Why Good Multimedia Design Is Critical For Learning

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How to improve your multimedia designs for learning

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been the victim of countless bullet points on a presentation slide! Even if I can’t see your raised hand, I can sympathize with you.

At Enable Education, we work with many subject matter experts who have been given the task of onboarding or training new hires. Has this happened to you? While you might truly know your niche, building a multimedia slide deck designed for learning might be outside your wheelhouse. Bad multimedia design can hinder the clarity and effectiveness of the message, and “death-by-bullet-point” is a significant culprit. We’re not here to judge you on your past slide decks…read on for five easy-to-follow multimedia design principles to make your next training presentations way more compelling for your new employees.

1. Redundancy Principle

Verbal redundancy is saying word-for-word what appears on a presentation slide. The brain tires out when it processes the same information from the eyes and ears. New employees will already be overwhelmed in their first days, weeks, and even months on the job, and they may have a limited memory capacity for how much information they can juggle at any given time. Redundancy overloads our memory capacity and leads to less learning.

Tip 1: Don’t duplicate your information! You can use images, graphics, and diagrams to replace excessive text, and limit the verbal information to the audio track.

2. Segmentation Principle

Complex ideas are inevitable, but they don’t have to be complicated. Our brain needs time to understand new information before it moves on to processing other bits of information. Imagine you are given a whole baked potato and are told to eat in one bite: it’s nearly impossible! It’s not so hard, however, to cut it up and eat it piece by piece. Trainees will learn better if you break ideas down into steps or parts. 

Tip 2: Break complex ideas down into steps or parts. Our brain needs time to digest the information; the smaller the pieces, the better!

3. Coherence Principle

Have you ever watched a 24-hour news channel? There’s a talking head, text scrolling at the bottom, weather reports in a corner, and other news in the middle of the screen. Our brain has to work hard to sort out relevant information. In presentations, anything that’s extraneous from the content will reduce your trainee’s learning. Give them only what they need, when they need it.

Tip 3: Avoid using irrelevant images, intricate background patterns or music, and distracting text animations. Help out your learners and highlight the key, relevant information. 

4. Split Attention Principle

Multimedia presentations often assume a fast pace. When learners have to shift their gaze back and forth quickly to put related details together, their brain will have a hard time linking concepts. When you label the image of a machine with numbers and explain what the numbers mean in a legend, you split their attention. Learning is impaired when attention is divided. If someone is taking on a new role, their performance–and perhaps even their safety–could be affected if they didn’t have a chance to absorb critical information.

Tip 4: Keep presentation elements close in space and time! We remember best when related details are close to each other.

5. Image Superiority Principle

Vision is believed to be the most dominant sense in visually-abled people. Your trainees will learn more information from relevant images than from blocks of text. It’s critical your onboarding materials include images and engaging graphics. 

Tip 5: A picture is worth a thousand words. Replace redundant text with relevant images, graphics, and tables to create easy-to-picture mental models and improve memory. 

Clean visuals help you learn!

Do you shudder at the idea of standing up to lead a presentation or training session? This is intimidating for many people and it can feel uncomfortable if you’re suddenly responsible for providing a new employee with a meaningful onboarding experience. Why do you think we see presentations filled with extraneous information, irrelevant images, or jargon-heavy text? To combat their nervousness, presenters often include all of that information for themselves, in case they forget to mention critical points. Having a transcript of your message on the slides can be comforting, but also damaging to your trainee’s learning. One important rule to keep in mind when designing training materials: the presentation is for your audience, not for yourself. 

We Make Onboarding Easy

If giving onboarding and training presentations is outside your comfort zone, we can help. Our content creation and learning experience designers take all the stress out of designing training experiences so you can focus on what YOU do best.

At Enable Education, we work with subject matter experts to create compelling, engaging, and customized training materials. Our onboarding and employee training solutions incorporate solid experience and visual design best practices. Take a look at your own training materials. Is there anything you can change to make them clean and engaging? Let us know in the comments below!


Fenesi, B., Heisz, J. J., Savage, P. I., Shore, D. I., & Kim, J. A. (2014). Combining best-practice and experimental approaches: redundancy, images, and misperceptions in multimedia learning. The Journal of Experimental Education82(2), 253–263.

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