Course Design Q&A with Jenna Strange
A lot of effort goes into LawRoom’s online compliance training. Instructional design, thoughtful research, clear writing, practical compliance, and coding are minimum inputs. Course design is another critical input to effective instruction, as shown by research on the aesthetic-usability effect. One of our course designers and animator, Jenna Strange, is here to answer questions on how she creates courses.
Imagine you’ve just been assigned a course to design. Where do you start?
I usually meet up with the instructional writers or the Lead in Visual Design and develop a theme for the course. The theme will be decided once we take certain things into consideration such as audience, mood, instructional approach, and of course the topic. My Lead will let me know if the course will involve any animation, but we will always have illustrations and photos.
Once the instructional team and the legal editors have come up with content, I read it with my team and begin to storyboard together. Once the rough designs are approved, I venture out and begin creating a solid design.
What is your general approach when designing a course?
There are different ways to approach different mediums, but I want them all to have continuity with each other and a strong connection to the theme of the course.
When choosing the look and feel of each medium, we take affordance theory and metaphors into account. We want to make sure that the user gets a deeper understanding by seeing the photo rather than have it be redundant or repetitive of the text they have just read.
When we do illustrations such as silhouettes, that is when you want it to be close to reality– as if you were watching a documentary.
What are silhouettes and how do you use them?
The silhouette is a cookie cutter for real people in real situations. Our silhouettes are mostly illustrated human figures in relatable scenes. After constructing a scenario such as a Real Case Review or Dialogue Interaction with the legal editors and instructional writers, I will be able to plan out the look of the scene.
We want to make sure that the characters in the scene, even though we avoid specific facial features, will portray the proper emotion and body language. This ensures that no matter your background, you can see yourself or someone you know in this situation. We want users to get a sense of empathy for them as real people even though they are an artistic rendition of one. To make our silhouettes like this, we make sure that all our characters are based off real people in photographs.
When a good photograph of a character with a defined background is complete, we use vector-based art to make a clear silhouette of said character.
We use vector-based graphics for our silhouettes to make emotion and storytelling between the character(s) clean crisp and to the point. We want to make sure that our users can see these characters and imagine putting themselves in a similar situation.
Why don’t you use just photographs to tell a story?
The Content Team at EverFi have take all learning styles into consideration when constructing a course. Having only photographs can become static and dull, causing a user, who may have to take a two hour course, to not always retain the important legal information we deliver. Having videos, animation, quizzes, and interactions can really engage the user, not to mention making the course a lot more fun!
Describe how your animation background influences your work.
Personally, I am a visual learner, so being in the animation field really helps me describe to other visual learners taking our courses. When you study animation, you become someone who observes life and analyzes it. Considering our courses teach important legal and ethical tools to living life, as an animator, I can create a scene that replicates the real world without actually putting a real person in a possibly damning scenario.
What inspires your artwork?
I find that it is very important to be safe and educated on how to treat others and abide by the law. I feel like EverFi’s products are a very unique and fun way to teach a technology-based society the compliance they need to move in the right directions in life.
Working here has made me feel that my artwork is being used to help people in really important situations. To know that there is at least someone out there that, for instance, remembers how to do the Bacchus Maneuver because of the animated scene I did for Think About it–I mean, that could have saved someone’s life and I can’t tell you how awesome that makes me feel.