Visual Thinking and UX Design

Instructional Design, Storyboarding

Research inquiry on visual thinking and UX design. Two instructional design frameworks that interest me. 

Visual Thinking

I first heard of visual thinking during my first semester in my Instructional Design masters program. This framework for delivering complex information using visual media helps organize thoughts and improve our ability to think and communicate. It is especially a great method for instructional designers and educators when designing curriculum to externalize thought processes, making them more clear, explicit and actionable.

As a corporate trainer for a small healthcare call center in Colorado, I began to implement visual thinking strategies (VTS) when designing training and eLearning courses. Today, I continue to use pen and paper, dry-erase boards, and lots of sticky notes. I need tools that are tangible enough to quickly record my thoughts and ideas but also move or erase them during the design process. I tried using software tools for this process but I ended up spending too much time formatting and not really thinking creatively. Take a look at some of my design process examples (process in action / course structure). Using paper to draw out my ideas seemed more natural to me. 

To some people, the thought of having to draw is daunting; however, I don’t believe you have to be an artist to go through this process. Drawing is a natural process for thinking, exploring ideas and learning. Visual thinking, when used to externalize internal thinking processes, is not about drawing perfectly.

Visual thinking is not only used when designing courses or presentations. VTS can be used to strengthen learners’ communication and critical thinking skills, including creativity. By using visuals and asking the following questions, learners will feel encouraged to freely share their perspectives and thought process out loud:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?

It is best to start with a question that prods viewers to consider the visual in an open-ended way. Then, follow with a question that challenges learners to support their views using evidence in the image. During this process, remember to give viewers time to study the image and formulate initial thoughts, then ask questions that will aid them in communicating their thoughts out loud. Finally, the third question implies that there is more in the image to be uncovered, contemplated, and discussed.

More on Visual Thinking

Inquiry Method

I had a general idea of the keywords I wanted to use when searching for information about visual thinking. I began by doing a Google search of “what is visual thinking?” which found 370,000,000 results so I decided to try something else. I knew I wanted to be more specific with my results so I searched “visual thinking for design” this providing me with 272,000 results. I was drawn to the second result, a PDF article with three book reviews by different authors. The book review of “Visual Thinking for Design by Colin Ware” mentions a chapter which focuses on the process of design which led me to my next inquiry “visual thinking in the creative process.”

By this point, I began thinking about how I practice visual thinking when I design courses and training material for my job. This thought triggered a current need, increasing critical thinking skills for our employees. I searched the university’s library for articles, books, or other resources regarding “visual thinking AND critical thinking” – the articles I found also mentioned problem solving so I added that keyword to my search.

I felt comfortable with what I had found so far but made note of a few articles to further my research. I’m particularly interested in implementing data driven critical thinking assessments to create measurable objectives.

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User Experience Design (UXD or UED)

This is a topic that always created more questions for me because it’s a concept that is applicable in various frameworks or modes of thinking when designing instruction. I always thought that I was always designing training for users; however, I learned that there is a process that can be followed to create effective instructional material that enhances the users’ satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.

After all, as instructional designers and educators, we want learners to retain the knowledge we introduce. To do this, we must think like UX designers.

The UX design process (Minhas, 2018):

  1. Understand: The UXD process begins by first understanding the requirements, creating user personas, and define use cases. Get to know the users by meeting, talking, and observing them in their environment.
  2. Research: This process involves getting to know the competition and researching the latest UX trends. Knowing this information is key because it generates ideas.  
  3. Sketch: This is where you gather ideas and begin using creativity to draw and create wireframes. How do you want the product to look? Evaluate your ideas/sketches and re-draw.
  4. Design: Design images and create prototypes. This is also where UX guidelines are defined.
  5. Implement: Time to implement functionality and build experience. Technical functionality can be done during the early stages of the process, while design phase is in progress.
  6. Evaluate: After implementation, it is imperative the product is evaluated for its usability, ease of use, flexibility, purpose/intent, and user engagement.

More on UX Design Process

Inquiry Method

Again, I chose to begin my research about user experience design by doing a Google search. My initial search provided me with 1,340,000,000 results! Although top results were helpful, I wanted to be a bit more specific so I added quotation marks to my search keywords. “What is user experience design?” provided me with 40,100. When reading through the first few results, I saw a post from UX Planet that described the user experience design process. This is what I wanted! I thought I should look through the university’s library to see if I could get peer-reviewed articles about UX design process. When searching for “(user experience design) AND (elearning)” I found 4,410 results. Through this search I found an eBook that focused on creating eLearning courses so I downloaded it. Quite honestly, I was impressed by the UX Planet post I had found through Google because it simplified the entire UX design process.

What frameworks or methods help you when creating instructional material or other media to deliver information? 

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Brumberger, E. (2009). Technical communication, 56(2), 188-189. Retrieved from

Gray, D. (n.d.). What is visual thinking? Retrieved from

Hubbard, R. (2013). The really useful elearning instruction manual : your toolkit for putting elearning into practice. Retrieved from

Minhas, S. (2018, April 23). User Experience Design Process – UX Planet. Retrieved from

Moeller, M., Cutler, K., Fiedler, D., & Weier, L. (2013). Visual thinking strategies = creative and critical thinking. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(3), 56-60. doi:10.1177/003172171309500312


10 Things Successful People Do to Motivate Themselves

Motivation, People Development

REPOST from ceolifestyle by Nelson Wang. 

When I was 20 years old and studying at UCLA, I flunked an Economics class. I was devastated. Guess what happened? I bounced back. I got an A when I retook the course.

When I was 22, I interviewed with 4 different managers at a Fortune 100 company and was ranked pretty much last in every interview. I didn’t get a single job offer. I was frustrated. Guess what happened? I bounced back. I have my dream job now.

When I was 25, I created 9 iPhone apps, all of which failed miserably. I spent a ridiculous amount of time and money building them and felt really bummed. Guess what happened? Since then, I’ve built another 4 iPhone apps and all 4 of them hit the top 100 in the Business, Lifestyle and Entertainment section.

When I was 28, I found out my mentor and friend Erik, who was like a brother to me, passed away from cancer. That was one of the toughest times in my life. Guess what happened? I bounced back. Because that’s what Erik would have wanted.

What I’ve noticed over the last 33 years of my life is that there is a recurring pattern to successfully motivating myself. This pattern helped me get back on track, even during times that felt like rock bottom. I’ve also asked numerous executives from Cisco, MTV, Bank of America, VMware, Box and Optimizely what their secrets to motivation are. In addition to that, I’ve also read numerous books on motivation from authors like Tony Robbins to Daniel Pink (Author of “Drive”).

I’ve put together a list of the 10 things successful people do to motivate themselves.

I’ve never shared this list – until now.

Here are the top 10:

1. Understand your why.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

Understand your purpose and it will fuel your drive.

If I told you that it was your job to sort through a box of potatoes and to throw away the rotten ones, would you feel a strong sense of purpose? Or would you feel like a cog in a machine? Now–what if I told you that by sorting out the bad potatoes you were helping out the local food bank in supplying fresh food to needy families in the area–would that change your perspective and your sense of purpose in the work?

Now that you understand the purpose of the work, does it potentially change your attitude or perhaps even your choice of work?

I’m not here to dictate what purpose is. Everyone’s got a different definition based on their experiences in life and their own set of values.

But what I do want to ask you is:

What does purpose mean to you?

Find your why. If you don’t know what it is, create it. That will motivate you to make a difference.

2. Stay focused on the big picture.

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” – Oprah Winfrey

Admit it. There will be days when work will feel boring. When tasks feel repetitive. When you feel like you have 100 things to do on your checklist. Or when you’re just plain irritated. The easy thing to do is to feel frustrated and to give up. Or you could stay focused on the big picture.

When I worked at VMware, I started a weekly partner training program that quickly grew from 20 attendees to well over 150 sales reps at its peak. One of my co-workers was upset because he felt like it would end up creating more work for him (i.e., if Nelson is doing it, then we’ll all have to start doing this!).

If I caved and stopped doing the trainings so that my co-worker wouldn’t feel obligated to do more work, do you know what would have happened?

We wouldn’t have created $1.6M in pipeline, that’s for sure.

That’s why you’ve got to keep your eye on the big picture.

3. Get active.

A lot of times it’s hard to get motivated if you’re not in a good mood. Research has shown that working out multiple times a week for a reasonable period of time can reduce the symptoms of depression. Exercising for 30 minutes can also increase levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which can help to reduce stress.

I’ve noticed that when I exercise for at least 30 minutes (especially in the morning), I’m a lot more relaxed throughout the day, less stressed out, and am able to think much more clearly.

Also, if you’re pushing yourself in your workouts, you’re testing your boundaries, and this can be really healthy. For example, I had never run a half marathon before and I decided to step up to the challenge this year. It was painful, but after I finished, I immediately thought, “If I can do this, what else am I capable of?”

Pushing yourself physically will also motivate you to push yourself intellectually and in other parts of your life, like your career. #WorkoutsElevateYourGame.

4. Have an accountability buddy.

“Surround yourself with people who push you, who challenge you, who make you laugh, who make you better, who make you happy.” – Anonymous

Let’s say you set a goal of signing on 100 new customers within a year. Now share that goal with some of your closest friends and colleagues. Guess what? You’ve just signed up for peer pressure and this is a great way to keep yourself motivated at work. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you hear someone down the hall say, “Hey (Insert Your Name Here), how are you doing in your goal of 100 new customers?”

Still don’t think that’s motivating?

How about an additional 50 coworkers also asking that same question? I think that’ll motivate you.

Just a hunch.

5. Motivational quotes.

I know, I’m writing a post on how to get motivated and included motivational quotes and then suggested that you use motivational quotes to get motivated. This just got meta on you.

Whatever motivational quote you decide on, print it out and tape it to your mirror. Or if you want to get fancy with it, take a marker and write it on the mirror!

That’ll get you going in the morning!

6. Create small, bite-sized goals.

There’s a reason donut holes are so lovable. They’re easy to eat. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a dozen of them.

This is how goals should be too. Of course you should have a really big, audacious goal.

But make sure you break down that goal into bite-sized, consumable goals. This way you’ll feel like you’re making progress in your journey and you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete the smaller goals. A feeling of progress and achievement is a beautiful combination.

7. Have the time of your life.

“There’s no fun in a perfect life. So make a risk. Take a chance. Go where the wind takes you. Have fun.” – Jenny C.

If you’re having fun, you’re going to be more motivated to do great work. This is true for 90% of the people. Okay, I have no proof that is statistically true, but I’m pretty sure for most people this holds true.

Do you notice that when you’re having fun, you’re more charismatic, upbeat and optimistic? Do you notice that you’re more productive because you’re actually enjoying the work? Do you notice you’re motivating other team members because you’re making the work environment awesome?

Thought so.

Go out there and have the time of your life!(Go to 3:19 for the good part)

8. Meditate.

“Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

We live in a world of information overload. Because of that, our brains sometimes get overstimulated, and that’s not a good thing. That’s why we need to meditate.

Calm down. Close your eyes. Lie down.

Okay, fine, you’re probably sitting in front of a computer. Just sit up straight, then. Breathe slowly in and out. Do you feel a sense of calm wash over you? Do you notice thoughts starting to creep in? Push them out and focus only on your breathing.

Meditation will help you motivate yourself in a few different ways:

By clearing your mind, you’ll have a renewed sense of focus.

By meditating, you’ll likely feel happier since your stress will be reduced. When we’re happy, we tend to be more optimistic about the future. That optimism can often be a very powerful motivational force.

9. Brainstorm your ideas and write them down.

Not all of your ideas will be good. It doesn’t matter. Write them down anyway. I got this idea from James Altucher (the guy is brilliant!).

Your great ideas will come when you least expect them.

Eventually, after you jot down 100 ideas, chances are that you’ll have at least one good idea. That’s incredibly motivating when you discover you can come up with good ideas. So start jotting them down. Now.

10. Visualize the future and go make it happen.

Need motivation?

Think about what you’re going to achieve. Think about the impact you’re going to make. Think of the future you’re going to create.

Visualize it.

Go make it happen. NOW.

Because it’s never too late to be awesome.

PODCAST – Equity, Privilege, and Diversity in eLearning

Audio, eLearning, Multimedia, Podcast

This is my first attempt at a podcast. It’s a little rough but I plan on improving and continuing to share with you my thoughts on instructional design, adult learning, learning trends, and anything related to language (I love it!).

Listen in and contribute to the discussion. I’m open to your suggestions, thoughts, and overall feedback about the podcast.

For this podcast, I’m talking about the need of resources for Spanish-speaking Hispanics and how it affects their access to health benefits and healthcare services. Click play and read along if you would like. Thanks for listening!

Music credit: Autumn Leaves by Axian & Jsan.


What can you do to assist this community?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this topic and your ideas for diversifying our resources for Spanish-speakers. Does your workplace offer materials in other languages? Do you know someone who does that for a living?

Use the comment section below to continue this discussion. You can also connect with me via social media and follow my blog to stay up to date about new trends in instructional design and eLearning.

TEDx Talks: How Augmented Reality Will Change Education Completely

eLearning, Multimedia

Instructional Realities

Florian Radke talks about how Augmented reality is not a toy, it’s a powerful tool that will help solve some of the worlds biggest problems. If we do it right, it can be the next great platform for education, human connection and productivity. Like Iron man, we all will soon be surrounded by data and 3D models that we can interact with, as early as the year 2025.

Florian is currently leading communications at Meta, an augmented reality (AR) company that is one of the companies at the forefront of designing our AR future. Meta’s focus is not on creating experiences that distract or pull us out of the real world, but rather that enhance our natural environments and facilitate greater learning and communication than has been available before. The possible applications range from more immersive classroom learning to a collaborative creative tool that can be used in real time…

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Is Virtual Reality a Good Idea?

eLearning, Multimedia, Training

Have you seen the trailer for the movie Ready Player One? If you haven’t, watch it below.

I bring this up because it got me thinking about the future of Virtual Reality and its benefits and implications for continuing to advance this technology. I decided to continue exploring this topic and begin creating a Pecha Kucha presentation for one of my master’s classes this semester. I’m particularly interested in learning more about its current uses in gaming, technology, and education.

Currently, VR is making a comeback and trending in delivering immersive experiences to learning with many benefits in information retention and learner engagement; however, there are some questions about VR that we can’t possibly know the answer to just yet, so we’re forced to speculate and imagine. After watching the trailer for Ready Player One, I began asking myself the following questions:

  • As VR’s technology improves and develops, could the level of stimulation experienced in VR lead to confusion in the real world?
  • Since VR is physically risk-free, might we get too used to being able to survive large falls and end up having more accidents? Or,
  • Could virtual reality prove to be so compelling in the future that we end up choosing it over the real world?

Although these questions do scare me a bit, my stance is definitely pro-VR. Do I think VR will be the doom of our society? No, I think our leaders should be concerned with other issues.

With this project, I hope to address current and future benefits of VR as well as potential implications. Since VR is an emerging trend in the learning community, I believe educators and workplace trainers will find this insightful.

Learning Objectives:

With this project, I hope viewers will…

  1. Identify differences between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
  2. Recognize VR benefits in immersive learning.
  3. Seek VR devices to implement as potential learning solutions in workplace and classroom settings.

Tools and Technologies

Here is where I need your help. If you haven’t looked it up by now, a Pecha Kucha is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). To do this, I need an easy-to-use video editing tool. I plan on using a program called Filmora, but I’m curious to know any opinions about this program from anyone that has used it.

So what do you think about VR? Sound scary or exciting? Let me know below.