The Parallels of Instructional Design & Ferrari

I recently came across an episode of Ultimate Factories, which showcased the Ferrari Factory in Italy. The Ferrari factory which produces the car that everyone dreams of owning and few ever do, has some striking similar characteristics to the field of instructional design. Specifically the role of an instructional designer plays in the organization which they work. Here are some of the takeaways that I picked up from watching the show:

  • Ferrari’s Are Iconic
    Each sports car has its claim to fame. But none are as iconic as the Ferrari. It sets itself apart because of the precision and perfection behind the wheel. Imagine if this was how a designer looked at each piece of instruction they are developing. Others can develop something to teach X, but if a designer could get their hands on it…
  • Ferrari’s Are A Work Of Art
    To some, a Ferrari is just a car. Something that can take you from point A to B. This is true for the instruction that a designer develops. It can take a learner from a starting point to a point where they can perform some measurable objectives. To those who know design and appreciate instruction, they can tell the difference between a really good design, i.e., a work of art from something that is just words and images on a page.
  • Ferrari Factory Conforms Raw Metal To Raw Power
    It the video it shows the meticulous nature of melting metal which will inevitable fill a specific mold. Majority of factories mass produce these create molds on an assembly line. Not in this factory. Each mold is essentially made by hand, inspected, and worked with over an extensive period time. Many molds are rejected and thrown back into the fire due to imperfections. A separate mold is made for every single engine. It takes 5 hours for a metal worker to apply the finishing touches to a mold. Each piece is fit together like a 3D jigsaw. This is often how a designer works with content—analyzing, designing, developing, etc. Often our ideas are scrapped until we can produce… that raw power. We have to look at each event individually. What works for one event does not necessarily work for another and often should not be pushed into that mold. If one piece fails so could the whole event.
  • Ferrari Factory Checks & Cross Checks For Imperfections
    The video discussed how many people and other technologies that are often involved in ensuring one part does what it is designed to do. The same is true in ID. Receiving feedback on all aspects of the design, constantly evaluating how effective and efficient an event is what we should be doing daily. The video states that there is a reason on this instance for imperfection, “the slightest flaw in a high performance sports car could create the ripple effect, because the flaw could magnify, all of the other components depend upon it. The high pressures placed on a Ferrari could turn cracks into fishers! This could severely compromise the cars structural integrity.” The same is true for one piece in a series of instruction. Imagine if what would happen if a pilot was trained incorrectly about using the landing gear?
  •  Ferrari Factory Makes Cars For The Street & Race Track
    Just as the Ferrari factory makes cars for both the street and the Formula 1 cars for the race track, an instructional designer is diverse as well. We work in both higher education, but also major corporations. Our industry is quite unique in that we essentially, wither an organization knows or not,  can and should be used. Our filter is quite valuable to analyze processes, evaluate programs, design instructional events, etc.
  • Ferrari Factory Has A Two Mile Private Race Track
    I am sure that most car companies have a similar setup, but this one is private. As a designer I may design an instructional event or “learning object” and as I see the project through to the end, much of my time is devoted to testing. I need to make sure that the object instructs the way it is intended to instruct and functions the way it was designs. This obviously has to happen before a learner gets their eyes and hands on it. Same is true in the Ferrari factory.
  • Ferrari Factory Has The Ever Present Threat Of Industrial Espionage
    Similar to the previous bullet with the private track, but a designer always needs to be on the outlook for others trying to steel our work, take credit for the things that we designed, or more importantly trivialize the process because of the simplicity of the output. I see this time and time again that someone might think they can do “____” too, when in fact they can’t. Could Ford start putting out a Ferrari?
  • The Fiorano 599 Took Five Years Of R&D
    The newest, fastest, most expensive Ferrari is perfection and it took five years to create this work of art. In the video, the CEO is quoted talking about the music the engine makes and how important that is to the buyer. The same is true for effective and efficient instruction. It takes time which is often a constraint working against us.
  • The Fiorano 599 Has The Sole & Speed Of A Formula-1 Racer
    The designers at Ferrari faced a daunting challenge, to create a street car with the sole and speed of a Formula-1 racer. The Formula-1 model being crème de la crème of what Ferrari produces and at one time, the sole purpose of the company. The documentary mentions that at one time Ferrari only made street models just to be able to afford the development of Formula-1. As I was discussing earlier in this post, all designer should look at each piece of instruction this way. We are often asked to, and I think that is for good reason.

If you are interested, check out the video and see if it was as inspiring to you as it was to me. Do you see any other parallels?



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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