Transforming your staff's potential

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Art [including instructional design] is an Idea that's Found its Perfect Form"

This video of Paul Rand defining art and aesthetics and their value has me thinking about instructional design as an art form striving to the same ends as other artistic expression, namely, truth.

In discussing how art is realized when form and content are indistinguishable, he says,

"When form predominates, meaning is blunted. When content predominates, interest lags."

I find this particularly relevant to instructional design when choosing delivery methods and composing any type of presentation. The constant battle against "death by PowerPoint" is a perfect example of content overload. The debate over the effectiveness of eLearning tools, such as Second Life, speaks to form's ability to drown out the message.

Rand also lists the "vocabulary" of visual art and aesthetics, such as order, symmetry, tension, shape, and color. What is the "vocabulary" of instructional design and its delivery in education and training? Context? Creating relevance? Or, is it elements more concrete such as "activities" and "case studies"?

What is the vocabulary of instructional design and its delivery? How do we find the balance between form and content?


Cammy Bean said...

This was great! Thank you for sharing it.

Your point on eLearning tools is right on. It's easy to get caught up in the hype of a new tool and sacrifice the content/learning experience to the fad.

Message vs. medium...

Mary Williams: said...

Thanks Cammy.

Yes, finding the balance is the key. Maybe the highest expression of instructional design as art would be creating a learning experience where learning is facilitated so well, balancing content and form (e.g. delivery methods and tools) that the it takes very little effort on the learners' part, just interest. The value, relevance, and engaging nature of the experience creates a momentum that draws the learner through the process.

LisaMeece said...

I agree, that balance is critical.

The other quote that stuck out for me was "Don't try to be original, just try to be good." Trying to be original so often ends up with cutsie components that distract from, rather than adding to, the learning. Another balance.

Mary Williams: said...

Yes, Lisa, true.

What we want in our work is effectiveness as our first priority must be the learner. Using proven means is a form of insurance (hopefully) to that end. When we experiment too wildly (e.g. without testing), we take a higher risk of lower efficacy. In today's world of just-in-time training and rapid elearning, we lose the testing time.

Michele said...

Great post, Mary, and great questions! You asked about the "vocabulary" of instructional design--I'd argue that many from art apply to instructional design, it's just that the applications and context are different. Certainly tension, symmetry, and order are all considerations in instructional design.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about learning experiences as a form of artistic expression and part of what intrigues me is the process part and what it takes to get us as designers to a place where we are able to allow ourselves access to the creativity necessary for designing great learning experiences. It seems like we can get so hung up on design as some kind of rote, scientific activity that we can easily lose sight of the artistic side of things. Thanks for sharing this great resource!

Mary Williams: said...

Michele, thanks for your thoughtful, and thought-provoking, comments.

Yes, when new learning is delivered in ways that are rote, that method can blunt interest and therefore learning. By modeling innovative synthesis and evaluation in thinking and potent communication, we can inspire it in others.

When relying on established scientific findings/processes of others, the inspiring newness fades. But, I would venture to pose that using the scientific method to explore and discover new methods is a powerful form of creativity!

Oh, Michele, you just gave me an idea for my next post. Stay tuned!