Aug 122011

Instructional Design – Beginning Instructional Authoring: Why C.R.A.P. Is Exactly What’s Needed (Part 2)

Instructional Design: By Patti Shank, August 11, 2011, via Learning Solutions Magazine

“The ultimate goal is for your visual design to be so good that the visual design itself doesn’t really call out at all. If your visual design is good, learners should just notice that your instruction is amazing.”

A lot of eLearning would look better if it looked like CRAP. No, I’m not saying it should look baaaaad – I’m saying you should use the four overarching principles of visual design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. Why? People form opinions about your eLearning very quickly, and that goes for eLearning visual design as well.

Patti Shank’s 2-part article on C.R.A.P. 

If your eLearning visual design is in need of an upgrade, the C.R.A.P. principles that Robin Williams describes in her terrific book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book, might help you move learners’ opinions in a more positive direction. Funny acronym (that so many of you made great jokes about on Twitter after reading Part 1). Good results.

As I said last time, I’m not a visual designer by training. But I’m a great reader, listener, and mimic. And I know how critical visual design is to what we do. The purpose behind these design principles is to make what people see in front of them aesthetically pleasing. If what we deliver looks bad, it forms a bad impression. If it forms a bad impression, learners instinctively don’t like it. If they don’t like it, learning is negatively impacted. Perception is reality. Unfair maybe, but them’s the breaks.

I’m an instructional designer, so my explanations in this article are trainer or instructional-designer oriented. If you’re a graphic designer and want to add to these explanations, please feel free to add comments and links in the comments area following the article!

I discussed Contrast and Repetition (the C. and R. in C. R. A. P.) in last month’s article. Now it’s time to tackle Alignment and Repetition.


Alignment involves how you place items, text as well as graphics, on the page. Rookie designers often dump things on the page, fall where they may. Professional designers intentionally align items with each other, in relationship to each other.

Look at any screen or Web page. Where do your eyes fall? Do they jump around to different elements or do they move in a logical order? Ideally, your eyes move in a logical order. This exercise gives you a sense of whether the designer threw the screen together or designed it.

Robin Williams explains that, ideally, items on the page should feel like they are connected in your mind via an invisible line. Figure 1 shows the items on a screen before alignment and Figure 2 shows those same items after alignment with each other.

instructional design

Related Instructional Design Information:


Learning Optimized, Behavior Changed, Performance Advanced

My deliverables to you are: (I) Improved Learning Outcomes and Increased Competence; a. Retention to fluency (95% vs. 28%), b. Behavior change through accountable reinforcement, c. Improved application, d. Advanced individual performance and e. Advanced organization performance.

You will ensure that every person reaches true mastery* in the shortest amount of time. Mastery* produces people who have the adaptive reasoning skills required to effectively apply knowledge to new situations.

*Mastery is required where appropriate information application is critical to achieve a desired outcome; For example, Education: K-12, Higher, Corporate, Government; Medical; Medical Continuing Medical Education – Performance Improvement; Safety; Sales Performance; Aviation; Military; Individual Certifications and Individual Continuing Education.

McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC, Specialties:

Appropriate Application;   Behavior Change;  eLearning;   Employee Selection and Employee Development;   Human Capital Management;  Individual Performance Improvement;  Learning Performance Improvement;   Learning Retention and Reinforcement Improvement;   Organization Performance Improvement;   Workforce Development and Productivity;  Verbal Skills Simulation and Reinforcement;   Sales Performance Improvement;   Web-Based (SaaS/Cloud) Solutions

To Discuss how these Solutions will add value for you, your organization and/or your clients, Affinity/Resale Opportunities, and/or Collaborative Efforts, Please Contact:

Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

instructional design, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC