Fashionable AND Functional: Good Graphic Design is Just as Important as Good Facilitation

Do your training materials, learning guides and handouts have the same effect on people as a) a monotone lecture or b) a vibrant, engaging, energetic presentation?  The truth is: graphic design is as integral to training delivery as the facilitator. But what kind of effort and resources go into good graphic design?

A few months back, I put this question to Joanne Lauterjung-Kelly, a graphic designer with almost 30 years of experience.  Below, I’ve printed, with her permission, Joanne’s very eloquent case for trainers to be intentional about investing whatever is necessary (time, effort and/or money) into good graphic design.

“I don’t see it as a choice of design vs. function, but rather how design contributes to function, and how function informs design.’

Effective Training Requires Effective Delivery

“In the nearly 30 years that I’ve been a graphic designer I’ve noticed a common trend. Organizations will spend a lot of time, money and energy on developing and writing training manuals. But when it comes time to putting those manuals into a useable format, there’s rarely money left over for graphic design. Often there’s an assumption that design is a ‘frivolous’ expense, and that just making something pretty doesn’t add value to its delivery. I beg to differ.’

The 80/20 Rule

“Good graphic design is about putting information in a visual format so that it’s more easily, and quickly, comprehended. Much of what we comprehend is how something is presented more than the actual words used that are used. The words themselves only tell part of the story. The rest of the story is giving the user a visual hierarchy of information, and guiding them through a process so that not only are trainers delivering the training more effectively, those being trained are understanding and retaining more information. And isn’t the goal of any good training lasting retention and the ability to recall all that data that people worked so hard to compile?’

Guiding Learners through the Maze

“Graphic design provides ways of effectively organizing information through the use of color, choice of typefaces, type size, use of charts or graphics, and yes, even strategic use of white space. People are more likely to digest dense information when they’re fed smaller chunks of it at a time. A full page of text is less likely to be comprehended than if it were broken down and laid out in multiple pages with graphic elements guiding them.’

“Effective and efficient delivery of any training program requires attention to multiple styles of learning, and presenting information that will be remembered long after the training session is over.’

“A good designer knows that the first priority is to be of service to effective learning. It’s not about my personal taste, or my client’s taste. It’s about who’s going to be using these materials, and what visual language do they need?’

“Good graphic design doesn’t have limitations. Bad design does. A good (i.e., experienced) designer is a team player with the creators of the curriculum, the organization creating it, the trainers using it, and the students learning from it. A good designer knows to use only 2 font families at once, colors that convey the right emotional context, a layout that’s accessible and easy to read, and when to add photos, illustrations, charts or graphs.’

“The human brain needs white space. We can effectively digest only so much information in one shot. You need to break information down into smaller chunks so that you can 1) prioritize what people are learning first, and 2) not bombard them with too much stimulus at once.”

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