Finding your inspiration

As a learning designer, I love getting stuck into a new project, analysing the source content, and pulling a storyboard together. But we often forget the work we have put in before we get to this stage, and the creativity we need to muster to come up with a concept that we know will work well for the content, and that the client loves and can get on board with.

Back in 2016, a client approached Omniplex about the creation of an IT Security elearning course, and I got allocated the task of creating a concept for the Sales proposal.

The source content provided by the client was very formal and corporate and took some time to analyse and digest.

With something so corporate, where do we as learning designers get the inspiration we need to come up with a concept? Every learning designer has their own approach to finding their inspiration. For me, I start by reading through the content, to get a feel for what it covers, pulling together some high-level bullet points. Then, I go to my favourite research tool – Google.

I like to do an image search, using a key phrase for the prospective course, to see what random imagery google will find for that phrase. The results are typically far ranging and only loosely related to your search phrase, but for me, this works. Scrolling through the random selection of images helps me to think outside of the confines of that corporate source content.

For this course, I did a simple search using the phrase ‘IT Security’. You can see the kind of image results I got here. Lots of padlocks, network imagery, and binary code.

Then there was an image of a hacker…. Which led me to think about the idea of hacking, and sneaking into a company’s data unseen, to steal what they wanted…. And this led me to think about Ninjas, and I got my Eureka moment for a concept!

Ninjas wouldn’t necessarily be an obvious concept for this course, but we can get creative with the content design, and it gives us scope to be a little more playful with our content and interactions. So, my Cyber Ninja was born.

Next was finding my Ninja muse….. As part of the Cursim team, we had a stock image site subscription, so this was my starting point.Searching for ‘Ninja’ gave me so many options, and I made the choice to go down the illustrative route on this occasion. After scrolling through lots of pages of images, I came across a great Ninja caricature that has several EPS format images available, with each one containing approximately 15-20 poses.

Once I had my concept idea, and my character for the course, I could finally get started on the main aspect of putting together a storyboard. For me, having a clear concept in mind helps my creativity. And then having a stock character I could use which had so many fantastic poses all set to go, I could see the content forming already, no need to wait for the graphic designer to create something for me. Doing the work up front, before I began the learning design made my overall design task much easier as I had a context for the content, animations and interactions I was planning.

I use PowerPoint to produce my storyboard, as I firmly believe that a visual medium such as digital learning should be designed using a visual medium. This helps our clients, be them internal or external, get the full picture of what I am proposing. I find this helps our review conversations and makes the whole process much more collaborative. I have never got on with storyboards written in word, as I find a description of how a slide will look or work is open to interpretation and can easily be misunderstood; no-one can misunderstand an image. So I will always stick with PowerPoint, as it fully meets my needs, and is easy for clients to view and comment on. I use the slide stage for my on screen content, the notes section for my audio script, and a table off stage to give my notes on how the slide will work as guidance for the person building the content.

My initial Cyber Ninja concept

Working as part of the Cursim team meant I had a great graphic designer to interpret my concept, and to add the extra depth that only good graphics can provide.

The plan with this concept is to have the ninja animated at key points, for example when he is jumping, or looking to camera, so we can see him blinking.

Our design and build options are only limited by time and our imagination.

My concept with an injection of graphic design flair

How do you find your inspiration?

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