Ever since Microsoft discontinued their clip art gallery, we’ve all been scrambling to find inexpensive or free stock photos. But in a way, this is a good thing. The images in that clip art gallery were looking dated and dull. And once you start checking out other options, you realize there’s a gorgeous world of visual inspiration from a much larger pool of talented artists and photographers.
You may already have sites you like. I have been finding photos that work for me at Unsplash.com and Deathtothestockphoto.com. Both offer free sets of images every week or so. The latter also offers a fee-based subscription plan. If you want to swim in a larger pool, check out Stockup stock photos.com; it’s a handy collection of free stock photo sites. Whatever sites you use, always check the permissions for each image. Some require attribution, some don’t.
Once you find some good sites, how do you know what images to pick? Here’s a suggestion: if your course’s script doesn’t already include a theme on which you can build, you can still look for groups of images that have a common vibe to them and create your own visual metaphor for your course.
For example, suppose you’re doing a course on awareness, or alertness, or even just communication. It’s easy to find a series of images involving cups of coffee. Add some text, and you have a title page. But you also will need to make some choices about font and font color. You could do something like this:
But it’s not as legible as it needs to be. So you could lighten the image and try a different font color:
The bottom line of course needs to be readability, so play around and see what looks best. If you don’t already have in mind a color scheme, you can easily create one, even without using Photoshop or a similar high-end tool: simply drop your image onto a PowerPoint slide, right-click it and easily alter the photo’s look dramatically with the image editing tools:
And once you settle on a visual style you like, you can alter your other images to align with that style. For instance, here’s an image I can use for all my section introductions:
As you can see, with a little creativity you can collect free stock photos from various sites and turn them into a cohesive visual theme for your project, which will give your course a real touch of class. Now that you’ve been released from using the same old clipart in every project, get out there, explore your options, and have fun being creative! And if you have free stock photo sites you love, share the URL in the Comments below. Thanks!
PS: Tom Kuhlmann over at Articulate and I seem to have had similar things on our minds this week. For more on finding and using stock photos, check out Tom’s blog.
I got carried away again. The Articulate eLearning Heroes Challenge (#50) for this week was actually very simple: create an image of a workspace using the very popular (thanks, Apple) flat graphic design style. Easy, right? This is actually not a style I’ve really embraced, so that made it a good reason to take on the challenge. But as Articulate’s Tom Kuhlmann had just released a set of flat graphic assets for free use, I didn’t want to replicate what he had already done. That made it even more of a challenge.
Creating some flat graphics was more fun that I expected! For instance, I started making a flat photo frame with four images in it, and when I had it in front of me, I realized that if I put a blue gradient into each of my four rectangles, the picture frame suddenly became a window to the outside world. Granted, I can be easily amused. Eventually, I changed the window to a cork board because I needed the real estate. But it was surprisingly fun playing with simple shapes and assembling them in various ways to create other objects. Even so, graphics for their own sake wasn’t holding my interest long term. So I decided to make it an interactive, exploratory workspace sample, and to give it a specific context.
Suddenly, Articulate released the long-awaited Storyline version 2! I opened it up and laughed–the entire interface now boasts a “flat” design! Once I started looking around, I got lost, the way I get lost when I walk into Costco and see all those big, long aisles and all those shelves…. So while I’ve barely scratched the surface of the nifty-looking new features, I did find time to incorporate two motion paths, and a slider. Motion paths were pretty easy to sort out; wrapping my head around the workings of the slider was a learning experience for me. But the end result is quite fun. I also incorporated an elegant calculator, courtesy of eLearning Locker. Creating a mini, flat version took some time, but arranging the little squares became a kind of zen exercise.
Anyway, better late than never, here is my submission for the flat graphics challenge. My thought was that something like this could serve as the beginning of a new manager training program. After the manager explores the workspace, then we could present them with a number of different scenario-based challenges, using the team characters and information introduced in the workspace. Branching would make it possible to play out different sets of results from the manager’s choices. I know, I could have stopped with just creating a flat workspace. But once the ideas start percolating….
To launch my new sample, just click on the image in this post.
Thanks for another fun challenge, David Anderson!
That way, the course is more thoroughly and effectively vetted before it is built, saving everyone time and potential headaches. I would also add that for companies who keep their learning teams small, it’s that much more important to have a well-thought-out archival system in place, to keep a record of what has been created (and agreed to in writing with clients), and ensure that all source files area readily available should the chief eLearning team member be out or leave the company.