Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.

- Hans Hofmann, German-American artist

The design of your course matters as much as the content. In fact, the design of your course is the content – or part of it.

Look, I’m a writer. I came up through the ranks first in journalism and magazines and then in marketing and advertising. I would love to be able to tell you that the words I wrote were the most important part of any publication or advertisement or social media campaign I ever worked on. But I know that’s not true. 

The designers I have worked with throughout my career didn’t just make my words look good. They helped shape and amplify the message that audiences received. Readers experienced my work differently because of the way savvy designers were able to set the mood, direct their attention, and help determine what would be the one thing a busy reader or viewer would remember. 

And it’s the same in your training courses. 

Design matters. Period. 

Good design is about more than looks

Good designers do more than select colors. Yes, colors and color theory are an important part of a designer’s skillset and training, but it’s far from all of it. 

Good design determines where your eyes are going to fall first on a page. Which image or headline will your learners see first? Then where will their eyes go next? (Fun fact: Our eyes do not start at the top and work our way down the page sequentially. We jump around.) What will they see as the most important message and what is a minor point? The designer is the one determining that. Placement, relative size, color, contrast, type, movement and rhythm on the page – they’ve got a wide range of tools at their disposal, and they use them in a way that should be almost invisible to a layperson’s eye. 

Good design makes learning eas(ier)

In compliance, we all know that our job is to make the right thing the easy thing. That’s the designer’s job, too. Bad design makes the learner work hard – work hard to focus, to find the next message on a page, to make sure they’ve read everything they need to. And we should all be realistic: Our learners are not motivated to work hard on our training. We need to make compliance learning as easy as possible. 

Good design makes absorbing the information on a page feel natural – almost inevitable. It keeps the learner engaged and pulls them along in a flow, from one element to the next. 

Good design sends a message

We’ve all been told to dress for the job we want (and then probably made the same joke about wearing pajamas or a swimsuit or ski gear). That’s because our clothes – right or wrong – send a message about who we are and what we’re here to accomplish.

Again: Same with your compliance training. 

Good design sends the message that your organization takes this training seriously. Good design that incorporates your branding sends the message that this is relevant to your organization and important specifically for your learners. Good design sends a subconscious message that we want you to succeed. 

Your learners expect good design

Straight up: You’ve got competition.

Every message you send and every training you put in front of your learners has to compete with the thousands of other visual, audio, video, and interactive experiences your learners encounter every day. And the bar is high. Design trends move faster than a TikTok scroll, and if something isn’t engaging, the thumb – or the eye – doesn’t stop. 

Is your design going to keep up with this week’s trends? No. And you shouldn’t try. But if your compliance training was designed in 2015 and looks like it, your learners will get the message: This doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t care. 

So, think classic, thoughtful, high-quality – like investing in the perfect little black dress. 

And let your design be the intermediary that makes your message even clearer, louder, and more memorable.