I’m always appalled by slides/learning materials that are branded with corporate logos: they take up people’s attention at the expense of the stuff being learned! Screen real-estate is precious enough already. There’s evidence from advertising research that in countries where advertising is ubiquitous, people pay little attention to it. This is probably not the direction we want to move in for learning 😉



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Thanks for the great tips. So many clients (internal) approach logos as if they will be seen by the world when it may be a course for staff only. I remind clients it is better to spend time marketing the course itself than on a brand / logo that the audience has already committed to anyway.

Chuckling over the style guide, but what a great idea. When we re-branded, I had to work with a style guide for the logo and color palette that only took into consideration print media. Ugh.

October 12th, 2010

Like John Ross, I got a nice chuckle over the style guide and agree with you both, it’s a great idea. Our communications folks handed me a style guide but I’m now finding interesting ways to incorporate the company colors. For my first eLearning project here I used the “offical” PPT template and the resounding vote was the course was boring. Made major changes to the template and a few little changes to the content and it’s amazing at how it changed everyones opinion of the course.

Thanks for the post Tom.

Some companies accomplish branding by having their own custom skin 🙂

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Hey Tom,

The corporate branding debate comes up about once a year. We have a compnay logo, an annual theme logo, and then some major initiative will have its own logo. Just had this debate last week! Branding is for the corporate communications and marketing teams, not the training department.

But…you aren’t going to win every argument. The key is compromise and balance similar to your tips on the Christian Aid project – using the branded logo color scheme in the course.

If a company as an approved branded logo, then most likely they will also have a marketing guy/gal who will share the style guide on the do’s and don’ts on how to use it – min, max, rgb colors, b&w usage, etc.

One of the many great things about using Articualte is the ability to place the branded logo in the Logo Panel of the player. If the logo MUST be in the course, I try to influence the customer to move the logo to that location freeing up real estate on the screen. As a balance, I’ll design the master slides with the same colors so it all looks nice, warm & fuzzy 🙂

Forgive me is this sounds like a relatively simple thing to you all but I have the hardest time trying to figure out how to get the entire slide to show when I publish to flash. I would like to remove the playbar and menu and only use the navigation links that I insert on the slide.

I usually embed my presentations onto a webpage and what happens is that I see a slide with lots of white space on the sides. I wish I could get rid of this. Any ideas?

Pirates of the Caribbean. Great movie. But a little tinkerbell flitting about the screan through the entire film would not have been appropriate. Walt Disney saves their branding for the opening slide and the closing credits. We should do likewise.

October 12th, 2010

@Phil – have you tried playing around with the settings under Player Templates? (in PPT 2007 its in the Tools section of the ‘Articulate’ tab)

Under Layout, you can set the “no sidebar view” as the starting view, uncheck all the options in the Sidebar (logo panel, presenter panel, navigation panel) and this fills the space with just your slide content. Drop player controls off your template from the Player Controls tab under Player Templates.


I really like the Style Guide idea, even if you wrote that as a joke. Especially for consultants, a PDF version would be a guide to show potential clients how wonderful their courses WILL look and function after the consultant has completed their project. 🙂

@Phil … post your issue to the Articulate Forums so the wonderful User Community can help you.

@JimDickeson Yes, very effective idea. I’ve seen others’s elearning courses who do the same thing: brand at the beginning and at the end. Subtle reminders.

@Jenise: the style guide idea is real…the joke is modifying it on the fly to negate customer requests.

Great topic, Tom. This is an issue when you’re a presenter too … being asked to include the event logo on your slides. Really, how are viewers or learners supposed to concentrate on the salient point when there are all these visual distractors? Vent vent vent. Thanks for the great suggestions.


We brand at the beginning and the end as well. This is a great strategy.

I’ve been saying this VERY SAME THING for quite awhile:

“Keep in mind that if the learners can’t remember where they work and need all of the branded reminders, you may have more than a training problem on your hands.”

Attention is a finite resource. Whether or not you think the branded interface is distracting, it is there and it shares periphery with your content.

We struggled quite awhile with folks that wanted to retain the fat branded top bar and gaudy / shiny interface controls. I think we (I) won a few of those battles. Establishing a wrapper / template that YIELDS to your content just makes sense!

October 14th, 2010


I am new to the instructional design field and wanted to let you know how much I look forward to reading your Blogs! Every post contains valuable information that I will absolutely use in my design practices! Oh how I wish I worked with someone as knowledgable as you in this field. Thank you for sharing your expertise.


Rachel Miller

@Steve & Rachel: thanks for the kind words.

I loooooved your article. I have just had an argument with the marketing department wanting a rather large CI banner at the header and and footer of the slide with a logo and that on every single slide!!! They refused that I use different fonts and colors. This article and many of your others helped me to put together a powerful presentation to them showing them what is happening out there in the world. They are now starting to see why the instructional value is more important then the company colors.

Now I just have to convince my boss to buy Articulate!


Perhaps tips on writing a style guide would be good for a future blog post. “Writing the eLearning Style Guide: Promoting Learning in Spite of Executives, Clients and the Generally Uninitiated.”


@Allen: LOL

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This blog is full of useful information. Like Rachel, I’m new to this field but am very visual as a learner and creator and hate graphics that detract from a message. It makes all the sense in the world to have a style guide. Once standards are set and accepted, there’s time to argue about other things. 😉

Great info on corporate branding. I especially love the part about matching color schemes. Most people forget the importance of design when planning out their brand and can send mixed messages to their audiences.

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July 13th, 2012

greet knowledge for marketing person.Thanks sir kindly guide me time to time this is very important for us again thanks JagjitSingh