The Art of Learning: Exploring the role of art in learning design

In a world full of organizational psychology, pedagogy, assessments, metrics, and analytics, is there room for artistic expression in the learning process? 

Before delving into this topic, it is important to define art. In the training business, learning visuals are often considered the closest thing we encounter to proper art. But what about the story crafted around the problems we aim to solve? Through our Voice of the Business process, we glean data and insights from dozens, if not hundreds, of people’s work experiences and distill the common threads into a cohesive and compelling narrative. Is this process of discovery and synthesis not a form of artistic endeavor? 

Indeed, shaping a story that serves as a business driver requires exceptional craftsmanship. It may even surpass the skill required to write a moving piece of fiction. A standalone story can be written in a way that builds its own universe from the ground up, with the author in complete control of the narrative. But creating a genuinely interesting plot, developing characters, and driving home a specific moral in pursuit of a business outcome requires creativity on a level few understand, and even fewer appreciate.

Learning Experience Architecture

In my previous role, the title Architect was used for good reason. Crafting learning experiences for massive audiences on a global level requires a solid foundation and a deliberate blueprint. While an architect may not be the one swinging the hammer, he or she needs to know how all of the moving parts work if they want to create a solution that stands the test of time. 

Our development process requires high levels of creative thinking in order to match technical solutions with business challenges. One of my favorite parts of learning design is when our internal teams get together and brainstorm the best route to solve a tricky problem. The ideation process, napkin sketches of interaction flow, iterative interactive prototypes, and even the different points of view that come to light during the early phases of development are what excite me the most. 

When we have mastery over our tools, they become extensions of our creativity. That allows us all to start thinking out of the box and create novel ways of solving new and old problems alike. The ways we bring learning to life through timing, interactivity, and feedback are avenues for genuine artistic expression. 

There’s more to visual design than infographics and silhouettes

Expressing creativity through visual design is just as important as the art of writing or problem-solving through development. However, for too many in the learning space, visuals are limited to a couple of infographics and a picture or two from marketing on the intro page. If there is a conversation to simulate, we often see two silhouettes representing the characters because the training department doesn’t have access to an image library, or they want to avoid the challenge of being representative if appropriate assets are hard to come by. Although these limitations are understandable, the significance of strong graphics and characters in supporting the narrative cannot be overlooked or underestimated. High-quality visuals are an important ingredient in creating truly immersive experiences, and immersive experiences can have a tremendous impact on people and organizations. 

Dipping into the world of advertisement for a moment, a study by Gianluigi Guido showed that ads with a human face or a face-like image attract nearly 92% more attention than those without. If we make the jump from marketing to learner engagement, there is a clear case for the importance of high-quality, relevant, context-driven, human-centered image selection. And we haven’t even touched on user interface, user experience, or learner experience design yet! 

You may also be interested in: What makes learning visuals so powerful?

Combining art and technology to create powerful learning experiences

The good news is that today’s technology is helping us develop high-quality, contextually relevant visuals and imagery with speed and at scale. For example, we can use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to generate a vast range of custom creative assets, from complex characters to abstract backgrounds. At Blueline, we’re using an AI image generator to create memorable, human-centric art for unique scenario simulation experiences. With well-designed prompting and skillful guidance, we are able to generate concepts that we refine into custom graphics with characters and environments that place learning in the right context and create a more immersive and engaging experience. And engaged learners drive business results. 

You may also be interested in: Six considerations for using AI in Learning & Development 

Immersing learners through the fine art of interactive design

Regarding the visual arts in learning programs, this is the bottom line: learners have the ability to download free apps with world-class graphics, animations, and sound design. How disappointed must they be when they sit down to take a learning course at the office, and it is a series of text pages and a quick quiz that looks like it came from a 1997 PowerPoint presentation

At Blueline, we strive to create visually immersive materials that are emotionally evocative, contextually accurate, and of course, on brand. Bringing all of these elements together in a positive way that drives immersion, engagement, and recall of situations or circumstances through movement, sound design, graphic design, and learner experience design as an interactive medium is indeed a fine art—one that, when executed well, has the potential to change behavior and drive business transformation. Reach out to our team to learn more about how we help our clients generate lasting results through tailored or fully custom immersive learning experiences.

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