- Jackie Van Nice participates in e-Learning challenges conducted via Articulate’s e-Learning Heroes Forum. For each challenge, she does a great job of explaining the thinking behind her work. Jackie starts each post by discussing how she came up with her initial idea. From there, she explains the visual and functional design elements she uses. Her “Dating Zombies as a Survival Strategy” is an excellent example of how her creative mind works!
- Montse Anderson is another e-Learning designer I follow. She has a strong background in graphics and multimedia design. I’m always inspired by some of her creations and she provides a color palette with each example as a bonus! Here is an example of an interactive video of hers that is really creative!
- Cathy Moore is an internationally recognized training designer. She focuses on designs that use her action mapping process. Her discussions inspire me to focus more on challenging activities and less on “eye candy”.
Creativity! It’s something that you try to tap into every time you design new training content. Some might say you either have it or you don’t. I would like to think that each of us can be creative. The research findings of Marvin Reznikoff, a noted psychologist, seem to support my thoughts on the matter.
Reznikoff performed a study of 117 pairs of identical and fraternal twins with the goal of determining if genetics influenced one’s creativity. The final results of the study? It failed to provide convincing evidence of a genetic component in creativity. Another myth about creativity has to do with money and time. If money and time were unlimited, you could be more creative. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Constraints can actually make you more creative and can force you to think outside the box.
So, now that you know genetics is not holding you back and a lack of resources and money are not to blame, it’s time to look at three ways I’ve found to enhance my creativity. I hope you will find them useful as well.
#1: Look Inside/Outside the e-Learning Field
Look at what others are doing both inside and outside of the e-Learning field.
Inside the Field of e-Learning
Within the e-Learning field, there are two e-Learning designers I look to for inspiration and the occasional creativity boost. Jackie Van Nice maintains her own website and participates in several e-Learning challenges conducted at Articulate’s e-Learning Heroes Forum. For each challenge submission, she explains where she came up with the initial idea as well as the visual and functional design elements she uses. Montse Anderson is another e-Learning designer who creates e-Learning content that is very clean and strong visually. For each of her challenge submissions, Montse shows you the color palette (including hex codes) she uses in her design. There are many other designers in the e-Learning community I could name, but give these two designer’s sites a visit. Before I leave the e-Learning field, there are two more sources of creative inspiration I’ve found helpful and recommend you check out:
- Articulate e-Learning Examples on Pinterest
- 10 Unusual Sources of Inspiration for eLearning by Connie Malamed
Outside the Field of e-Learning
Another way to find inspiration and boost your creativity is to look outside the e-Learning field. Two fields that I explore on a regular basis are photography and graphics. Here are a few sites for your to explore:
If you browse posts on the photography sites, you’ll notice that photographers struggle with creativity too! Although not every solution will apply to e-Learning, many do. For example, the Rule of Thirds often discussed in photography, involves breaking an image into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. The theory is that if you place points of interest where these lines intersect, the image becomes more balanced. Studies have shown that when viewing images, people’s eyes usually go to one of these intersections. Why not apply the rule of thirds to the screens you design in your next e-Learning course to control where you want your learner to focus their attention?
Another tip that e-Learning designers can take from photographers is the minimalist approach. Have you ever taken a photograph and looked at it later only to wonder why you took it in the first place? At the time, you thought it would be a great photograph but after reflection, you’re not sure of what the actual subject was? Many novice photographers clutter their image by including things on the edges of their images and not removing distracting elements from the background, Does that sound familiar from an e-Learning perspective? How many times have you seen too much information included on a single slide? Could you substitute an image in place of paragraph text? Could you break the information up to make it easier to digest?
#2: Be Open to Constructive Criticism and Feedback
Feedback when done correctly, can enhance your creativity. For example, let’s say you are struggling with how to present a specific topic in a creative way. Sharing what you have with someone else can give you a fresh perspective. A great place to get feedback and help with your design is the Articulate’s e-Learning Heroes Forum. Even if you don’t take other people’s feedback, their insights might provide just enough information to get you thinking in the right direction.
Being critiqued is tough for creative people in general. I think that most e-Learning designers/creatives will agree that when they present an idea to a client, they are presenting a part of themselves. As best you can, try to separate yourself from your deliverable when it comes to feedback. It’s important for you to hear honest feedback that is more than just “That’s great! I loved the animation you created!” or “I don’t like it!” In her New York Times article, Alina Tugend states the purpose of feedback is to help you perform better, not always make you feel better. Something to keep in mind if you want to take your skills to the next level.
#3: Free Your Mind to Focus on Creativity
In his book, Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life, David Allen says that attempting to keep in mind a lot of information at once will result in your “psychic RAM” becoming too full to process any new ideas. This “psychic RAM” holds information that will be relevant in the short-to-mid-term and includes items you need to purchase at the grocery store, the bill you need to mail tomorrow, or even a fantastic idea of an interaction you might include in your next course. He goes on to say storing too much information in your “psychic RAM” can cause your creativity to suffer. We need to clear our minds of these mundane details, memos, and facts and make room for new ideas!
I’ve used this approach for some time now and have found it works very well for me. If I am sitting at my computer or running an errand and have my smartphone, I’ll send a quick email with the subject line “Idea” or “Task” along with my thoughts at the time. If I’m not around technology, I keep a paper-based journal with me to jot my thoughts down.
What about you? Where do you go to boost your creativity and find inspiration? Share some of your favorite links in the comments below.
Now that you’ve cmpleted this article, I invite you to read my new blog series, e-Learning Business Basics! It’s designed to help e-Learning/creative freelancers build a strong business foundation.