The most efficient way to achieve consistency in the visual design of eLearning and presentation slides is to create a visual style guide. A style guide provides one graphical standard for everyone. It’s nearly a necessity when working on a team. It’s also valuable when working alone, because it’s difficult to be consistent in your design without a reference document.
Advantages of a Visual Style Guide
It takes effort to make and document design decisions, but there are many benefits to writing an eLearning visual style guide.
- Forces you to make up-front design decisions
- Provides one visual standard for an entire course, curriculum or organization
- Saves time when you need to look up colors, font sizes, etc.
- Having documentation improves efficiency
- Provides the styles for future courses if you want to re-use the design
- Provides a way to get buy-in from your client
- Looks professional (clients are usually impressed)
How to Get Started
A visual style guide doesn’t need to exist in a vacuum. You may base it on previous work, on branding guidelines or on an organization’s website. If you’re starting from scratch and need ideas, check out designer portfolios that you can find at sites like Dribble and Behance. Also, see 21 Ways to Get Visual Ideas.
What to Include
Here are my recommendations for the standards you may want to include in your guide. When possible, include visual examples of the styles to ensure everyone understands. This guide doesn’t tell you how to make design decisions, just which decisions to make and specify.
Do you have additional recommendations? Please add them below in Comments.
|Visual Element||What to Specify|
|SCREEN LAYOUT||Identify all template designs you will use, such as a layout for embedded video or one for scenario interactions. Use text and visuals to explain the layout, showing mock-ups or screen shots.|
|*COLOR PALETTE||Show the full color palette in solid circles or squares. Beneath each shape, include the hex code of the color (that's the 6 digit alphanumeric code, such as #ffffff for white).|
|Main Colors: identify two or three for the overall interface and background. Choose colors that are easy on the eyes. Often a neutral color for a background is best.|
|Accent Colors: select one or two accent colors that contrast with the main colors.|
|Hyperlinks: specify the color of hyperlinks|
|TYPOGRAPHY||**Display type, often used for titles: specify font, style, color, size and justification|
|Subtitles for heading text that is larger than body text: specify font, style, color, size and justification|
|Body Text: font, style, color and size (will typically be left-justified for readability)|
|Captions; font, style, color and size|
|Labels: font, style, color and size (this may need to vary)|
|READABILITY||Line-spacing: identify how much space to allow between lines of text within a paragraph|
|Paragraph Spacing: identify how much space to allow before and after paragraphs|
|VISUALS||Image Style: identify types of images to use, such as color photos, black and white photos, illustrations or clip art|
|Image Sizes: specify standard sizes of images for each type of screen (example: split screen photos will be 512x768)|
|Image Borders: identify whether images will have borders and the color and line thickness of the border|
|LOGO||Note which style of logo to use on the title screen (you won't be using it on other screens, right?)|
|VISUAL CUES||Type of visual cue to direct the eyes or create emphasis: arrows (show example of head and stem), hand-drawn circles, light band of color, etc. If using multiple highlights, specify when each type will be used.|
|Color, shape and size of visual cues|
|INTERFACE ELEMENTS||Identify the color and style of any user interface elements you control, including button style, menu style and navigation elements.|
|Buttons: shape, size, color, typographic features of text; flat design or shadow, button states (up, down, disabled, etc.)|
|Icons: style (outline, colored, flat, shadow, details) and size of icons for navigation or other UI purposes|
|Menus: size, shape, color, typography of menu options. Responsive menu styles.|
Notes that refer to the table:
*When specifying color values, use RGB (example: 122 127 130 for medium gray) or hex format (#7A7F82 for medium gray). You can get these values in graphic programs, PowerPoint and authoring tools.
**All screens do not need titles and titles do not need to be at the top of the screen.
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