Tomorrow and Wednesday, I will be talking slide design with Alex’s class. Because I am obsessed with theory and ideology, I begin this lecture as any other by discussing theory, in this case, Nancy Duarte’s theory that great presenters can also think like designers.
I generally start by asking the class what they think it means to think like a designer. What are designers like? How do they function? How are they different from the rest of us? How do you know someone is a good designer? All of these questions can lead to a deeper understanding of each of our pre-existing notions of design, whether valid or not. We then move on to Dan Pink, author of the amazing A Whole New Mind, which introduces readers to the 21st century model of thinking and being–the right-brain aptitude driven conceptual approach that leaves knowledge workers in the dust. I share with them a few insights Pink makes regarding design as well as a few of the insights he draws from others.
Design is a classic whole-minded aptitude. It is, to borrow [John] Heskett terms, a combination of utility and significance. A graphic designer must whip up a brochure that is easy to read. That’s utility. But, at it’s most effective, her brochure must also transmit ideas or emotions that the words themselves cannot convey. That’s significance. –Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind
Another influence in this burgeoning definition of design is data visualizer and infographic genius, David McCandless. In this TED talk, McCandless shares with us his journey into design, his fascination with the dynamic projection of data,what he calls the “new soil,” and shows us just how dynamic and impacting a wonderfully executed visual can be.
I particularly appreciate McCandless’ take on what makes good information design. In essence, a slideshow is just that–the design and organization of data and information into a useful product…at least it should be..
This next segment is something I have not yet used in the classroom. But, I’ve been wanting to integrate Pink’s portfolio section of A Whole New Mind into the classroom. These sections of the text feature some excellent exercises and sage advice to help develop our right-brain aptitudes. I chose a few design exercises that I use to help me develop my designability.
1. Keep a Design Notebook.
2. Channel Your Annoyance.
3. Read Design Magazines.
4. Be Like Karim.
5. C-R-A-P-ify your graphic design
I end by sharing this idea with students. Since designers are problem-solvers, they use the mediums available to them to help solve that problem, to enhance the user experience, not detract from it. Good design is experienced, but barely noticed.
Next time, I’ll tackle the means used to create good information design. I call this the Effective Slide Triumvirate (a rule of three). Apply the three concepts of arrangement, visual elements, and animation to create slides that rule.