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Redesigning FutureLearn’s Statements of Participation

This week, we’re launching a redesigned Statement of Participation with a new digital counterpart. In this post, our Visual Designer, Kieran McCann, gives an insight into the redesign process and our thinking behind the change.

FutureLearn’s new Statement of Participation design, photographed by Rob Wilson.

In the early days of FutureLearn, we introduced Statements of Participation to provide learners with the opportunity to celebrate their engagement on a course by purchasing a personalised, printed certificate. We’ve been delighted by their popularity and have sent them to many FutureLearners around the world.

Recently, however, we’ve been exploring how we could evolve our Statements and make them more useful and desirable.

Understanding what learners want

In order to do this effectively, we conducted a survey with over 1,100 FutureLearners. Our goal was to find out what people thought about our current product; why they did or didn’t buy them; what they did with them; and most importantly, how they felt we could make them better.

We got a fantastic and varied response, but one opinion that came through loud and clear was: “make them digital!” We duly obliged and are very excited to have launched our new digital Statements this week.

The new digital counterpart to our printed Statement of Participation
The new digital counterpart to our printed Statement of Participation.

In the process of developing digital Statements, we also took the opportunity to revisit the design of the printed counterpart. We wanted to ensure there was a visual coherence between both versions, but also address some of the valuable feedback we received from the survey.

Many learners loved the vibrancy and modern styling of the original design, but some wanted it to look a bit more like a traditional certificate. How could we achieve a new Statement of Participation that fulfilled both these things? This became our design challenge.

Brainstorming different options

The initial stage of designing the new printed Statements was kept as open and experimental as possible. We collected a variety of visual reference material for inspiration and to kickstart the brainstorming of ideas. This led us to explore the use of premium print techniques, such as die cuts, special inks, unusual paper stocks, foil blocks, embossing and watermarks.

We thought about their tactility and how learners might feel when they held them for the first time – it was vital to us that the new Statements felt like a premium product and couldn’t be produced on just any standard printer.

We then investigated the potential of changing the shape of the certificates – squares, long strips and hexagons, which slotted together to form a hive, and even odd shapes with serrated cut-off corners were all considered.

We had fun experimenting with pattern and drew inspiration from the security markings you find on currency and passports, to create designs that portrayed a sense of value and credibility.

The purpose of this part of the design process wasn’t to produce a final product but to flex our imaginations, ignore practical restraints and try to reimagine what a certificate could be.

Defining the concept

After this initial exploratory process, we analysed the designs and noticed a strong theme beginning to emerge – that the Statements should be a visual representation of a learning journey – and this became the conceptual underpinning for how we moved forward.

At FutureLearn, we believe in learning for life – that education is a journey, which continually grows and branches out – and we’ve tried to express this ethos through a modular design approach.

We’ve completely restyled the Statements and in doing so, aimed to achieve three core principles:

1. Collectable

We wanted to create a Statement that feels highly collectable. The new design utilises the FutureLearn steps identity in such a way that multiple Statements can be tiled together to form an ever expanding visual representation of your achievements and learning with us.

Many learners purchase Statements for multiple courses and we hope the new modular design makes this a more rewarding experience.

The Statements tile to create an expanding visual representation of your learning
The Statements tile to create an expanding visual representation of your learning.

2. Valuable

A printed Statement of Participation is a physical representation of your time investment and hardwork on a course. It is also a professional document, which can be displayed proudly on a wall or shown to potential employers, and we believe this should be reflected in the quality of the product.

To achieve this, we have chosen a premium quality paper stock and worked with an award-winning printer. The front of the Statement is also printed with a security pattern watermark to prove its authenticity.

The Statement is printed with a watermark effect to prove authenticity
The Statement is printed with a watermark effect to prove authenticity.

3. Celebratory

Celebrating progress is at the heart of the FutureLearn experience – this is why we made the original Statement design so bold and colourful. With the new design we have chosen to print on both sides of the paper, which has given us more space to be creative.

On the front, you’ll find all the certificate information including your name, course title and description, partner logo and educator signature. A ribbon motif runs down the middle of the page which acts as an axis for the centred typography and creates a more classical styled certificate.

Flip this over, however, and you will be greeted with a burst of  colour and pattern – a traditional certificate on the front, with a celebration on the back!

Celebration on the back of the Statement
Celebration on the back of the Statement.

We hope that you like the new design. We’d love to hear your feedback, so do share any comments below. And if you want to know more about how we work, check out other “Making FutureLearn” posts.

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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