No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Designing training literature


Hi Guys

I have been tasked with devising a best practice piece for those who are, or could be responsible for designing any training literature. I need to come up with some design rules around the format within it. I want to give some insight around the psychology of training viewpoint - colours, fonts, formats etc. to help improve the reader's engagement and retention. If any of you have any starters for me I would be grateful as always.

Many thanks


8 Responses

  1. Designing Training Literature
    Hi Sinead

    The incidence of colour blindness in white males may be higher than you thought, up to 12% depending which report you read. For females it is about 0.5%. Some have difficulty distinguishing between Red and Green, others between Blue and yellow. Something to bear in mind if you intend to include colour. Having said that, a delegate with a Visual predicate may like to see bright colours.

    My experience is that handouts that are properly bound are generally much better accepted by delegates than loose leaf. I have found a surprising amount of my loose leaf handouts in bins shortly after the session!

    For clarity for sight impaired delegates I try to use a sans serif font, Arial is good but I prefer Trebuchet MS, in no less than 11 point. I use plenty of white space/additional line spaces to help break up the text into readable “chunks”.

    The panel is out as to which looks better, justified or non justified text. My personal preference is for non justified.

    Hope this helps.


  2. A couple of ideas
    Hi Sinead,

    In terms of improving retention, have you looked at coming away from the traditional ‘manuals’ and looked at desktop items that are easy to find/use. Things that we have used in the past is a set of cards laminated and the with a paper fastener so they can be flicked through, or a spiral bound to sit upright on the desk top and can again be leafed through quickly. I’ve found that the normal manuals can tend to be put away in a desk and never looked at again.

    Hope this helps


  3. Templates and Rules

    Hi there,

    I design lots of material for lots of different companies. some like and informal look, whilst others perefer a more traditional, text-based look to materials. Regardless of client preference though, there are some rules that I always tend to follow:

    1. Set up a template where possible so that your styles for headings, bullets etc are consistent. Few things look as amateurish as inconsistency. Use a font that will appear on everyones PC regardless of version or age. I’m favouring calibri at the moment, but if in doubt, I default to Arial.

    2. Use blocks of colour to highlight key parts. Presenting materials in tables (without it necessarily looking like a table) is one of my favourite ways of presenting information cleanly, and draws the readers eye.

    3. Use diagrams as much as possible. A flow-chart or grid will be much more appealing to the reader. It also allows people to take in key information ‘at a glance’. The SmartArt tool on the latest version of word is fabulous for this!

    4. Use few colours. Some colour improves the look of the material, but I tend to stick to just 2 or 3 throughout.

    5. Start new sections on new pages. It seems obvious but in a sort-of link to the comment already made about using white space, don’t cram as much as possible onto a page. People’s eyes will tend to look to the top of a page, so putting a main header 3 lines before the end of a page means that people are likely to miss it.

    6. Use pictures selectively. Some clients love clipart, some are not so keen and prefer photographs. Selecting the right images to compliment the content and break up large amounts of text draws the eye and improves the look of the material.

    7. Make use of headers and footers. I tend to put the topic and section in the header to act as a constant reminder of the subject matter.

    8. Use bullets and numbered lists. Highlighting key words within such lists also makes it easier for the reader to scan, decide which bits are relevant and focus in on them. Long paragraphs are more likely to be ignored, and key information will be missed if it is buried in the middle.

    Don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but thats my starter for 8!

    Sheridan Webb


  4. How to design training literature

    Hi Seanade,

    The best tip I can share is a technique called – visual cognitive dissonance. This is technique that shows you how to use powerpoint to make your point more powerful. If you want to learn more there is a web site and a book callled "Killer Presentations" ( In addition I have a free white paper called : "Why Training Doesn’t Work!" that I can send you ( to effective training literature is the format  – as trainers we have many challenges and expectations to meet including the need to be aesthetically appealing, consideration of learning styles, meeting the needs of learning difficulties, the need to be environmentally friendly and having to take into account the llimited time people have to learn – adopting the "Less is More" approach.Having said all the above, I still find it very rewarding and great fun designing and creating training literature using the power of imagination, creativity and original ideas. 



  5. useful websites for training literature

    Hi Sinead

     I have to produce plenty of training literature, including material for Effective Writing workshops.

    2 websites that I always recommend for people to visit to find out more about layout and psychological readability are :

    *    British Dyslexia Association:

    *    Royal National Institute for the Blind

    It’s also helps people to read more easily if you use lower case rather than upper case as we don’t just use the letters in a word to recognise the word but the shape of the word itself.  THink of the relative shapes of ‘dog’ and ‘DOG’ – there is far more information for the eye to pick up on when you use lower case.

    And if you want some other ideas about writing documents then I’ve got an article called ‘7 Steps to Readers Heaven’ that I’d be happy to send you. 

    Warm regards,

    Stella Collins



  6. Keep it Simple

    Very good advice by other commentators here.

    Just to add some more.

    Its always good to start with the objective. The purpose of training is to make the delegate become aware of a new concept or learn a new skill. Retention is the key, which means  your content needs to be memorable long after the course. This means:

    • You slides should be catchy, informative but simple. Use small amount of text, enhance with images, use large bold fonts to reflect importance.
    • Workbooks must be readable after the course. A print out of slides is the worst thing a trainer can do.
    • You should take steps to minimise note taking by delegates during the course. They should feel comfortable that what you are saying is in the workbook, so they can focus on content rather than worrying about missing a important detail.
    • Mix up content so delegates don’t get tired. Show theory with bullet points, then tell a story, then show some images/videos, then ask them to participate in an exercise and follow with a test. Use accelerated learning principles to enhance the effect.
    • Use plenty of bullet points and step by step guides. It is much easier to go through these than to go through paragraph after paragraph of text. Of course, you need be careful how you show these bullet points in the slides as you need to minimise the textual content as much as you can.

    Designing training materials is both an art and a science and does not come easily without a lot of practice, persistence and hard work.

    Downloadable training materials can make your life easier.

    Ehsan Honary


  7. Designing training materials – a few comments
    I don’t have a lot to add to what others have said, but as an IT trainer, I tend to produce guides and notes that are perhaps more procedural than those that other trainers design. So here are some points I’ve found useful.

    Font: I tend to use Tahoma or Verdana rather than Arial or Trebuchet as the 1 is eaier to distinguish from the lower case L. Calibri is also good, but not available on older PCs (relevant for downloadable materials).

    Style: Using, “To do x, click/choose blah blah blah …” works better than, “Click/choose blah blah blah to do x” as it is easier a) for delegates to see immediately why they are doing something and b) it is quicker for them to find the right section when using a course workbook as a reference after the event.

    If you’ll need to refer to activities included in printered materials, title and number them clearly and make sure that the page numbers are the same in all “editions” of your materials. Seems obvious, I know, but I’ve delivered courses for other organizations where this hasn’t been the case.

No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!