Tips for using visuals in training

Whether they realize it or not, instructional designers are often expected to be communication designers, information designers, and graphic designers. When it comes time to create training materials, learning and development professionals can find it hard to suddenly change hats.

Based on my experience as a professional designer and the most frequently asked questions by learning and development professionals, I’ve come up with some tips for creating visuals for trainings. You don’t have to be a professional designer like me to create visuals that help your learners, but you do need to know what makes a training visual most effective.

Tip 1: visualize what is most important for the learner to remember

Visuals aren’t just nice to have. They shouldn’t be in the presentation or on the document just because they look pretty and take up space. If this is how you currently think of visuals, you are missing out on opportunities to support learners.

Studies have shown that over time, people will remember visuals they’ve seen more than text-heavy documents or slides. It follows that visuals should be used to emphasize those few ideas that you want to make sure the learner takes with them. You can use any type of visual for this purpose: a photo, a histogram, a diagram or a video.

As you prepare to produce material, ask yourself what the key learning points are, then focus your efforts on collecting or creating visuals that focus on those points.

Image credit: Venngage

Tip #2: Use visuals to help explain complex concepts

If any of the content you offer in the training is particularly compelling or difficult to understand, this is another great opportunity to include a visual. If you work in or with organizations in healthcare, finance or technology, for example, you may already be using visuals, so it’s a matter of making sure they’re more helpful than confusing. .

Visuals like mind maps, diagrams, graphs, and roadmaps can summarize complex concepts and present them in an attractive, easy-to-understand way. If your audience appreciates data and science, visuals like line graphs, pie charts, and maps can be compelling.

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Image credit: Venngage

Tip #3: Fully integrate text and visuals

It’s common to focus your efforts on text accuracy and editing, and add visuals last. This makes sense if you’re used to working with documents, but if you’re planning to create a slideshow, microlearning module, or job aid, these are inherently visual forms of communication. Ultimately, the practice of prioritizing text first will backfire, and not just because you might overlook or ignore the two tips already mentioned.

The best informative visuals balance text with visual elements like photos, icons, and diagrams. This means that these elements must be seen as integrated and symbiotic, and not simply complementary or side by side. If they are the latter, it’s likely that a learner will have to divide their attention between the two, and that kind of effort will zap valuable cognitive energy that should instead be spent on digesting and remembering. Learners will spend time reading the text included in the visuals, so it is ideal that this text is clear and concise.

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Image credit: Venngage

Tip #4: When it comes to visual communication, less is usually more

Text isn’t the only thing to keep to a minimum. It’s easy to overwhelm learners with an abundance of colors. Color is important because it grabs attention, but it also needs to grab attention. If you can, stick to a simple palette of just a few colors and use color as a way to draw attention to important themes or points.

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Image credit: Venngage

In general, it’s usually easier to add only key ideas when writing documents than to remove unnecessary details when editing them later. Visuals that carefully consider what is most essential will help the learner, and being intentional when considering visuals will also make it easier for you. If you can limit your presentation to 10 slides (with less than 20 words per slide) or micro-learning slides to four key elements, you’ll be able to identify what’s most important and make sure it sticks. . You might find that a thoughtful visual can replace multiple slides and be more effective in helping learners connect and understand ideas.