Design Document: A Necessity or Just Another Hurdle to Jump?

About DSA

Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

  • accomplish internal custom projects
  • train and educate their internal staff in Instructional Systems Development.

Check out DSA presenters and Consultants at

DSA Tips Newsletter Archive

If you haven’t visited the tips archives lately, check it out –

Darryl’s tips are now conveniently organized not only by published date, but by these topics:

  • Project Management
  • Front End Analysis
  • Design Strategies
  • Instructional Strategies/Techniques
  • Measurement/Evaluation
  • Implementation
  • Professional Development
  • Coaching with DSA Tips

We have lots of great ideas just waiting for you to use!

Tap into DSA’s expertise and experience!

Call me at 831-649-8384 or email me at

Bring our expert presenters on-site with a workshop from DSA. Click here for details. Call or E-mail Jane Sink to help you decide which workshops are right for your group.

Part 1 – What are they? When do we use them?

Design documents are like the architectural concepts, “plans” and “blueprints”. In the design and development of training and educational products, we often refer to these two concepts as High Level Design Documents (plans) and Detailed Design Documents (blueprints). The high-level design document is produced after, and as a result of, the analysis phase of instructional development. In part one of this tip, we will look at high-level design documents and in part two, we’ll take a look at detailed design documents. Part 3 will illustrate their benefits, when to use them and when they may not be needed.

High Level Design Documents

A high level design document is defined as an overview of the instructional program that shows how all the elements fit into the appropriate delivery system. The design document gives the big picture. It specifies the training materials you are about to develop to such an extent that others can determine the sequence of instruction and envision what the learner will experience in each component of your program.

The purpose of this document is to present the initial instructional analysis for a course or program. The aim of this analysis is to establish a shared set of principles and standards for the course or program. This analysis looks at the course or program from these three cascading perspectives:

  1. Business/Organization Need: The business need describes why sorganizations send employees to a course, and why employees go to a course.
  2. Course Goals: The course goals describe what members of the target audience want to be able to do on the job after completing the course.
  3. Key Objectives: The key objectives describe the specific behaviors that learners will be able to perform upon conclusion of the course. Each key objective may include a list of enabling objectives that describe, in behavioral terms, the knowledge and skills required to achieve it. The enabling objectives may not be included in the high level design document if the training program is longer, but must be included in the more detailed design document later.

Other items to include would be:

In part 2 of this 3-part series we will discuss how and when to use Detailed Design Documents.

See you next time,