eLearning Leadership Blog

Join our growing community of more than 13,000 learning professionals!


5 e-Learning Media Design Tips Inspired by Ugly Sweaters

by , media artist

Though I didn’t make the U.S. snowboarding team this time around, I still love the winter Olympics. Besides, that gives me four more years to practice, right?

Chris Palm - e-Learning Leadership Blog, Media Artist

Be honest, it’s the hat, isn’t it?

Though I watch it mainly for the snowboarding events, one of my favorite parts about the Olympics is seeing all of the teams’ uniforms and outfits. While the United States always emerges into the arena looking more fashionable than a hipster in a local coffee shop sipping a soy cappuccino, I am extremely impressed by this year’s choices.

“Are you kidding me?” you might be saying. No, I’m not. Say what you will about the opening ceremony ugly sweaters; they are brilliant—a bold, trendy statement that breaks the mold. There was no mistaking the Americans on opening night in Sochi. This got me thinking… how can this same tactic be employed in e-learning media design? Try these tips:

1. Dare to be different.

E-learning tends to fall into traditional formats or templates. Shake it up a bit! Step outside the box. Take your design in a completely different direction than you’re used to. Be the one wearing a goofy ugly sweater in a sea of beige. For example, one of our clients has a very corporate look, but we were able to approach their course with a game-like, illustrated style that helps lighten-up the content, while still maintaining a sense of branding.


2. Be memorable.

The buzz created by these sweaters was huge! Debates broke out at the water cooler—are they hideous or awesome? Whichever you think, the fact is, they stuck in your memory long after seeing them because they were unexpected.

3. Let your guard down.

In a world of rigid, structured e-learning, sometimes you need to throw a curve ball. People can spot a boring e-learning course a mile away. Break up the monotony! Perhaps it is bringing animation, new colors, a different font choice, or a contextual theme to your course. Gamification is huge and allows your learner to have a little fun, all while learning!

4. Be trendy.

The ugly Christmas sweater party is relatively new, but it has caught on faster than funny cat images on the internet. Many times, clients are concerned that a course’s look will end up feeling dated years down the road. It’s a reasonable concern—e-learning can be expensive, but with how fast the digital world is constantly changing these days, chances for a course’s content to become outdated has been accelerated. Trends generally last between one to three years, sometimes longer, which I feel is about the perfect shelf life for an e-learning course. This introduces a new opportunity to create media that is fashionable and current.

5. Return to your roots.

Part of what I love so much about these U.S. sweaters is they feel so retro, almost vintage. The U.S. snowboarding team takes this theme even further with their quilted uniforms. These uniforms play off of America’s history and heritage, giving these athletes a sense of home, when so far away. With so much rich history to pull from, perhaps your course for the future need only to look to the past. Old advertising campaigns can be an extremely inspiring resource for new design and are a useful way to tie in your client’s roots and foundation without spending time talking about it.

Am I saying make your e-learning ugly just to stand out? Definitely not! Even though the sweaters I mentioned above are most likely inspired by the ugly sweater trend, they are still well designed and thought out.

Don’t be afraid to be different! Challenge your learners, throw something new their way. There is a saying we snowboarders like to use; “go big or go home.”


This one is for you, Kaitlyn Farrington.

5 Critical Design Activities for Creating Impactful e-Learning White Paper

Subscribe to the e-Learning Leadership Blog