balancing branding with e-learning

A great question came up recently in the E-Learning Heroes community from Jonas Klingström: How do you and your clients work with branding to make sure learning isn't impaired by the "brand?" (When learning meets branding - what are your experiences?)

The challenge with branding guidelines is that they’re typically not designed for e-learning. Branding guidelines are usually designed to ensure communications with clients and vendors have a uniform look and feel. While this uniformity creates a more consistent brand experience, it also comes with limitations on color schemes, fonts, imagery, and other creative treatments.

Balancing your company’s branding guidelines with your team’s goals for creating engaging and effective e-learning may seem a little daunting, but these ideas from the E-Learning Heroes community should help you discover creative ways to find some middle ground.

Idea #1: Make A Case For E-Learning As An Exception to the Rules

The community unanimously agreed that creative e-learning is worth fighting for! Here are some good points you can bring up with the branding police.

  • E-Learning isn’t static. It’s more interactive than a presentation. That expectation of interaction means you’ll need to make modifications to images, layout, and text to accommodate a different user experience.
  • E-Learning serves an instructional purpose. To change a learner’s behavior, you need to connect with them on different emotional levels depending on the subject matter. Learners may find it disconcerting or even off-putting to see a brand’s happy pink and purple color scheme playing a prominent role in a serious course on workplace safety, for instance.
  • E-Learning is targeted at an internal audience. As long as what you’re creating uses a tone of voice that’s consistent with the voice the brand uses with its customers and employees, the actual looks can be interpreted in more subtle ways like the course player color or the font choice.

Idea #2: Show The Client What “On Brand” Can Look Like

Try this great idea from David Tait:

“Part of our process is to create a selection of designs for the client to review. These normally comprise an on-brand version, a creatively branded version, and something that blends the two together. Often when they see how the on-brand version looks in context, they are happy to consider the other options.”

As David points out, this approach may require a little more prep, but it helps the client feel involved in the effort while reinforcing your point in a productive way.

Idea #3: Define “On Brand” With Your Branding Folks

Another good way to get the corporate branding guidelines out of your way is to take the initiative and develop some e-learning-specific guidelines of your own. You can even invite your branding team to be your subject matter experts. This gives them a chance to help you craft guidelines that reflect some of the core elements of the brand, without sacrificing the instructional integrity or creativity of your courses.


Looking for more ideas on dealing with branding guidelines? Check out these discussions and articles:

How have you creatively incorporated branding guidelines into your e-learning projects? Please leave a comment below to share your experience.

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Armand Nel
Megan Corker
Rich Cordrey

In my humble opinion, great IDs are problem solvers at their core. Working with branding guidelines is part of a common problem, and usually isn't difficult to solve. The scenario in which all eLearning being produced within an organization looks and feels like a disjointed conglomeration of random learning products, each with its own completely distinct flavor, is harmful to the big picture of a learning organization as well. I don't disagree that branding guidelines certainly are not designed with eLearning (or any learning) in mind, but I do think that it becomes an easy/lazy excuse for not coming up with a solution. I've yet to see a company that uses the guidelines to say that every color must unreasonably be within their palette (re: "I don't care if trees are green, our colors... Expand

Russ Lowder