SHIFT's eLearning Blog

Our blog provides the best practices, tips, and inspiration for corporate training, instructional design, eLearning and mLearning.

To visit the Spanish blog, click here
    All Posts

    A Place for Everything: Powerful Psychological Strategies for Use in Graphic Design

    Looking at websites of some of the biggest companies in the world (think Apple and Google), you’ll see they’ve come a long way regarding web and graphic design. From the days of cramming in as much content as possible, we’ve entered an era where every line, image, color, and call-to-action is well researched and tested to grab your attention, keep you engaged and make you take action. 

    Graphic design has come a long way, within a couple of decades, and has gone beyond simple look and feel, to encompass a range of aspects related to people’s experiences. And, creativity alone won’t cut it. Graphic design has much to do with understanding user psychology as it does creativity. Create great eLearning experiences by applying these powerful psychological strategies:

    1) Leverage mental models

    Mental models are a person’s thought process for how something works. Remember the first day you took an iPad to your hand? You may have had a preconceived notion of how to switch it on and how various things work (e.g., reading a book, browsing social media, etc.). Apple is a master at encompassing intuitiveness into their design. In short, users, upon taking the device to their hand are instinctively able to figure their way around. The same goes for graphic design.

    Start by mapping out how you want your users to respond to your eLearning design. Every aspect of your design process needs to be centered on the user’s experience.  Your intuitive check would involve asking questions like

    • How are the images placed (or are they moving left to right)?
    • Is the messaging simple and easy to understand?
    • Will the user, at a glance, know what to do next?

    2) Colors and feelings 

    A lot of research has been conducted on how colors affect our moods. Next time you see an awesome website, remember that the colors they have used are not based on the designer’s preferences. Chances are, a lot of research had gone into what color would best match their users’ moods when going through the company’s content.

    Here’s a quick rundown to help you get started:

    • Red - Bold, passion, love, exciting, action (e.g., Coca-Cola)
    • Blue - caring, trustworthy, calm, secure (e.g., Facebook)
    • Yellow - Logical, forward-thinking, confidence (e.g., Commonwealth Bank)
    • Green - Organic, growth, fresh, earth (e.g. Evernote)
    • Orange - Happy, sociable, friendly (e.g., Hubspot)
    • Black - Seductive, sophisticated, professional, elegant (e.g., Vertu)  
    • Multi-colour - playful, bold (e.g., Google)

    Read more: 

    6 Ways Color Psychology Can Be Used to Design Effective eLearning

    How Colors Influence Learning

    3) The odd man out aka. Von Restorff Effect

    This principle suggests that of any visual element, it is the odd one that people tend to remember.

    On an eLearning design project, although you may have many elements that help you tell your message, you would often want one specific element to stand out and be remembered. You can achieve this goal using a different color, font, shape or size. The benefits of following the Von Restorff Effect is evident on how successful websites make their CTA button or copy stand out for the rest.

    4) Obey Hick’s Law

    Hick’s Law states that the more options a person is presented with, the more energy it takes to make a decision. When a user is presented with plenty of options (i.e., navigation, buttons, products, etc.) the chances of them taking the next logical step (i.e., conversion) gets postponed or even lost. As a result, keep your graphic elements to a minimum. Ensure everything you put on the page contributes to one overarching goal. A good benchmark for this principle is Apple. 

    Read more: Add a Dose of Psychology to Create Great eLearning Courses

    5) Pay attention to how users scan web pages and other material

    People tend to scan online material as opposed to reading every word. When reading websites, they tend to follow an “F” shape - the headline, the first line of the leading paragraph and so on. If the content catches their attention, they may pause, and read carefully. As a rule of thumb, you have about 7 seconds to grab their attention. When placing various elements on your web page or marketing material, follow these rules:

    • Important content ought to be placed “above the fold” (above the first scroll)
    • Clear headline
    • Don’t put in long harangues of content - easy, bite-sized chunks, please
    • Use bullet points to improve scannability

    Also read: How We Read Online— A Guide for eLearning Professionals

    We all respond to different colors, fonts and shapes in different ways, in line with personal attributes. As discussed above, drawing from the principles of psychology you can customize your eLearning design projects to cater to your target audience’s characteristics.  

    Remember, great design is not just about how it  looks, but also how it will function. What psychological strategies have you utilized in your own graphic design work?

    Instructional Design Tips

     Todd is the Director and Principal Psychologist at TG Psychology, in Penrith, NSW. He has over 14 years of experience working with adults and young people in both public health and private practice settings. 

    Todd Griffin
    Todd Griffin
    Todd is the Director and Principal Psychologist at TG Psychology, in Penrith, NSW. He has over 14 years of experience working with adults and young people in both public health and private practice settings. He has treated people from diverse cultural backgrounds, with a variety of emotional health and behavioural issues, including: depression, anxiety, relationship issues, anger, addictions, trauma and grief. He has also facilitated a number of group programs, treating a wide range of issues: from quitting cannabis, to social skills training, self-esteem development and deliberate self-harm behaviours.

    Related Posts

    4 Types of Immersive Scenarios: When and How to Use Them in eLearning

    In the digital age where information is just a click away and training has become accessible thanks to online platforms, eLearning has emerged as a pivotal tool. But with a vast array of resources and methodologies, what sets an effective eLearning course apart from one that simply goes unnoticed? One of the distinguishing strategies is the use of immersive scenarios. These aren't just visual embellishments or interactive add-ons to make a course more engaging. In truth, they're foundational training tools with the potential to transport learners into environments mirroring their actual work settings, enabling them to learn from experience and practice. Especially in corporate training, the ability of a scenario to mimic real-world work situations can bridge the gap between theoretical learning and applied knowledge. However, like any tool, eLearning scenarios shouldn't be used haphazardly. It's more than just including them because they look flashy or are trendy. Each scenario type has a purpose, an ideal context, and specific features making them apt for certain topics or audiences. Deliberate and purposeful use of these scenarios can elevate an eLearning course from merely informative to a transformative learning experience. This article isn’t just an overview of the various types of scenarios that can be integrated into an eLearning course. It’s a guide to understanding when, how, and why to use each one. Through descriptions, examples, and practical advice, we’ll dive deep into what makes scenarios so potent and how they can be the key to unlocking online learning's true potential.

    5 Reasons Why Your eLearning Programs Aren’t Working

    Ever found yourself standing at the crossroads of ambition and reality, particularly when it comes to eLearning? You took that leap of faith, fueled by the latest buzz or perhaps a compelling article you chanced upon, and decided to introduce eLearning in your organization. But, instead of the applause and triumphant results you envisioned, there was a whisper of disappointment and a lingering question: “Why isn’t this working?” Let’s get one thing straight: eLearning isn’t just a trendy box to check off or a badge to wear. It’s a strategic, potentially transformative tool that, when wielded correctly, can revolutionize how your team learns and grows. But if you're feeling a tad disheartened, thinking you've bitten off more than you can chew, fret not! We're here to demystify the maze of eLearning. If you’ve been looking at your program, scratching your head and feeling a tad helpless, you're in the right place. Let’s dive into the heart of the matter and explore the reasons why your eLearning programs might be missing the mark.

    Are Your eLearning Courses Achieving Behavioral Change?

    Have you ever noticed how often employees sit through mandatory courses, but once it's over, nothing really changes? I bet we've all seen it – folks diligently taking notes but then... nada. No change in behavior, no improvement in work. Here's the thing: just ticking off a training box isn't enough. If there's no real goal or follow-up, it's like tossing our investment into the wind. Before diving into designing a course, let's pause and ask: What's our endgame? Hoping for a safer workspace? A boost in sales? Stellar customer service? If our courses aren't aimed at making tangible changes in performance and results, we're kind of just spinning our wheels. Here's a nugget of truth: Even if you have the snazziest, most engaging course materials, it won't matter much if it doesn’t spur any change in behavior. And sometimes, piling on more information isn't the solution. Many times, our teams know what to do; they just need a compelling why to actually do it.