Hmmm…so you have a custom e-learning development project. Do you want it to set the mood of Old Blue Eyes or do you want the modernity of a Lady GaGa performance? Had you even considered the ” mood” of your e-learning project? Believe it or not, the mood or tone of your e-learning piece can be as important and compelling as the content.  And the tone is impacted by the design approach, the music, the illustration or photo style and the many other other subtle details of the custom e-learning project design. It is critical to the training content development discovery and scoping process to really develop a description of the tone you wish the piece to express. And it can help your e-learning development partner to know if you want it to feel more like Frank than Lady GaGa. In fact, pop culture references can really provide cues to the overall feel of any custom e-learning development project. Using these references, which are readily available and relateable for most people, can greatly enhance a design brief. For example, a client wanted a very engaging, thematic module series for a youthful, diverse sales team. The creative brainstorming session with the client revealed that:

  • they loved a “cartoon” illustration approach
  • they wanted it to be “hip” like This American Life
  • they wanted custom music to reflect a lively and relevant sales team
  • they wanted the characters to be realistic but stylized
  • they wanted the series to represent their diverse employees, global locations and wide range of clients

The module content focus was for computer application training, a necessary and vital part of the sales team’s corporate life. But one in which they had very little natural interest. They viewed it as a necessary evil. The challenge for the sales enablement team was to create a custom e-learning series that would not only provide the information necessary but would generate excitement and interest in the applications. Because they carefully considered their target audience and applied that knowledge to the design and tone of the project, the resulting custom sales application training was a resounding success.You can do the same thing with your online soft skills training, customer service skills training, compliance training, sales training, onboarding or any type of training. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team:

What are your preferences for characters, motion graphics, etc?

  • Style (pick a character type)
  • Tone (funny, serious, casual, business, etc)
  • Humor (dry, wacky, ironic, juvenile, etc)
  • Color palette
  • Representation (realistic, abstract, stylized)
  • Media type (photo, illustration)

How do you want your audience to view this project?

  • “Tech –savvy”
  • “Direct & accurate”
  • “Slick & hip”
  • “Fun & friendly”
  • “People-centric”
  • “Wacky & wild”
  • “Gritty & real”
  • “Don’t know”
  • “Don’t care”
  • Other: ________

How do these preferences align with the perception of you and/or the your brand?

How do these preferences speak to and address your target audience?

For expert consultation on your custom e-learning development project contact Margie Herron at And take a look at the some of KMI’s custom e-learning development work at: