I designed a business simulation a few years ago where teams compete to be the most profitable. It is a simulation of a CPA firm, so they are competing to win the audit, tax, and consulting work of various local, fictional businesses. I named the businesses after jazz musicians I was listening to at the time, which was fun for me, but not something I expected anyone else to catch. I was delighted to receive an email recently from one of the instructors sharing the news that one of her students was a jazz piano minor in college and was very enthusiastic about the jazz references in the course. It enriched the course for him.
That made my day.
Way back at the beginning of my career, I was writing worskills exams for PLATO Learning (then TRO Learning) and I remember creating a whole little fictional universe with recurring businesses. It helped make development come alive for me, and I have to believe the more engaged the designer, the better the design, and in the end the better the learning.
At some level, elegant design is about small, delightful details, whether the details themselves get noticed or not (thought it’s great when they are noticed).