Working with eLearning Icon Sets and ClipArt


Don’t fall into common pitfalls when using icons in eLearning courses. Make sure you consider these 5 tips before getting started.

Video Script

Hey this is Bryan Jones from  I just wanted to talk to you a little bit today about icon sets, and a few of the things that you should be thinking about before you get started either what’s already out there for free or you’re looking to buy some icons.  So I hope you find this useful.

So I think the first thing I want to talk about is that you should really be dealing with matching sets.  So when I’m looking at a set, I want them in a few groups.  So web icons, and navigation icons, and people icons that would represent different professions, and objects that could be useful when I’m putting in there, landscapes that I can use to build backgrounds, transportation icons, symbols, and such.

So I just want you to think more about matching sets and less about individual icons, because when you look for the individual icon and then you can’t find a matching icon, you could of break your visual consistency.

The second point is, that I think that you really want icons that convey meaning.  So this could be navigation buttons like the play button there, or this woman in the center is – is a call center person so you can easily identify her, or it could be a symbol like a – a wireless network.  So I think that’s an important thing as well.

And the reason why you want them to convey meaning is you might use that icon that can find it with a button, they are going to help people navigate your course, or know what to click on, or you might be using it for a visual story like that scene you see on the right.  This is a story that’s being told, so you really want those icons that are representative.

The other thing that I think people forget about when they’re choosing icon sets is, you are probably not going to find every icon you need in a set.  So what are you going to do when the story that you’re trying to tell, or the button you need isn’t there?  Is it simple that you could – simple enough that you can recreate?

I tend to choose simple styles that I can, you know, pay a graphic designer to recreate, or I had a lesson on how I created, you know, a bike, this one isn’t perfect, but I did this in Microsoft PowerPoint by, you can see, tracing over a picture there, and then turning that black.  And that matched my – the style here on the left.

So that was – that was an easy way for me to recreate that, but, you know, if I had a professional graphic designer doing either one of these two styles, this would be really easy to – to recreate as well.  And actually for the – for the sets that we put out there, we – we support the styles so when – when people need more icons, we can create icons in a similar style.

So just make sure you have a plan for what you’re going to do when you have icons that don’t meet – meet your needs.  So like they are just missing an icon or two.  Because that – that can break up your whole – whole course.

So the other thing that you want to ask is, do you have access to the source files?  So, for example, here we created these icons on the left, and if you only had the PNG output file, you wouldn’t be able to do much.  You could recolor it, so it was all red or all green, but if you had the source files, or you had it as an EMF file in PowerPoint, you could go and – and color those individual elements.

And – and that’s a really nice thing to be able to do.  It gives a different look and feel for whatever your use might be.  The other thing that you can do when you have access to the source file or the EMF is, you can do interesting little effects.  So I can make it look like the phone is ringing with an icon, or I can animate parts of – of a chart.

I can break them a part and move everything on the left was the original icon, but by being able to modify it, I have the ability to – to convey a new meaning.  So instead of a chart going up, I have a chart going down, instead of the time being before three, it’s exactly three.  Or, I could take two different elements, combine them, and create a new third – third element.

And the other thing you should ask yourself, the final question is, is your source file – was it created in a vector format?  So if you don’t have a vector file, and this is a really blown up image on the left, and once I scale it beyond the size that it was saved out as, you start to see some degradation and – and fuzziness with the image.

But if you have a vector format, you can scale that up as big as you want.  Anyways, those were the five questions that I think you should be asking.  Again, do you have matching sets?  So they convey meaning?  How are you going to create the missing – the missing icons?  Do you have access to the source files?  And where they originally created in a vector format?

Hope you found that useful.  Thanks so much.

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