Into the Box Design: Part 1: Model Kit Metaphor

9 May

When a company or a nonprofit needs to prepare a complex training program, it is best to involve instructional designers (ID’s) early in the process. Our skills are perfect for applying several forms of into the box design which help you get high quality training products out the door. As a seasoned ID, I especially love helping diverse teams of players to create complex training designs. The work calls for lots of creativity and collaborations with diverse teams: individuals who, at the start, might not completely agree on what the finished product should look it.

This entry will attempt to describe what I mean by “into the box design” as a metaphor for describing what instructional designers can offer IF we play a central role early in the process.

robotkitThe Robot Kit Metaphor. Let’s pretend we want to develop a “make your own robot” kit to be sold online and in toy stores to kids who are obsessed with robots and with building stuff. Our marketing mavens have told us that this type of buyer tends to love model kits that display finished products on the box . The key words “creative – fun – educational” need to be displayed to appeal to adults who will fork up the money. To create our kit, we need to design and develop several inter-related components: a box to hold all the components, printed card stock paper with robot pieces to cut and assemble, glue, instruction sheets and perhaps a list of extra stuff you need (scissors, ruler, etc.) All pieces have to fit into the box; they have to add up to a cohesive result. Even one missing piece can ruin the outcome. Since many kids (and adults!) hate to read instructions, we should provide visual clues along with the step-by-step instructions on how to assemble the components. What else? We will need to know the best way to market this product… the price point, brand, etc. We need to think about storage, inventory, shipping and handling, etc.  

So, a fun idea to make an appealing, “hands on” product can easily become a complex project. There are a lot of variables to consider. The “robot in a box” metaphor is a great way to describe how instructional designers help “box” training programs that are fun, creative, and engaging adult learning experiences.

To build a great training product and get it ready to ship, we need a team of experts. ID’s refer to such folks as Subject Matter Experts (SME’s). The team needs marketing and branding SME’s who understand our intended audiences, their motivations, and their needs. We need experts in graphic design, print production, box construction, inventory control, shipping and handling, product placement in the toy store business, social marketing, and more. Some experts are needed at the front end of the process, some at the end — a few need to be central to the process the entire time. ID’s tend to be start-to-finish players; we know how to work with diverse experts to get the job done by deadline. ID’s help everyone stay focused on core design elements that cannot be compromised.

Instructional Designers understand how to package inter-related components, fitting them together for optimal results. We continually study how adults learn, going deep into what motivates and inspires us. We work to understand a constantly changing training market. Because we understand the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of learning methodologies, we can make smart recommendations on how to “blend” them for optimal effect. This combination of competencies helps build an effective and highly marketable product with efficiency which keeps development costs down.  

In other words, experienced, resilient Instructional Designers know how to create measurably effective training products that apply the best of “into the box” thinking. It is ideal to hire an ID early in the process in order to develop powerful learning experiences that are ready to ship in the right box at the right price point to the right learners. Coming up: Part 2: Making the Pieces FIT Into the Box.



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