Designers should drive change through continual cycles of creation…

This is my 3rd post discussing a recent article in TechTrends, by Jason McDonald—The Creative Spirit of Design. The article discusses characteristics that instructional designers, like myself, may exemplify. This post specifically deals with the second characteristic of the “Creative Spirit”—being creation-oriented, or to drive change through continual cycles of creation.

Much of my time each day is devoted to “creation” activities with raw content from the instructors that I work with.

  • Analyze Using a Designers Lens
    These are some of the questions that I ask myself as I am initially analyzing the content with a designers lens and often placing myself in the learners shoes. What can I do with this? Does this make sense to me? How can this be presented online? Etc.
  • Design With a Creative Spirit
    As I am getting in content I try to think about its presentation outside of the box. That is always easier to say than done, because it is sometimes easier to just get it done and off your plate. But there are times where you have an opportunity, little to no constraints, or that idea that just pops into your head.
  • Implement With Tact
    Sometimes another large part of my job is seeing the ideas through to fruition. Getting an instructor on board with something that is new and innovative is often difficult because they want to do what they have always done. Getting the instructor on board is an art and often requires lots of patience. My best advice… sound excited about what you want to do. Talk about how much it will engage the learners. Talk about how much more efficient the outcomes will be.

So like Jason is saying, designers with the creative spirit spend much of their time … trying to “understand possible solutions but also to meaningfully shape their understanding of problems and opportunities.” I also like how he points out that the “creation orientation” is different from solving a problem. This is where our filter or “design lens” comes out. Rather than just recognizing that patters are there, we are looking for those patterns to influence the presentation of content. This is because we are not just copying and pasting the content into a different medium, we are stepping back to see how we can get the “construct” the pattern into something were learners can learn.

This often comes out for me personally when I am brainstorming with an instructor. We talk about the outcomes and I just shoot out ideas. We look at the content and I off the top of my head talk about how it can be presented. This often is a fun and involved process that happens in the beginning of a design project when the client, SME, or instructor (in my case) is most interested. As long as they know that is me who will be building and all they have to do is send it to me in a word doc, they are happy.

Jason ends with a quote from Design Expertise, “in many design situations, the generation of possible solutions and their gradual improvement is the only way forward.” It is from these ideas within this initial brainstorming that we can choose some gems… even if they are difficult to find or create. Imagine the flipside of not thinking big and only thinking small? How sad is that? Can’t you hear the learners begging for more?


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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