Create Your Own E-Learning Characters with Pictograms

E-Learning Challenge #53: Challenge | Recap

One of the more popular activities in our PowerPoint workshops is to build custom e-learning characters using basic shapes. To get an idea of the types and styles of characters, take a look at Tom’s recent post on building e-learning characters

The pictogram characters are by far the most popular. Mike Taylor shared this technique in a recent post on creating simple e-learning graphics. That’s one of those posts every course designer should bookmark.

Why is this approach so popular? It’s simple and doesn’t require graphic design skills. And once you see how the basic shapes come together, you’ll never look at pictograms the same. 

Think LEGO® to Build Pictogram Characters

If you’ve ever played with Legos, you know how basic shapes are combined to create anything imaginable. Building pictograms is a lot working with bricks in digital format.

Let’s look at the 3-step process for assembling a generic pictogram character:

Easy, right? The biggest challenge for most users is knowing which shapes to use. That’s where it helps to see like an artist.

How to See Like an Artist

You’ve probably heard that artists see differently. This means they see past the final object and see the lines and shapes that make up the final object. This is a skill anyone can learn.

One way you can learn to see pictograms differently, is to pull apart finished objects. You do that by using PowerPoint’s Ungroup feature. Let’s look at another one of the free pictograms Mike shared.

Select one of the characters and ungroup it like you would regular clip art. Once it’s ungrouped, apply an outline using a contrasting color.

The outlines reveal the shapes and presents a clear view of how the shapes work together. The outline is also a way to add perspective to your characters.

Accessorize Your Characters

Character outfits and uniforms are essential to customizing the characters. You don’t need an extensive wardrobe for your characters. You just need one or two signature pieces that identify your character’s occupation and industry.

Challenge of the week

This week your challenge is to create your own pictogram characters for a specific industry or learning topic.

You can use the free pictogram characters as your starting point, or you can build everything on your own. The emphasis in this challenge is to customize the characters so they align with an industry.

Possible topics:

  • Medical

  • Science

  • Automotive

  • Military

  • Insurance

  • Education

  • Hospitality

  • Retail


Here are some resources to help get you started with PowerPoint’s shapes.

PowerPoint graphics

Blog posts and articles

Last week’s challenge

Before you jump into this week’s challenge, check out the interactive slider examples you and your fellow community members shared in last week’s challenge:

Interactive Sliders in E-Learning: Challenge | Recap

Wishing you a pic-tastic week, E-Learning Heroes!

More about the e-learning challenges

The weekly challenges are ongoing opportunities to learn, share, and build your e-learning portfolios. You can jump into any or all of the previous challenges anytime you want. I’ll update the recap posts to include your demos.

Even if you’re using a trial version of Studio ’13, Storyline, or Storyline 2, you can absolutely publish your challenge files. Just sign up for a fully functional, free trial, and have at it. And remember to post your questions and comments in the forums; we're here to help.

Richard Watson
Dianne  Hope
Gena Hocson
Amy Doherty
Jackie Van Nice

By the way - nice work everyone! Before doing mine I especially appreciated a video from Mike Taylor that was part of a blog post David linked to above. Mike does a great job of explaining some of the finer points of working with shapes in PowerPoint. I know I'm repeating the link, but it helped me quite a bit: @Jeff: I like the different styles you created. Nice colors and lines. @Paul: I think you and Jeff are already quite comfortable in the pictogram world! @Kristen: Loved your backgrounds. Commented on your blog. :) @Bonita: Welcome and congrats on your very first challenge! I'm a former Napervillian myself. :) @Dianne: Looks great! Hope you have a wonderful time this coming week! @Richard: Nice collection... Expand