Who is an Instructional Designer?

Summary: In the ever-evolving field of online learning, a career in Instructional Design brings many rewards and challenges. We share an overview of the skills Instructional Designers need to have, and shine a light on the work of Instructional Designers in eWyse.

Instructional Design is a complex field. We say that it’s a science, because of the many different angles that one can approach the human mind and knowledge acquisition processes.

And, as Instructional Design experts, Instructional Designers have the important task of designing, developing, and delivering educational experiences that ensure productive, successful knowledge acquisition and skill development.

The rising popularity of online learning led to a high demand for Instructional Designers. There are thousands of job openings in Instructional Design as we speak, and many of those ID jobs require a specific skill set.

So, to understand the important role that Instructional Designers play in the learning industry, we must first understand how the entire Instructional Design story came to be.

The Inception of the Role of an Instructional Designer

Instructional Design has gone through a lot of transformations and has been constantly adapting to emerging learning needs and breakthroughs in psychological discoveries and the development of educational psychology, hence, the number and type of skills that Instructional Designers have to demonstrate also changed.

Before WWII, learners were expected to understand and learn only the basics. Then, during WWII, the need to quickly and effectively educate soldiers arose, encouraging the emergence of new approaches to learning and knowledge transfer. Psychologists and education specialists were asked to create effective training materials using new technologies. This was the start of Instructional Design.

When Robert Gagné published the first edition of The Conditions of Learning in 1965 and described nine events of instruction, he set the foundation of Instructional Design practices and pushed the term “instructional design” to become commonly used.

The development of instructional design models and theories continued over the next several decades, especially in the late 90s with the advance of online technologies.

Instructional designers began to use computers as tools to improve performance and enhance learning, and eLearning and blended learning became the fastest-growing areas in the Instructional Design field. Microlearning, gamification, and experimenting with technologies set the trends in Instructional Design today.

Learning theories and instructional design theories have evolved as a response to new needs. Instructional designers face challenges and constant development to meet their new job demands, including excellent knowledge of all these theories and models and their application.

As we said, eWyse has a different approach to this amazing field and different expertise individuals need to have if they want to successfully create training programs and curriculums.

What Instructional Designers Actually Do

We can broadly say that Instructional Designers design and develop learning programs. Following the theories and models that we just talked about, the role of an Instructional Designer encompasses a wide range of tasks.

Let’s take a closer look at the various tasks that Instructional Designers generally perform:

  • They conduct the Needs Analysis, work closely with Subject Matter Experts and stakeholders to gather as much information and develop the training and curriculum based on the actual needs.
  • They study and apply relevant instructional theories to develop suitable learning methods, such as F2F workshops, eLearning courses, webinars, videos, seminars, manuals, job aids, assessments, etc.
  • They evaluate the training effectiveness, make necessary adjustments based on the feedback, and set metrics.

So, the job of Instructional Designers in a traditional sense includes working only on the content part of training development. But, since online learning, and especially eLearning, took the leading role in training delivery, the role of an Instructional Designer has changed as well.

Today, it is expected that as an Instructional Designer, you need not only to write and develop the content but also develop the visual design of the course and other formats. When we say graphic design, we mean designing and developing explainer videos, eLearning courses in authoring tools, or using graphic design software to make the content graphically attractive.

This means that one person should not only know the theory and apply it correctly but also have the skills to use the newest technology to produce the courses.

At eWyse, our process and our teams are divided based on their expertise. We have Learning Architects, who handle the content, curriculum development, and instruction design, and Instructional Designers, who lead the course development process.

Instructional Designers in eWyse work on the visual part of the course, focusing on the graphics, illustrations, and client’s brand guidelines, and using graphic design tools to create attractive, functional courses that ensure knowledge retention.

This is why we like to say that with us, you get the best of both worlds: two people dedicated each to one part of eLearning development. This not only leads to better end products but alleviates the pressure from individuals and speeds up course production.

What Makes a Successful Instructional Designer

Once a Learning Architect creates your learning strategy and your eLearning storyboard – a document that describes the visuals, text and audio elements, interactions, and navigation used in an eLearning course, the Instructional Designers take over the development process.

These creative individuals will make sure to turn all the Learning Architect’s ideas and solutions into engaging and effective learning experiences. Instructional Designers work closely with the SMEs to create the course in line with their vision, carefully planning each design segment through moodboard, demo slide, and finally, the entire course design.

Following the latest trends in the eLearning industry and using advanced technology, they work on the Storyboard and transfer the words into images, interactions, exercises, and animations. IDs create custom eLearning courses, calculators, explainer videos, 360 experiences, and other advanced eLearning solutions.

As we said, performing these tasks requires a significant amount of skills that Instructional Designers need to have:

  • Visual and artistic talents; one of the most important skills an instructional designer should have is knowing how to use visual design tools. Instructional designers can create, develop, and share learning content using various technologies, upgrading skills on a daily basis with the new emerging tools (yes, AI).
  • Creativity; to create imagery out of ideas and present the facts in an interesting and engaging way, instructional designers need to tap into their creativity. Building various learning courses requires keeping consistent brand images.
  • Analytical thinking; to understand whether the content and the design are reaching the target audience, instructional designers must possess the ability to characterize instructional objectives, and decide on the steps to accomplish such objectives. By asking questions like “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “why”, they’re ensuring that the course being developed is suited both to your learner’s needs and to your organization’s needs.
  • Curiosity; as we said, as technology continues to advance, eLearning and instructional design evolve. Their curious nature urges them to move forward and stay on top of new eLearning trends.
  • Collaboration; Instructional Designers work closely with SMEs and key stakeholders to support and guide the design, development, and production of innovative learning solutions. Through their collaboration with key stakeholders, they will ensure that the content is adapted according to your brand guidelines and conveyed to the learners in the most stunning form.
  • Project management; respecting the project timeline and deadlines, creating and paying attention to the deliverables, communicating with the client, and making sure the client is aware of the project and the development progress – Instructional Designers need to be well organized to deliver everything on time without compromising the quality.
  • Visual design; the beating heart of Instructional Designer work. Our designers spread the passion and creativity in visual design in their work, respecting design principles and making sure everything is in line with the brand and brand guidelines.
  • Authoring and design tools; excellent knowledge of authoring tools, design software, and AI technology is a must in the industry today. Our Instructional Designers are passionate about the tools that help them create new illustrations and animations, that add a breath of fresh air to the course design.
  • Problem-solving and innovation; you need to be innovative to solve problems 🙂 Whatever the task, our Instructional Designers will come up with creative solutions to deliver the instruction and interactivity in the courses in the most effective way.
  • Teamwork; an important value and skill that all Instructional Designers working in an agency should possess. eLearning courses are a result of teamwork, not only within the agency, but with the SMEs and the clients as well. Brainstorming and teamwork are at the core of Instructional Design jobs, so it’s important to understand and value your clients and colleagues and work together to create amazing things.

A blend of all these skills is what makes Instructional Designers experts in their field and creators of a wholesome eLearning course experience.


Instructional Designers need to invest in skill development and advanced technical and software knowledge, as well as keep up with the technology and trends. However, the results that come with this knowledge and skills are invaluable.

A career as an Instructional Designer is extremely rewarding. This creative field is constantly evolving, opening new opportunities for creative development and continuous personal and professional growth, all while making a significant contribution and impact on the educational approach and learning experience.

An, Y. (2021). A history of instructional media, instructional design, and theories. International Journal of Technology in Education (IJTE), 4(1), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.46328/ijte.35

Author: Anja Pavlović
Images: Ivan Blažević


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