“Who wrote this thing some engineer?” That may be the frustrating refrain you have said to yourself when reading the instructions for assembling your child’s new toy or that new piece of furniture that arrived in a box.

The bar is set much higher when creating effective informational/instructional communications (labeling) for the medical device or pharmaceutical sectors. The challenge is translating complex medical/scientific/technical information often targeted to multiple audiences, while staying within FDA guidelines to produce clear understandable instructional, training or investor communications. Ultimately, the quality of these materials can help promote a start-up to the next level or build brand loyalty for an established company.

Tips from the trenches

Create a robust professional team

Individuals may be expert at designing or developing a medical device or a new drug therapy but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can design instructional content. It often takes various skill sets to create effective instructional communications. If you’re lucky sometimes team skill sets can occasionally overlap.

Content Expert/Product Manager
This person(s) is the expert about the product or process, and is the lead point person to internal staff or external consultants. The content expert coordinates getting initial content to the instructional designer and is the lead content reviewer throughout the life of the project.

Instructional Designer
The instructional designer works with the content expert to plan, structure and layout content in a way that makes sense. A good ID will try and imagine what issues learners might face and direct and organize content to address those issues. Working with copy, copy editing, outlines, storyboards and task analysis IDs provide the framework for the content.

Graphic Designer/Art Director
The designer takes the outlined concept of the content and using the principles of logical order and visual interest to make layout, text and images work together to enhance the learning process by design. Additionally, designers format content that can be delivered via both electronic and print media.

Medical illustrator/animator
Whether creating images for a medical device or illustrating a method of action for a new drug therapy, medical illustrators are expertly trained at visually translating complex medical/scientific/technical information that is audience appropriate and that will enhance the learning experience.

Plan for the scan –organizing content

With medical content it is critical that material is written and designed for easy understanding by the target audience. Page after page of text will quickly turn off your audience. Have you seen a website, a document or a slide deck presentation and been overwhelmed with too much text and information? Most learners usually don’t want to thoroughly read content and tend to scan it. By effectively visually grouping information you can make it easier for the reader to engage the content.


  • Use language that is appropriate for the intended audience. Content directed at a consumer is often written to an 8th grade reading level.
  • Use steps to break up large sections of copy
  • Logically sequence the information from the perspective of what the reader should know, in priority order.
  • Using bullet points can help focus the reader’s eye.
  • Rewrite sentences to describe ideas or actions as concisely as possible.
  • Keep consistent standards as to how you use typographic attributes such as type font, bolding, italics, font size and color. These attributes help focus the ability of the reader to navigate through the content.
  • Work the content to fit the final deliverable. Slide decks, IFUs, E-learning modules, scientific posters, and investor relations materials all have different challenges with organizing and presenting educational content. A slide deck is not necessarily an effective E-learning tool.

For more in depth information visit: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/FederalPLGuidelines

People are visual learners

Professional illustrations and graphics can have a tremendous effect on retention. Graphics are great training tools and can make the difference between average or superior educational materials. Illustrations can portray steps in a process, eliminate unnecessary detail and visualize science in a way that photographs simply cannot. Proper use of graphics can turn an ordinary slide deck of content into a much more engaging learning experience. Find a way to create images that will enhance the audience’s comprehension of the content.

To envision information and what bright and splendid visions can result is to work at the intersection image, word, number and art. E.R. Tufte

For more information about medical illustrators and how they work visit: http://www.ami.org

Promoting your company brand shouldn’t just be for advertising and marketing collateral

Don’t miss an opportunity to reinforce your brand within your educational materials. If a learner launches your online course or reviews an Instructions for Use (IFU) document they should know that it belongs to your company. The colors, styles, logo, etc. should match your company’s branding to create a cohesive professional look throughout all materials. However, unlike advertising, educational communications is not the place to make claims about your product.

Creating positive outcomes

Professional, well-crafted educational communications can enhance clinical studies and positively promote your brand to consumers and healthcare professionals. It can reduce the burden to your customer service organization and positively impress potential investors with the unique qualities of your product. This all starts with building a professional experienced team that can create the best possible education product.