We have a broad definition of instructional design here. Each design decision that goes into a product can have an impact on the user’s ability to fully benefit from the final product. With online learning, there are already plenty of obstacles to contend with that can prevent you from digging into the material and taking useful knowledge and skills away from it—lack of time or resources, pressing job duties, difficult content—so a properly curated experience that packs a punch becomes even more important.
The partnership of instructional and visual design is a perfect example of how we rely on each discipline to inform and inspire the final product. Like a well-timed high-five, these two crafts collab like an MC and DJ join forces to make hip-hop such an inspiring and creative music genre.
Functionally speaking, the producer makes the beat, and the MC adds lyrics on top. Alone you’ve got the foundation of a song, but put both things together and you can have something folks can recite together with friends in the car. The DJ and MC have a distinct style they are going for—they create the sonic canvas, a creative expanse bolstered by a memorable beat, on which the emcee can convey a lyrical message that has a lasting force. Take, for example, one of hip-hop's all-time greatest producers J Dilla, whose iconic soundscapes gave countless artists inspiration to express themselves to the world. Artists like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Roots, Common, and so many more all used J Dilla’s layered, soulful beats to take their projects to the next level.
Instructional and visual designers meet, along with the full team, to start describing what kind of experience they want users to have. In simple, emotional terms. How can we use interactivity, language, sound, and visuals creatively and in the right balance to make users respond in the desired way? We talk about how the overall presentation of these factors will impact the user. Will they relate to it? Will it pull them in long enough for the most important knowledge and skills to set up shop in their brains? Hope so! Hope so.
When we have a shared vision taking shape, visual designers create the look and feel of the learning experience with some mockups and share those with the team. These mockups, the team’s first concrete look at the abstract vision, dramatically inspire instructional designers and allow the vision to be developed, expanded, and documented in even more detail. Like an MC adding bars and a hook over the beat, the collaboration gives the project life, momentum, and meaning.
Any project at NogginLabs gets this treatment. What starts as raw material—a loop or melody, a lyric or refrain, or ah, say, some training binders—gets crafted into something greater than the individual talents that made it.
Special thanks to illustrator Max Hudetz for the perfect custom visual for this post, an homage to the cover art of J Dilla’s final studio album Donuts. I mean, good grief, the keyboard and the stylus? The two hands creating a sly shout out to the Netherlands' own graphic master Escher, a brilliant MC in his own right? Come on. It's the best. Collaboration at work!