How Do I Choose a Design for My E-Learning Course?

There’s a lot of life wisdom to the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” However, with an e-learning course, visual appeal is a huge part of engaging learners with the material. Many learners are quick to judge an ugly course as unprofessional or boring. Luckily, some apps, like Rise, make it easy for you by providing beautifully designed lessons where all you have to do is pop in your content.

However, if you’re using another authoring app, you should spend some time thinking about design in the planning phase of your project to give your new e-learning course the best foot forward—and I’m talking about more than just  choosing a template. You’ll want to give careful consideration to supporting elements like color schemes, fonts, and imagery to give your course the right look for your subject matter.

Investing a little time up front to select the right details will pay big dividends in the visual cohesiveness of your final project. Here are some tips to help you define the right look for your course.

Apply Branding Guidelines

If your organization has branding guidelines in place, you should become familiar with them. Some companies require all of their business collateral to follow a certain look and feel, and have a common voice and tone. The guidelines might dictate how and where to use the logo, its size, which fonts to use, what colors to use in the color scheme, and so on.

If these types of guidelines are in place at your organization and applicable to e-learning, ask for access to them as soon as you can. Usually, your company’s branding or marketing team will know where to find them.

Identify the Course Theme

If you aren’t working with tight guidelines and have a bit more freedom, you might want to consider what the theme is for your course and let the theme naturally guide your decisions.

For example, if you’re using Storyline 360 and you want to use the Content Library template below for a course about hospital procedures, you may want to adapt the colors, fonts, and characters used.

Neutral Template Design

For a medical-themed course, it might make more sense to use blue and teal tones, typography that looks modern and sleek, and characters wearing appropriate scrubs or a lab coat like in the example below:

Medical Theme

Or, if you’re designing a workplace safety course, you may want to swap out the modern headline font with something chunkier. And trade the blues and teals for oranges and yellows. Here’s what that same slide looks like after some construction-themed adaptations:

Construction Theme

See how much of a difference those small changes make? Letting the theme guide you in your design choices is a great way to immerse your learners in the course.

Select Header and Body Fonts

Like we saw in the previous section, it’s important to choose a font that works well with your subject matter. If you’re designing a fun course intended for a casual, young audience, you might consider a funky or cool font. For a serious subject you would choose a more demure and classic font style.

When it comes to fonts, it is a best practice to select a more decorative font for headings and titles, and a simple, easy-to-read classic font (think Verdana, Calibri, Century Gothic, etc.) for your body text. Be aware that some fonts have an intended purpose: display fonts are typically used for a single sentence and become difficult to read when used for paragraphs of text; body fonts are easier for readers when the text is longer.


Keep in mind that the main purpose of the text in your course is to clearly convey information to your learners. Inasmuch as you want your sentences to be clear and concise, you also want the font for your text to be legible and easy to read. Remember, too, that the color of your font will impact its legibility. Make sure it stands out crisply against the background.

Glean Inspiration from Existing Examples and Templates

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to start designing your own e-learning course layouts, there’s no need to stress: we’ve got you covered! Content Library includes 9+ million beautiful course assets, including templates, characters, photos, illustrations, icons, and videos. Start out with a template, then change the colors, fonts, and illustrations to fit your needs in just a few clicks. It’s that easy!

And if you want to see what other community members have created, check out the downloads, examples, and weekly challenges on E-Learning Heroes.

Here are some handy links to other resources on this topic:



For your next e-learning course, try these simple tips to save design time and wow your learners with great visual appeal. Do you have your own tips about how to choose a design? If you do, please leave a comment below! 

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