It's done! Flat design course example

Nov 16, 2013

You may have last heard from me here.

Talk about panic.  I was very VERY lucky in two areas:  1.  I got a huge extension on the project.  2.  I had a large community of support.

It took a total of 35 days to complete about a 45 minute course.  All from scratch.  And they weren't just 35 normal days.  It was 35 12-18 hour days.  Someone said I could get it done in a couple days.  If I had done a basic course, that would have been possible, but I wanted something that was going to get their attention. 

My major stumbling block was were to start.  Basically, all I had to work from was an audit that was performed last year.  There were no other supporting documents.  Not even any official policies.  And my discussions with the SMEs was basically them reiterating and expounding upon the security audit.  So I had scenarios in mind, but that was about it. 

Then I came upon some inspiration of where to even begin designing. 

First it was the weekly challenge of designing a flat course.

That led me to Tim Slade's course example which was my leaping off point.

Which also led me to one of his commenters who gave me a way to work Tim's animations into a non-linear course.  (all in the layers)

When I was laying everything out, I found this blog post which made me look for an easy way to build the course in a grid. 

I found the PhiMatrix which is a really simple free .exe that lays a grid over anything on your screen.  I simply set and locked the grid, traced it, save as an image, then pasted it into the slides, and hid it when I didn't need it anymore.  (all my slides still have it hidden, actually)

For the content I pulled almost every trick out of my "engagement" hat.   The branching scenarios were the time killer. 

I also use my own "player" with my own buttons that I can put in, take out or animate as I need. 

The last thing to be done was the introduction.  I had seen this video infographic last year.  It obviously stuck with me and I wanted to create something similar.  As we all know, storyline has a few limitations that wouldn't let me do everything he did in the video.

I was about to download an Adobe product when I came across this Screenr.  It gave me the idea that I could do the whole thing using layers.  (because I wanted a music soundtrack, I couldn't do multiple slides.)  The intro is a blank base layer with about 25 layers on top of it.  I will tell you, however, because it's such a graphic heavy slide, it made my program crash on about 10 occasions.  There was one night I was in tears over what I lost that night.

Here is a small sample of the course.  It's only the intro and the menus.  But it gives you an idea.  If I can, I'll upload the whole thing so you can sample it.  (If you're reading this after 11/26/13, the link won't work)

I'd attach the whole course here, but I used a bunch of graphics from Shutterstock so I can't legally redistribute them. 

Speaking of shutterstock, there's a fantastic character artist out there who goes by Artenot.  He's one of the very few designers out there who has characters in multiple (like, hundreds) of poses.  They're all cartoon, but that's generally what I look for. 

Let me know of any feedback you have and thanks for all the community support.

42 Replies
Kevin Hart

Hello all.  I'm a little overwhelmed with the positive feedback.  Thank you!  

I know that a great majority of designers out there do not have the time nor the latitude to develop a video-infographic like this.  The introduction alone was a solid 36-40 working hours for a 2:45 result.  The majority of that time was spent working around the limitations of Storyline animation (like moving something from one side of the slide to another.)  If I had experience in Adobe After Effects, it might have taken half that time.  But, if you're average per minute of training is usually an hour, 18 hours for 2:45 is still a lot.

There's been a lot of discussion about how long it takes to produce a course in these forums.   The typical answer was 1 hour/course minute.   I don't know what the courses looked like so it's tough to compare.   This whole course is custom (graphics to buttons to interactions).  I did research on design and fonts and such.  I also did a LOT of research on the actual topic because of the limited information I had from the SMEs (all I had from them were the behaviors they'd like to change, which is actually amazing considering most SMEs start with, "here's the information I'd like dumped.")   I'd estimate that the whole thing took about 300 hours start to finish for a 45 minute course.  Way above the average.

Speaking of time, I'll try to answer Cheng and Leslie's question about how I timed the animated information so it's not too long and it's not too short.

I have a ticking clock right next to my desk.  When I want animated information, I'll put that information into the slide and then actually time how long it takes me to read it.   I'll silently read, saying the words in my head (instead of reading as fast as most of us usually do), and then tap my fingers along with the clock to see how long it takes for me to read it.  I'll repeat that several times reading it at different speeds.  I'll also read it aloud a couple times with the same process.  Then I take the average of those speeds, add 0.5 seconds to accommodate the animation time, and that's how long it's on the screen. 

For example, one text animation I have is for:

"To hide his tracks, he installs a jammer virus onto the servers"

Fast read: 4 seconds

Average read: 7 seconds

Slow read: 11 seconds

Average= 7.3 round to 7.  Add the 1/2 second.  You get 7.5 seconds.  (see attached)

I'll also ask coworkers nearby to come in for two minutes to tell me how the timings are.

Hope that helps!

Eimear O Neill

Well I must just add another big thank you Kevin for taking the time to post your sample and your rationale and route to the end product! We forget and probably under appreciate the creative path we take to get inspired and find design ideas..often it is a mixture of many influences like you have shared here All worth it in the end!

Jeff Clay

First off, I echo the sentiments above. Great work, and any of us who work in Storyline (and appreciate the speed it provides) know that that took a while. Especially working out the timing and the "little things" that made it great.

I have to do a presentation for our customer service team to show off their recent great results and how their team leaders have coached them. While I've been designing with Flat Design for about a month now (thanks to Tim Slade's stuff!), this will be the first presentation I'll be doing incorporating video, audio, design and not having to worry about objectives, assessments or how to make compliance fun.

Nice job, and thanks for the inspiration!!

Joshua Roberts

You deserve all the positive responses Kevin, it's a great inspiration for people to see what they can achieve when they literally pour their hearts into a piece for 45 days.

I just want to say a big thank you for documenting everything and showing the lengths that you've gone to on this project. Big congratulations Kevin.

Zara Ogden

One of the issues that we have is learner use of our content. It is a challenge to get ppl to realize how to navigate (i know right?). The thing is that our learners are over 50, typically. I loved the way you introduced navigation, buttons, and a reminder that you have to do it all and how to see how far you have come.

Thank you for sharing.

Kevin Hart

Shucks, folks.  Thank you!!  

Answers first:

Darlene, I actually spend an inordinate amount of time listening to soundtrack music... by choice.  Most of that searching is on my own time at home only because I enjoy that kind of music it doesn't seem like work.   Jewelbeat or Freeplay music are my go-to sites.  If I like something, I buy it.  (99 cents each).  Both the pieces you heard were from Jewelbeat.  They have been sitting in my unused music folder for over a year waiting for the right course to go into.

David Steffeck, I get faster on certain things with every course.  Interactions or variable changes that used to take forever are a breeze now.  My time killers are when I try new things.    Font research.  Animations.   Branching scenarios.  Those were all new for me.   What I posted was the third design revision.  Had I stuck with the first one, it wouldn't have taken nearly as long.  If I were working on a series, I would most likely reuse the same design for the series.  However, all I've worked on here are stand-alone courses.  And, as such,  don't believe that they should all look the same. 

Someday I may be the 1 hour/ course minute guy.  As long as I'm creating custom buttons and graphics all by myself, that probably won't happen.   But, like everything else, the more I do it, the faster I get. 


I'm really, REALLY happy to hear that this is a creative inspiration to others.  I can honestly think of no higher compliment.    Had there been serious time-constraints, what you see would not have become reality.  When time is on the line, design takes a backseat to content.   Design, as I'm using the word, doesn't just mean formatting or layout (which I believe is as important as content) but the complete concept of colors, icons, graphics, fonts and (though there's arguments around here about this) music. 

Think of it like a house. Let's assume you've got a solid foundation and a solid infrastructure.  After that, it's not all that difficult to lay out a logical floorplan  with doors, windows and lights where they need to be.   But if those rooms are all painted a dull gray, the lights look like the standard contractor-grade, and the floors are public-school linoleum tile, no one's going to want to spend much time in that house no matter how amazingly well it's built.  

Bring in the designer who changes out the lighting, adds the right colors and furniture, throws in some cool features like a hidden bookcase, a TV that comes down from the ceiling, and maybe coffee bar for good measure, and you've got a place where people not only want to hang-out, they want to explore. 

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