In Part One of Our Four-Part Series, Parul, a TTA Expert Instructional Designer, Discusses How to Effectively Use PowerPoint to Create Visually Stunning Storyboards and Engaging Content
All of us at some point in time have used PowerPoint. However, I am sure that sometimes we just overdid it – don’t believe me, look at this: Death by PowerPoint by Don McMillan [i] I highly recommend that you watch this video before continuing further – you’ll appreciate the real power of PowerPoint more after you have witnessed the colossal failures of overusing any tool! I hope that after you’re done with this series on how to effectively use a tool, such as PowerPoint to create visually stunning storyboards, you’ll add this skill to your Instructional Designer (ID) awesomeness profile.
To begin with, how many of us have been told that we need to design something “visually appealing” or “something different” for our clients? Ok, I can do this, you say to yourself. Next, you ask your client, “How would you define “different” from your perspective? That’s when we draw a blank stare or fumbled “umms…” or an occasional “hmm…” Sounds familiar, right?
Well, as Instructional Designers, we don many hats or roles (ID, Graphics Design, Video Maker, Infographic Creator, eLearning Developer, and the list goes on…). All these roles have become amalgamated into one powerful single role – that of an ID. We are only as good as the tools we use. So how does a tool like PowerPoint fit in? Well, to begin with, PowerPoint has multiple elements which, if used effectively, can create elegant and powerful storyboards that can be developed using any authoring tool and brought to life.
Starting a Project and Where Storyboards Come in
Before I start on any given project, I try to keep in mind that it’s always about the client and their learners. It is not about what my personal preference is or what I like – rather it is about how the learners will perceive the content and what reaction do I want to elicit from these learners. These are the basic tenets of any eLearning course – being “learner-centric”. For this reason, I try to focus on the client – why? Because they know their learners far better than I do. So, if my design can elicit a response from the client, I am sure it will ripple down to their learners as well.
For this purpose, I always prefer using visual storyboards as it helps on two levels.
- Storyboards give me the ability to present my ideas and thoughts exactly as I want them to be seen by the client.
- Storyboards help the client see my vision for their course. So, as a best practice, after building a couple of slides, I always share the first draft with the client to see if they like the direction I am taking. This helps me course correct and instills confidence in the client that their content will be presented well for their learners.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s begin this journey. I’ve laid out a roadmap for you – we’ll divide this journey into sections, with each section tackling some of the nuances of designing a visual storyboard.
I will also share some tools (free and paid) that I have been using that you may find useful while designing your courses.
- Laying the Colored Foundations
It’s all about colors and the power that colors hold over us! Colors can elicit strong emotional reactions from people. Just thinking about lush green meadows, punctuated by little bunches of yellow daffodils, swaying in a soft gentle breeze under a marvelous blue sky makes us relax, right? Similarly, use of different colors combined with the right images can leave a lasting impact on our learners – in a subtler way, of course. As IDs, we may have a lot of ideas of what looks good and what does not, but the bottom line is that we need to stick to the colors that have been approved by the client. This is because they know their brands and their audiences much better than we do. This premise should dictate the entire design of the storyboard. The images, on the other hand, are defined by the content that we are tying to build.
When I start a project, I always ask the client if they have any branding guidelines from where I can create a color palette for my visual design. There are a couple of scenarios that may arise:
- The client has detailed branding guidelines and they provide that to you in the form of a pdf or PPT. Great start!
- The client does not have any branding guidelines but has some existing templates/published content that you can use. Well, that is a starting point. Use the colors they provided as a base, and then use the color wheel to choose some primary and accent colors to create your little color palette. This will help your design as this will tie your course together. You can search Google for “color wheels” and you’ll get a lot of images – I happen to use this one. [ii]
I particularly like this one because it provides a wide range of colors to choose from. The colors that are next to one another are called contrasting colors while the ones that are diagonally opposite are called complementary colors. For more details on using the color wheel to create a client’s unique color signature, you can read this article. [iii]
- The client does not have anything at all – well, this would be a rare case. However, if the client does not have any materials that they have previously created, you can use the client’s logo (I am sure that they will definitely have a logo) to create a color scheme for them. For situations like these, I usually use Adobe Kuler. [iv] It looks like this:
If you have an Adobe ID, you can save your color themes as well. If not, use this to create a color template/theme, and write down the RGB or Hex color combinations for later use.
This service also provides you the ability to upload a photograph (client logo/product photo) and it automatically creates multiple color themes for you.
Simply by selecting the appropriate Color Harmony option, you can create different color palettes for your client. Once you have created your color theme and selected the colors you want, you can send it to the client for approval. This way, all stakeholders are on the same page.
What you choose depends on your unique situation or vice-versa. There is no set rule on when we should use what, but for me, I usually use these three items as a starting point.
I suggest that as you go through this series, you can select any past or current project and try redefining the color palette from there. As we move forward, you can use the same project to work on and apply all the techniques that you have learned. The last step for this would be getting these colors approved by the client.
Next up is designing the layouts using PowerPoint. For the purpose of this series, I will be using some materials that will act as the client content. Using Adobe Kuler, you can create color themes and import them into PowerPoint. That way, you can create a master template and work from there. In our next article, we will use the Master slide view in PowerPoint to create some layouts and then use another tool to share the style guide and templates with the client.