Design Manifesto

By no means an exhaustive list.

Universal First. Design efforts should always be guided by a universal first principle. We must design for “all individuals” and move away from accessibility accommodations, exclusionary, and normative practices (Cook, 2022, p. 3; Rogers-Shaw et al., 2018, p. 22).

Build Understanding. Be Human. Design meaningfully by caring deeply. This principle essentially echoes the human-centred mindset advocated by thinkers at the Stanford Design School who urge designs to be grounded in empathy (Brown & Green, 2017, p. 180).

Useful. Relevant. Timely. In academic libraries, point-of-need instruction is a commonly held design principle, with the understanding that to be useful and relevant, information should also be timely (Bergstrom-Lynch, 2019). Get clear about the specific and wider context (Dousay; 2017; Stefaniak, 2021).

Leverage. The tools, resources, and opinions of many. Including those outside of your domain (Dyer et al., 2011). Especially open tools.

Keep Questioning. And. Welcome Continuous Feedback. With an appreciative mindset, continue to critically question your team, and welcome continuous feedback from others. Generate unexpected ideas, and gauge whether a project is on the right track before it is too late (Crichton & Carter, 2017).

Pause. And reflect. Make space for renewed enthusiasm, to critically question, and to “inform next steps” (Crichton & Carter, 2017, 41).


Bergstrom-Lynch, Y. (2019). LibGuides by Design: Using Instructional Design Principles and User-Centered Studies to Develop Best Practices, Public Services Quarterly, 15(3), 205-223.

Brown, A. H., & Green, T. D. (2018). Beyond Teaching Instructional Design Models: Exploring the Design Process to Advance Professional Development and Expertise. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(1), 176-186.

CAST (2021). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2.

CDA. (n.d.) Conflict-Sensitivity and Do No Harm. CDA Collaborative Learning Projects.

Cook, S. (2022, January 8). Feedback on Design Solution by Cook & Yee [Discussion forum post]. Moodle.

Cook. S. and Yee, G. (2021). Assignment 3: Documenting the Design Thinking Process. Moodle.

Cook, S., & Yee, G. (2021, January 2). Proposed Design Solution. Gail’s Blog.

Crichton, S. & Carter, D. (2017). Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit. Open School/ITA.

Doorley et al. (2018). Design Thinking Bootcamp Bootleg. Adapted from Hasso Plattner Institute for Design, Stanford University.

Dousay. T. A. (2017). Chapter 22. Instructional Design Models. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.).

Dyer, J., Gregersen, H. B., and Christensen, C. M. (2011). The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. Harvard Business Press.

Goldman, S. et al. (2012). Assessing d.learning: Capturing the Journey of Becoming a Design Thinker. In H. Plattner, C. Meinel & L. Leifer (eds). Design Thinking Research: Understanding Innovation. (pp. 13-33). Berlin: Springer.

Houldsworth, C. (2022, January 8). Feedback on Design Solution by Cook & Yee [Discussion forum post]. Moodle. (n.d.). Frame your Design Challenge. In Design Kit.

Morris, S. M. (2018). Critical Instructional Design. In An Urgency of Teachers. Pressbooks.

Osguthorpe, R. T., Osguthorpe, R. D., Jacob, W. J., & Davies, R. (2003). Chapter 42. The Moral Dimensions of Instructional Design. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.).

Pokiak, M. (2022, January 9). Feedback from Pokiak – Design Solution by Cook & Yee [Discussion forum post]. Moodle.

Rogers-Shaw, C., Carr-Chellman, D. J., & Choi, J. (2018). Universal design for learning: Guidelines for accessible online instruction. Adult learning, 29(1), 20-31.

Stefaniak, J. E. (2021). Documenting Instructional Design Decisions. In Design for Learning.

Webb, K. K., and Hoover, J. (2015). Universal design for learning (UDL) in the academic library: a methodology for mapping multiple means of representation in library tutorials. College & Research Libraries, 76(4), 537–553.

Design in practice

Brainstorming design tools using Scrumblr whiteboard
Image note: I created a Scrumblr board to brainstorm my design superpowers. Since Scrumblr is a scrum tool designed for collaboration, and in the spirit of innovation and sharing, please consider it a community board, and try posting some additional tools here:

Lachheb and Boling (2018) suggest

[s]cholars need to appreciate the skill required for instructional designers to do what they are already doing in selecting tools, matching them to the variable demands of the design situations they encounter, and using them flexibly for the properties best suited to their work instead of seeking to replace their designerly judgment with external guidance that ignores their legitimate skills” (p. 48).

And, I do so appreciate this opportunity to reflect on my existing strengths as superpowers, and to perhaps legitimize some of the design decisions and processes I already undertake in my work. In particular, Lacheheb and Boling’s (2018) discussion of “designerly tools” and “instrumental judgment” have given me pause to reevaluate some of my previous assumptions, and strengths taken for granted.

I noted in my previous blog post (para. 4) that “some of my design decisions have been too focused on the utilization of available technologies, whether free or enterprise, at the expense of other concerns like accessibility, and the lack of assessment or evaluation methods”.

There are certainly examples of my work that are predetermined by the requirement to use existing tools and technologies; like most academic libraries for example, we subscribe to LibGuides, a proprietary, cloud-based proprietary software product created by Springshare. I won’t get into the advantages or limitations here, suffice to say, LibGuides are typically used as a wayfinding tool for services or sources, or to create step-by-step tutorials – and I use them.

More interestingly (in my opinion) are digital tools and technologies – both open source or free – that I have introduced to our team for specific reasons. For example, as we transitioned to a fully online environment I introduced an open scrum tool called Scrumblr for the purpose of engaging students in an activity about evaluating sources during our online synchronous instruction sessions. The tool was deliberately and appropriately selected to support our instructional outcomes – in this regard, Scrumblr is what Lachheb and Boling (2018) describe as a “designerly tool”.

I also recently argued successfully for the inclusion of a one-off digital learning object using the free version of a cloud-based podcast tool called Anchor. In this situation, audio made sense for a number of reasons: 1) the information was conceptual, and so didn’t require visual navigation of our website or other sources, 2) learning objects without visual navigation generally have more lasting power, whereas screencasts require updating as websites and database platforms change; 3) presenting information in a variety of formats aligns with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, and improves accessibility options – and not just for learners who identify as having a disability. Like many adult learners, I struggle to balance full-time work, part-time school, with multiple family obligations, and I can listen to a podcast during my commute or while I do laundry; the same is not true of a visual or textual resource; and besides 4) it’s fun to try out new tools!

And so there it is, evidence of my designerly bias. Perhaps not surprisingly, in practice, much like other designers, I am employing “instrumental judgment” both by way of appropriateness and individual preference (Lachheb & Boling).


Lachheb, A., & Boling, E. (2018). Design tools in practice: instructional designers report which tools they use and why. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(1), 34-54.

Thinking about design models

While having a beginners mindset may be a condition for innovation, as a novice designer, it is indeed overwhelming to discover the vast number of design models that are in play in corporate and educational settings (Dousay, 2017; Roth, 2013). It also gives me pause that some of my more creative instructional efforts, while intending to be “memorable”, need to be better grounded in learning theory and design frameworks (Veletsianos, 2011). I suppose I know that already though, which is why I’m in this class. Still, I appreciate Dousay’s reassurance that “so long as a designer can align components of an instruction problem with the priorities of a particular model, they will likely be met with success through the systematic process” (p. 7). 

As Dousay (2017) further emphasizes, each “instructional design project is unique” and ideally requires a customized “process to meet the needs of our instructional context and of our learners, stakeholders, resources, and modes of delivery” (p. 1). Considerations include financial and time constraints, as well as dependence on existing institutional learning management systems and a reliance on IT departments for support with various technologies (Dolasinski, 2020; Dron, 2014). Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning principles are also increasingly prioritized. This is certainly true of academic libraries, where I am situated.

With all this in mind, I find it helpful to look at how instructional design occurs in my own library context. This includes the creation and revision of instructional content for both synchronous and asynchronous delivery (on-campus, blended, and online). More specifically (though my role is perhaps somewhat anomalous relative to other academic libraries), I co-create digital learning objects: short explainer videos, library guides, quizzes and other web-based content.

I also collaborate on the instructional delivery of library services, but I am not a librarian, nor am I a subject expert in information literacy. Much like instructional designers, my role is mainly advisory, without much decision-making power (Giacumo & Breman, 2020). And yet I do have freedom to use open tools (like H5P and Scrumblr) or free versions of proprietary tools (such as Anchor, Powtoons, Canva, and Screencast-O-matic), so opportunities for innovation exist. In hindsight, some of my design decisions have been too focused on the utilization of available technologies, whether free or enterprise, at the expense of other concerns like accessibility, and the lack of assessment or evaluation methods.

What intrigues me (coming back to Dousay’s point), is whether the design of digital learning objects might be supported by the principles and four phases of a microlearning model as outlined by Dolasinksi:

Phase 1: Identify Needs and Develop Learning Objectives

Phase 2: Development, Design, and Delivery of Learning Concept and Content

Phase 3: Participating, Practice, and Demonstration

Phase 4: Evaluate Learning Content

In my “design” work for example, each digital learning object (DLO) is created purposefully in response to a specific need. Our library FAQ search query tool, and other data analytics illustrate user behaviour and knowledge gaps, and align with ‘phase one’.

Most of our explainer videos also resemble ‘phase two’, in that they focus on a single concept. Likewise, where a “learning objective or topic has multiple concepts, each idea…[is] developed into a separate microlearning module (Dolasinki, 2020, p. 555). In our case, we created a related-series of short video tutorials and embedded them together in our LibGuides, combined with other supporting material, resulting in a “multi-sensory” experience. (Dolasinksi, 2020). Finally, while the decision to adopt a 3-minute rule for video and podcast formatted instruction is based largely on anecdotal evidence, Dolasinki affirms that this is common practice (p. 556).  

While the first two phases of the microlearning model align almost perfectly with the “instructional problem” of DLO’s, that’s where it falls apart for me. Standalone video tutorials however engaging, do not necessarily allow learners to demonstrate, practice, or participate (Dolosinski, 2020). And what about evaluation? While feedback forms are available, users rarely comment – unless something is actually broken.

Digital learning objects pose other design challenges as well. When instruction is institutionally specific, it won’t be possible to find reusable OERs (Dron, 2014), and so it must be understood that content will become stale; worse, it may be repurposed by others, and having out-of-date and incorrect material circulating around campus isn’t ideal. Software that allows for revision and iterative improvements is preferable to a complete object redo, but in my limited experience, the latter is more common especially when using the free version of proprietary software rather than open tools – and then there is the issue of broken links. 

So lots to think about. Ultimately though, it’s okay that the microlearning model isn’t a perfect fit. Indeed, that is the message that Brown and Green (2018) and others like Parchoma et al., (2020) are shouting out: don’t get stuck clinging to one model or theoretical tradition. Keep exploring!


AHEAD. (2017, November 13) What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? [Video]. YouTube. 

Dolasinski, M. J., & Reynolds, J. (2020). Microlearning: A New Learning Model. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 44(3), 551–561. T. A. (2017). Chapter 22. Instructional Design Models. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.).

Dousay. T. A. (2017). Chapter 22. Instructional Design Models. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.).

Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.

Giacumo, L. A., & Breman, J. (2021). Trends and Implications of Models, Frameworks, and Approaches Used by Instructional Designers in Workplace Learning and Performance Improvement. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 34(2), 131–170.

Johnson-Barlow, E. M., & Lehnen, C. (2021). A scoping review of the application of systematic instructional design and instructional design models by academic librarians. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 47(5), 102382–102382.

Parchoma, G., Koole, M., Morrison, D., Nelson, D., & Dreaver-Charles, K. (2020). Designing for learning in the Yellow House: A comparison of instructional and learning design origins and practices. Higher Education Research & Development, 39(5), 997–1012.

Roth, B. (2013, November 4). Beginners Mindset [Video]. Vimeo.

Veletsianos, G. (2011). Designing opportunities for transformation with emerging technologies. Educational Technology, 51(2), 41-46.