Developing a Learning Culture

10 Reasons to Use Illustrations Instead of Stock Photography in Learning

The grinning woman eating a salad; the perfectly multicultural meeting; the man with a headset: these are the standards for stock photography. And while it definitely has its place, stock photography isn’t the gold standard when it comes to learning. What may work for an anonymous website doesn’t have the same impact when you’re trying to get learners to sit up and pay attention. But illustrations might.

In most cases, illustrations are the superior choice. They aren’t just for kids anymore. Animation and illustration are far more versatile when compared to the sometimes-stiff, always impersonal stock photo. Here are some other reasons why you should ditch the pics and go for something more engaging.

1. Remove unconscious bias

Whether or not we like to admit it, we all have biases towards different situations and types of people. Photography puts real people in front of learners, and their own unconscious biases could affect the connection (or lack thereof) they feel. Using animation, you take away the personal bias so that users can focus on the content.

2. It better directs focus

Illustrations do an amazing job of making sure the learner is paying attention to what they’re supposed to. The brain can only handle so much extraneous processing, so illustration removes the distraction to save brain CPU and help it focus on what’s really important.

3. Shows nonverbal communication

A stock photo can’t really convey things like nonverbal communication or reactions to different scenarios. And, if you’re using stock video, you might be limited in what you can show based on budget, actors, and a slew of other factors. Illustrations provide more freedom to show a spectrum of nonverbal cues and communication and aren’t limited to static pictures.

4. Increased Relevancy

Unless you take the time to film or photograph every possible scenario for training, you’re stuck with scenes that may be irrelevant to some learners. Illustrations can be changed at any time and created to be hyper-relevant to the stuff your learners face every day. Better relevance means more engagement and better connections to the material.

5. Less expensive

Let’s face it: film and photography are pricey because of how many people are involved in the creative process. Illustration is less expensive because it’s usually the work of one graphic designer. Illustration can also be reused and repurposed, which is a plus because your content is not static and will evolve as the role, technology or skillsets advance in your business and industry.

6. Less pop culture specific

You can spot an outdated photo from a mile away–and it becomes more kitschy than vintage when it comes to training. Whether it’s bad quality, old clothes, or retro hairstyles, it only takes a year or two for your pictures and videos to look dated. Animation is always fresh, and makes it easy to switch out outfits and hairstyles to give your training a modern look.

7. Works for dangerous scenarios

Unless you’re Michael Bay, you probably don’t have the eLearning budget to show dangerous scenarios. Training for dangerous situations (think of the training that could have helped in the JFK bomb scare) can easily be shown via illustrations (even without the Hollywood-style special effects).

8. Fair and balanced

One type of person can’t represent the spectrum of employees in an international organization. Animation and illustrations can ensure that all races, genders, ability levels, and cultures are properly represented (and can be changed for various applications, like international training).

9. Easier to customize (and reuse)

With illustrations, you don’t need a reshoot each time you create new eLearning. Because they’re graphic characters, it’s simple to customize based on role and application. You can even reuse old graphics in a new way to save money.

10. Brandspecific

Learners can sense stock photography from a mile away. It’s glossy and polished appearance might not really jive with your brand or the tone of your content. Illustrations make it easier to control the images so they’re brand-specific and align better with your company culture.

Illustrations are sometimes seen as child’s play, but in many cases, they’re more effective than the same old stock photography you’re probably used to using. Kick the stereotypical stock photos to the curb and use illustrations for a fresh, on-brand approach that’ll keep your learners hooked from the first frame.