Tag Archives: simplicity

Build your presentation design muscle

You’ve studied presentation design, created beautiful new presentations, and learned the ins and outs of your presentation software. What’s next? How do you grow and exercise those new design skills?

Revising a Bulleted List

One great way to do this is to revise older versions of decks you’ve abandoned for the cinematic approach to presentation design. I have several hundred presentations and versions of presentations scattered throughout two hardrives and cyberspace. I could dump these old versions or engage in nostalgic  “remember when I used the ‘dancing delivery boy’ animated gif in my presentation delivery lesson?” sessions. Instead, I like to try out new techniques, typefaces, images, and design styles and continue building on the foundational principles of design by revising these decks. Revising slidedecks full of template-driven lists of bullets, clip art, and frenetic animation takes attention to just a few basic design ideas:

  1. Less is More (From Presentation Zen Design)
  2. One Idea per Slide (From Slide:ology)
  3. Picture Superiority (From Brain Rules)

Let’s take this slide for example:


By remembering that an extra slide costs nothing, that less clutter actually means more design work, and that each slide can convey one simple idea best when paired with an image, you can expand one slide of bullets into several well designed aspects of one visual story. Here is a simple process to follow (process adapted from Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology):

1. Examine your original slide and remove the clip art–no one connects to cheesy clip art. Highlight the key idea in each slide. This key idea will be the basis for each of the rest of your slide.

Choosing what is or isn't important in a sentence isn't easy. Ask yourself, what word can describe the subject of the sentence? This answer is your starting point to shortening your bullet.

Choosing what is or isn’t important in a sentence isn’t easy. Ask yourself, what word can describe the subject of the sentence? This answer is your starting point to shortening your bullet.

2. Design a slide for each bullet/highlighted pair. In this example, I’ve chosen to amplify the farmer’s market theme by using three typefaces I purchased from the Lost Type Co-Op, Ribbon by Dan Gneiding, Edmond Sans by James T. Edmondson, and Highlands by Tyler Galpin. I chose 4 core colors and chose imagery that I could adapt to the color scheme and theme. See the finished product below.

The title slide for this revision presentation sets the tone for the rest of the deck.

The title slide for this revision presentation sets the tone for the rest of the deck.

In order for the new deck to make sense, the second bullet should actually become the introduction in the revision.

In order for the new deck to make sense, the second bullet should actually become the introduction in the revision.




The previous example is one I created for class. However, I want to share with you an example of a slide from one of my previous decks on Universal Constructivism to show you that theory can truly be put into practice:










Try revising one or more of your bullet-driven slides to build up your presentation “guns.” And remember….


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Melissa Marshall wants you to talk nerdy to her

Two of the biggest barriers to fresh speech are jargon and complex language. We often fall back on big words either because we want to appear “smart” (or we think our audience expects it), because they are a natural part of our vocabularies, or because they are a natural part of our discipline. However, according to Scott Schwertly of Ethos 3, a presentation design firm, what set Steve Jobs apart as a communicator was not his ability to use tech speak, but his ability to communicate at a level that was understandable and impacting to everyone (Schwertly, How to Be an Online Presentation God Webinar). TEDster Melissa Marshall, fellow communications teacher shares her experiences teaching engineers how to communicate their ideas to a general audience. These lessons are not only simple and applicable to science folks, but they are delivered in an engaging and dynamic way. Check out Marshall’s equation to incredible and meaningful interactions below:

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Colbert and Stewart Simplify PACs

I tout the phrases keep it simple, simple isn’t easy, and simple is best often in my discussion of design. But one area in which I could devote more time to these axioms is content. I think teaching for 8 hours at one time tends to make one want to pack as much information as possible into a session. The anxiety of so much time can lead to information overload (which often happens during the persuasion mega-double). In an effort to tweak my focus and narrow down my lecture time to essentials only (and make way for application), I turn to inspiration from the communicators I trust.

In Friday’s Decker Blog, Ben Decker discusses how Stephen Colbert has consistently taken the very complex issue of Political Action Committees and campaign finance and simplified it through the use of SHARPs (Stories, Humor, Analogies, References & Quotes, Pictures & Visuals). Decker refers specifically to the use of skits with fellow comedian turned social commentator Jon Stewart. The use of satire, impacting visuals, and dynamic delivery to communicate a complex idea in a simple way resonates with audiences, makes a convoluted and mystifying political practice accessible to the average viewer.

I wonder how much one of these would cost...LOVE!

Check out this infographic from the Huffington Post, which chronicles Colbert’s ongoing campaign against PACs.

For another perspective, check out this infographic from iWatch:

The stark difference between our current president and the current Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney is particularly interesting.

What do you do to keep it simple for your audience? In what areas could you simplify and streamline?

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Link of the day: 30 Creative Minimalist Designs from Graphic Design Blog

Check out these 30 minimalist designs for examples of how keeping things simple and impacting can actually work. My favorite? The “It’s the Hat” ad from Chapeurs Hut Weber.

Brilliantly simple, irreverent. Pure joy!

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Simplicity in design: When is minimalism too simple?

While perusing design.alltop.com and choosing today’s link on minimalist design, I ran across a series of posts from Graphic Design Blog on minimalism in design. The first article, titled “Minimalist Designs – Is it a trend or are we just being lazy?” explores the minimalist movement that has characterized the graphic design world in recent decades. When is minimalism too minimal? Is minimalism just laziness (less stuff, less work?)?

Minimalism is a trend in graphic designing that involves stripping down the design to its most basic features. Although minimalism is percieved as an effortless task…only graphic designers know it isn’t that easy. Minimalism involves extreme conceptualism and abstraction. –Graphic Design Blog

So, minimalism works, but not when it sacrifices clarity and a core message. The author asserts that minimalism without purpose can be disastrous, then takes us through several examples of minimalism gone wrong. So, what causes a minimalism fail?

1. Doing it just because, or the bandwagon effect.

No contact number, no address, not an email id. What is the point of a business card if your client is not getting the complete information about your business? --Graphic Design Blog

2. Believing that it’s easier to navigate minimalist designs.

But keeping it too minimal fails to convey your business purpose and creates a false impression on your customers. The purpose of a website is to facilitate customers and inform of your services. What’s the purpose of a websites if it does not clearly explain what services your business has to offer? –Graphic Design Blog

Want an awesome example of minimalist design that is also immersive and dynamic? Check out the Nizo for iPhone app website.

3. Believing details equal clutter. But, how do you decide what’s detail and what’s clutter?

Here the author uses the example of flavored salts to indicate that, “while it is true that too much clutter in a design can create a messy design… going too minimal fails to reach targeted audience.” I actually really love these flavored salts and their design, which is based on the periodic table. Sure, I suppose it’s for a very specific audience of nerds, but it’s still awesome. Instead, I’ll use the rebranding fail by Tropicana.

Tropicana customers railed against this redesign--many people thought their juice had been replaced by a generic brand. Sure, it's cleaner, more modern, but it's not Tropicana.

 4. Too much explanation creates confusion.

Here, the author emphasizes that content-rich and clutter are not the same thing. There is a difference between “informative design” that “is also necessary in explaining the clients about your business” and unnecessary design elements.

5. Simple is creative, right?

I think one of the best examples of simplicity and creativity that works is the FedEx logo. I recently read the story of how this logo came about. It took Lindon Leader 200 designs to land on this amazing use of negative space.

But what is the point of minimalism if it does not accurately communicate the purpose to the target audience? --Graphic Design Blog

I think about how this ties in to the design of effective visual aids. My students often feel anxiety when I ask them to create simple, clean slides. They apologize for creating something that is so simple and straightforward. I reassure them that I can tell the difference between lazy design and clean design…

This takes attention to contrast, placement of elements, and work with thinking conceptually.

This does not.

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