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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.

7 responses to “How to Create Your Own Hand-Drawn Graphics”

April 7th, 2015

Hi Tom, great post and indeed the draw-a-thon was an amazing experience. I truly recommend that anyone that feels insecure about their drawing capabilities just gives it a go and draw those 15 items we were asked to draw by Blair. Whether you’re using just paper, your tablet or draw on your computer, it’s an experience to remember!

Here’s a little trick that I use to figure out *what* to draw to represent complex ideas (“procurement” and “quality assurance” are examples of ideas I wanted to communicate recently through visuals). Do a google image search for the word to see what comes up. You’ll probably find some commonalities amongst the results. For example, I decided to use a handshake as a symbol for procurement because it represented the nature of an agreement. If you then search for “handshake” you’ll come up with a lot more stuff. Some of which you might be able to use straight up under a creative commons license, or it’s a good reference point for your sketches. With some sketching tools you can trace over the image, which helps a lot for those who aren’t great at sketching!

@Tom, fantastic round up on drawing and instructional design as always. And thank you for mentioning my work and new book!!

It’s great to see how you’ve taken your drawing skills to the next level. As we all know by experience, you can only get better at something by practicing (or practising as we say at this end of the world).

“Do you draw your own objects? Feel free to share some examples in the comments section.”

Here are some slides I drew earlier this year for a talk I gave:

If you’re thinking about pre-ordering Everybody Draw Now, I hope you enjoy it and learn something new 🙂

(Don’t forget to use the offer code “rapidsavings” to save 40%. Yes I can cancel your pre-order if you ordered without the offer code and you can try again.)

Leggi la traduzione (autorizzata) in italiano di questo post qui:

April 8th, 2015

Some people post their sketchnotes on Flickr. A good place to get ideas for drawing your own graphics.

April 13th, 2015

hi! this is very great! thanks for the information!
keep posting!

April 14th, 2015

Great tip Fiona, I do the same thing when I’m stuck!