Design of the online learning platform, FutureLearn


“Tom is a designer with a natural flair for simple and elegant design. He set the tone for FutureLearn, which is regularly praised for it clean and friendly UX. His sense of space is one of the best I’ve come across. He a great all-rounder, and can hold his own as the only designer in an agile team and champion and sell great design. He is at his most natural best creating beautiful visual and graphic design. I’d certainly recommend him to anyone looking for a dash of visual flair and good solid information design.”

Matthew Walton, Head of Product, FutureLearn

FutureLearn: massive, open, online courses

FutureLearn is an innovative, exciting, social learning network. Founded in 2013 by the Open University, they make world class education available to everyone internationally, by offering free online courses from leading universities. I was closely involved with Futurelearn from the very early stages, working with the initial team to design its architecture and UX, and was the lead visual designer at Futurelearn for its first year; from its initial prototype phase, through to the public launch and beta phase.

A user experience built around content and learning

The rationale for FutureLearn’s simple, utilitarian design was to encourage the user to focus on the content. The platform’s architecture and user interface was designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible for the user, to enable easy, natural learning. It was also important to give FutureLearn its own unique style, visual identity and voice; communicating its intellectual rigour, university pedigree and integrity, whilst giving it a distinct, modernist presence in the online learning community.

Designing mobile first, for a great experience on all devices

From the very beginning, FutureLearn was designed to be mobile first; not just responsive or accessible on different devices, but enjoyable, fulfilling and delightful to use on all devices. Futurelearn allows the user the same level of functionality, content and interaction on mobile that they would have on desktop, which is very rare. FutureLearn is also designed in such a way that the user interface and visual language is semantically consistent, meaning a user can swap devices but still get the same intuitive, natural learning experience.