Does Instructional Design really need a new name?

Recently I read a great blog post from Connie Malamed ( wherein she made a pretty compelling case for renaming Instructional Design (ID) with a more contemporary acronym that encompasses our understanding of the needs and motivations of learners—Learning Experience Design or LX Design. 

Do you agree with Connie's assertion that the Instructional Design (ID) moniker has outlived its relevancy? Why or why not? What would you like to see ID called in the future? And how do you describe yourself today?

53 Replies
Allison LaMotte

I am going to play devil's advocate and say ask whether it is really important what we call it? After all, wasn't it Shakespeare that said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?

People outside of the e-learning industry already have a hard enough time understanding what Instructional Designers do, so I wonder if the term Learning Experience Designers will add to or detract from that confusion.

I am not personally attached to either title, but I'm interested to hear what everyone else thinks!

Bruce Graham

I am increasingly realising that what we call ourselves is pretty irrelevant.

Most people (our clients in one way or another...), are interested in what we can DO for them, not what name we have.

I have increasingly been calling myself "Chief Simplicity Officer". People ask what that means, and I can then vary the response depending on the client.

I like Connie, and her Blog post does raise some questions, but I feel that we as a community are always trying to look for new ways to classify what we do, either to join an emerging bandwagon, or to try and get more sales/work when we are floundering in the face of the (current) global tidal wave of IDs.

Let people know what you can do for them, THAT is what they are interested in. I record voiceovers, and also design/create courses? Do that make me an "LX Designer" as Connie suggests or what?

Frankly, I think she's inventing a term to try and create differentiation - I do not like her "LX" terminology. What do I do?

I simplify facts, distil information, and create training that (mainly) sorts business problems. That's what I've always done, and will always do.

I'm really not sure it matters what I call myself, and certainly, the $80k contract I just won are quite happy with "Chief Simplicity Officer", because that is THEIR language. It allows them to understand that I'll let them sleep easily at night, I'll make their business pain go away. It has nothing to do with the often bloated and self-serving language of the "learning industry".

Perhaps that's my message - be clear. "LX Design" - Really?

(Sorry Connie..........)

Cary Glenn

I like the idea of incorporating "Experience" into the title. Maybe it would move our industry away from the information download model we seem to have. While we are at it I would suggest getting rid of the divide between Designer and Developer. The technology has improved so much that, for the most part, Designers and Developers are the same person.

When people ask me what I do I reply that, "I'm an Instructional Designer and Developer." When they look at me with that confused look on their face I follow up with, "You know those elearning courses you have to take at work? I try and make them not suck so much."

Bob S

I am about as non-title driven  a person as you are going to find. Truly.  But that being said, I do think it can help clients/stakeholders better understand what we might offer by having a few "labels"....

  • Instructional/Learning/Experience Designer - While the classic definition revolves around understanding how adults learn and designing materials to suit, in point of fact this role is often the "broadest" in terms of overall scope.  Many IDs run the gamut from Project Management, Performance Consulting, Materials Creation, Course Authoring, and Learning Strategy.
  • Course/Materials/Learning Developer - Generally accepted to be the most "hands on" role. Often includes elements of Graphic Design, Media Creation, understanding of coding and browser technologies, and more. But usually more narrow in scope - ie working on a course or materials rather than an overall learning strategy for example.
  • Performance/Learning Consultant -  The thinker rather than doer as it were. Looks at business problems and how they may be solved..... including learning opportunities. Often refers actual creation of learning solutions to others once needs are identified.



Steve Flowers

Love Bob's list. Designer, Developer, Consultant are all things I've flexed into. I've added Producer at times, as that was a close fit and felt better than Project Manager that got his hands really dirty in the work.

My favorite, and one that I like because the title itself is also silent -- Invisible Assistant. 

In the last few months, I haven't done much eLearning design or development in the traditional sense. I helped design a phone response system and added my voice to help assist hundreds of thousands of customers connect with thousands of staff members. Worked on the design and programming for automated response and tracking systems to support departure processing and telework eligibility record keeping. Worked to support far flung staff with tools and supports to frame professional development. Partnered with strategy, communications, IT, finance, and operations to gain economies of scale in co-sponsored initiatives. And... I built a few courses and co-administered an LMS in between the more important stuff that directly supported the business. Best. Job. Ever. 

I can't put a title on that that comes any closer than invisible assistant;)

Connie Malamed

Trina told me about this discussion and there's been one on my website and on FB as well. It's really fun to see the responses and to not take it all too seriously one way or the other. I'm pretty sure I didn't invent the term LX Designer. I think I've seen it slowly creep into usage and wanted to throw the idea out to the community because to me, it represents the change in our focus.

Around a year ago, I changed my @elearningcoach Twitter bio, to Professional Explainer. That works too. Anyway, I think for today, I'm going to go with Imperator and then change my title every few days.

Jerson  Campos

I'm with Bruce on what we call ourselves being irrelevant and what matters is how we present ourselves to our client and what we can for them.  

Right now I'm debating if should keep the instructional designer title on my business card or change it to "That guy that does all that amazing weird stuff in Storyline".