Graphics and branding guidelines

Sep 18, 2015

Hi all,

I read Trina Rimmer's great article:

I'm facing a similar issue. Our branding team is wanting to control the look/feel of an illustrated piece of content within one of our online courses, down to the colors of the clothes of the characters, fonts, and borders. Though I feel branding guidelines are good to have for the overall course container, it's very limiting to apply strictly to all course content. Are there any research-based articles on this topic? That would be helpful to have in discussions with our branding people.



7 Replies
David Tait

Hi Angela,

I personally don't know of any articles that you can use in your argument.

I agree that it can be very limiting having to adhere to strict brand guidelines but it can also be a good challenge. Point #2 in Trina's article quotes my thoughts from a previous discussion and I think it is relevant again here.

If you believe that the Brand Team are wrong you have to build an argument to show them why they are wrong. As we are talking specifically about visuals you really have to show them: 

  • a version that is on brand (after all it is their job to protect the brand),
  • alongside this show them the version that you want to use, make sure you have a great argument as to why this is the best option otherwise they can (quite rightly) fall back on the fact that all communications must adhere to the guidelines.
  • Thirdly, you can blend the two versions together to create a version that satisfies the branding criteria but also allows you to integrate some of the elements that you feel benefit the overall look and feel of the course.

If you do a good job on the 'off-brand' versions they might be more open to accepting you ideas.

In my experience not many of the brand guidelines that I've been given to work with were written with e-learning in mind. With the right approach however it is possible to influence how the e-learning brand guidelines look going forward but you might have to yield some ground to the Brand Team so they don't feel that you're stepping on their toes.

Phil Mayor

I would agree with David, elearning is a niche as far as Brand Guidelines go, however when required to use these I have always been signposted to the web identity guidelines.

I often find with Brand teams that you need to use "baby steps" to instigate any changes, it is better to work with them though and see if their are any compromise, I don't think there is any research that looks at elearning and brandy identity guidelines.

Bob S

General Tip: It may be important to remind the branding folks that your training materials are strictly for INTERNAL USE ONLY.   Many organizations are a bit more flexible (overtly or otherwise) with internal branding as long as it still conforms to some key criteria.

In fact that might a way to open the conversation if they don't have a specific branding guide for e-learning/training....    "What are the top key non-negotiable branding elements required for internal training materials"

David Tait

What Bob says is definitely worth considering as long as the training is definitely for internal use only, sometimes it isn't and it is being developed for customers etc.

It's also worth bearing in mind that with a little creativity and planning it is quite often possible to create 'engaging graphics and images that resonate with learners' that are on-brand.

I'm not saying that it is the case here but I feel that too many people fall in to the trap of thinking on-brand is a bad thing because it requires them to think more rigidly or that they don't have the necessary design skills to work with brand guidelines easily.




Ryan DeWitt

Very helpful thread... late to this however I've found that taking Phil's "baby steps" and maintaining module brand consistency with borders, fonts, colors, leaves room for the contextual learning content inside a slide.  The good news once a template is decided on, a few risks have been taken and accepted, hope-fully your'e good to be more creative. 

Trina Rimmer

Hi Angela. First of all, I'm so glad you found the article helpful. It looks like many of the folks who shared their ideas for that write-up have also weighed in here, so I'd say you're in very good hands. 

Just to echo a few other folks, I'm not aware of any research-based articles specific to branding guidelines and e-learning, but there are broader conclusions about the important role of visual design for learning (with evidentiary backing) cited in E-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer. Also, Connie Malamed's recent book, Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning Professionals may have some evidence-based assertions you can cite as you persuade your branding folks to loosen up the creative reins a bit.

Good luck and please keep us posted on your progress! I'm sure others would love to learn from your experiences in this area.

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