Skip to content
cognitive learning puzzle

Navigating Cognitive Load and Memory in L&D Design

Embarking on the journey of designing effective workplace learning experiences involves navigating the complexities of cognitive load and memory. In this blog, we delve into the insights shared in the Learning to Thrive lesson "Understanding Cognitive Load & Memory in Learning Design" to unravel the importance of simplifying visuals, reducing cognitive effort, and striking the right balance.


Deciphering Cognitive Load: A Funnel of Information

Imagine the process of learning as a funnel, where sensory information at the top filters down into working memory—the mental space used for manipulating information. Working memory, however, is limited, processing only three to four bits of information at a time. The challenge lies in making this information stick in long-term memory, which apparently has no limits. Learning designers play a crucial role in optimizing this process.


The Bottleneck: Working Memory and Its Constraints

Working memory, a bottleneck in cognitive architecture, operates on a limited capacity and duration. Understanding its constraints is pivotal for learning designers. The goal is to avoid overloading working memory with extraneous information, complex interfaces, or intricate elements. Striking the right balance ensures effective learning without overwhelming cognitive resources.


Visual Simplicity vs. Cognitive Effort

Reducing cognitive load requires simplifying visuals, but this raises a pertinent question: how to balance simplicity without sacrificing engagement? The conversation touches on the use of cartoons or clipart, which, while reducing cognitive load, may be perceived as unattractive. The key lies in understanding the audience—novice learners may benefit from reduced visuals, while experienced learners may require more detailed representations.


Striking a Balance: Learner-Centric Design

The discussion on visuals brings us to the delicate balance between simplification and engagement. For novice learners, reducing visuals may be effective, but experienced learners might require more nuanced representations. The key is learner-centric design—understanding the preferences and needs of the audience and adapting visual elements accordingly.


Conclusion: Crafting Engaging and Effective Learning Experiences

As we conclude this exploration into cognitive load and memory, the blog emphasizes the importance of crafting learning experiences that align with the needs of the learners. Simplifying visuals, understanding cognitive constraints, and striking a balance between simplicity and engagement are vital components of successful learning design.


This blog is inspired by insights from Learning to Thrive. Explore more lessons at for continuous learning.


More from the Blog

December 11, 2023

The Neuroscience of Workplace Learning & Development

For workplace learning, understanding the intricacies of how our brains absorb information is a game-changer. This blog...
March 8, 2024

Learning & Development through Neuroscience

In the fast-paced world of workplace learning, understanding the intricacies of how our brains absorb information is a...
October 13, 2022

LXP vs LMS - Does your organisation need both?

Organisations have long used Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to deliver employee training. More recently, a new type...

Sign-up to our mailing list

Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll deliver you the latest insights and resources.


We will never share your email address with third parties.