Tag Archives: visual design

Slideshare of the Day: The Joy of Data-Driven Storytelling

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This month, I am working on the first reboot/design and content revision for the online iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation. The focus this time around is on creating a class that is more universally applicable to the degree programs we serve while also giving students further practice with persuasion and helping them articulate who they are as professionals. One of the big focus points of this reboot will be the simplification of our approach to visual design as well as the reinforcement that one way to gain competitive advantage in saturated work markets is to communicate ideas in a visually engaging way. Today, a student shared with me a Slideshare deck that is sure to become a part of how we teach visual design in future Professional Communication and Presentation courses. “The Joy of Data Driven Storytelling,” presented by COO of Guide Leslie Bradshaw and designed by Beutler Ink and Carrie Dobrin is not only a lovely example of evocative visual communication but makes the case that in order to cut through the dense information available on the web, all communicators must find ways to put data, whether qualitative or quantitative, into a visual framework that is also story-driven. It’s inspiring to see business folks making the case for design and conceptual thinking. Check out the deck below!

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Tweak Your Slides’ 200th Post: The Quotable Pope

 

 

 

 

 

Today marks my 200th post on Tweak Your Slides! In honor of this, I’ll share my Slideshare pick of the day with you.

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This month, one of my campus students is developing his Ignite presentation on why Pope Francis shows us all that inspirational leadership can still come from someone in a seat of power. My students, like many millenials, are disillusioned by and distrust authority. These are the students who grew up in the age of Monica Lewinsky scandals, Enron fraud debacles, BP oil spills, bipartisan-bickering national inertia, and a religious leader quitting the job that he was supposedly divinely-chosen to do. So, it’s no wonder that young people today seek inspiration away from power, away from traditional figures of authority.

This changed almost immediately since Pope Francis, who became the spiritual leader of the Catholic church in March of 2013, began his papacy. It seems that the “people’s pope” as he has been dubbed has the unique ability to inspire despite and beyond faith, age, or value-based perspective. Regardless of what your religious or faith-based beliefs are, it cannot be denied that Francis has done was very few before him were able to do–speak through faith and to humanity. Today’s deck, created by designer Edhan Small, features 12 inspirational quotes by Pope Francis. It speaks to an important lesson in presenting and communicating–to earn your audience’s respect, you must draw from common ground and shared values. What appeals to young people about Francis is his willingness to put humanity above religion, to put humility above authority, and to put open-mindedness above dogma. Check out the deck below.

Note: this is by no means an attempt to endorse a particular world view or faith, simply another study of how good communication works to appeal to an audience.

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4 (but really 6) steps to creating a visual resume

This week in Professional Communication and Presentation, the focus is the visual resume, a project I developed several years ago after seeing my friend Christin’s Prezume. I am currently working on a revamp of mine to match the new teaching portfolio and teaching philosophy infographic I worked on last year and this year, and ran across this article from Ethos3’s Scott Schwertly titled “Four Steps to Creating a Visual Resume“. In it, Schwertly shares some tips (six in total) I will be sharing with my students tomorrow. Schwertly advises visual resume creators to remember the importance of that first slide; catching your audience’s attention with that first slide will help set you apart from the crowd and also provide sufficient visual stimulus that makes the audience want to know more. Empowered Presentations, a Honolulu-based presentation design firm tasks each of their associates with creating a visual resume that showcases the individual’s abilities and personality. The first slide of each EP visual resume establishes the tone and feel for the presentation and the presenter’s personality:

Another tip Schwertly shares with readers in this article is brand yourself. This to me is one of the most important lessons to learn about a strong visual resume (and a big area I’m working on in my new version). Consistency in design that communicates and conveys who you are to your audience is key to a strong visual resume. I love love love how David Crandall brands himself as the anti-cog superhero in his Anti-Resume Manifesto:

One final tip I’ll share with you from the article is “Ask for It.” A visual resume is your chance to let a prospective company or client know exactly why they should want to work with you. As Schwertly says, “you need to provide purpose and meaning behind your visual resume.” Not inviting the audience to contact you is akin to closing a presentation with “that’s it.” It simply tells the audience you’ve wasted their time and they can now go about doing something more important. Slideshare user Yuri Artibise ends his presentation with two simple ideas: 1. That’s my story; what’s yours and how can I help? and 2. Here’s how we can connect. This gives the presentation that sense of purpose it needs to propel it forward in the audience’s mind.

Have you built your visual resume yet? If not, Schwertly’s article is a great starting point. Check out the rest here!

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Visual Design Basics is a Top Presentation of the Day!

Thank you to Slideshare.net for choosing my quick and dirty guide to visual design as a top presentation of the day. While it is not as exhaustive as my Simple Design deck, I hope it helps encourage everyone to see that slide design is not a mystery, but a totally attainable goal! Check out the deck below:

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Course introduction infographic

As I talked about in July, I’ve been working on building my infographic muscles. One project I’ve been involved in is an infographic to serve as a quick view version of the video and text course introduction our online students begin their month in Professional Communication and Presentation with. I used what I learned about designing an infographic to develop this deliverable. This isn’t a final version, as I still have a bit more tweaking to do, but I am stoked to share what I’ve done so far with you!

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Color, Type, and Layout

One of my goals in creating this infographic was to maintain the overall look of other course materials. The course introduction for PCP was created by Alex Rister, so I drew my inspiration from her design. Alex previously shared her presentation with readers. Check out a version of the deck below:

This meant focusing on a simple color palette of orange, black, white, and grey, and two typefaces, Blackjack and League Gothic Caps. I appreciate the simplicity and cohesion of Alex’s design for our intro slides, and it translated very easily to the infographic form.

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In addition to considering color and type, I also worked to help students interact with and process the infographic by creating flow and organization through a left to right, top to bottom hierarchy and the use of lines and color to create segments.

Iconography

Because I want this to be a document that is quickly processed, I chose to use icons from The Noun Project as well as simple shapes and diagrams to communicate the core ideas presented in the infographic. My favorite? It has to be the robot!

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What do you think of this latest project? I am definitely in the revision phase of Duarte’s presentation ecosystem, and am open to suggestions. What projects have you been working on lately? How have you been building your presentation muscles?

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Simple Design: Why Simple Isn’t Easy

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The Simple Design series will cover the basics of strong presentation design. The first part in the series is an introduction to the concept of simplicity in design and what that truly means when it comes to creating strong visual aids.

Often, when I consult with students, teachers, and professionals on presentation design, the subject of simplicity comes up. The idea that something complex should at the same time be simple can be a road block for novice presentation designers, particularly because we are so conditioned through misuse of presentation software to fill up every available inch of presentation “real estate” with bullets, clip art, non-sensical diagrams, doo dads, fire animations, wingdings, company logos, word art, and any other number of PowerPoint distractions. Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had used PowerPoint? What would we actually remember about The Gettysburg Address.

Simplicity is a powerful element to creating strong visual aids. Further, simplicity is something we crave, something we are now primed to seek out as we are driven to seek out meaning. Simplicity is the key to meaning; it allows your audience to move past noise directly to signal. But, simplicity isn’t simple or easy. John Madea, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, understands the power of simplicity first hand; in fact, he wrote the book on it. In his 2007 TED talk, “Designing for Simplicity”, Madea dissects the intersection of simplicity and complexity; simplicity is complexity, but it’s complexity at its most elegant and meaningful.

For Madea, simplicity is a part of the human experience; it’s about living life with more joy and less pain. But, simplicity isn’t simple, which is where design comes in. Design is the intersection of art and technology, the simple presentation of the infinitely complex human experience. At its best, design is about simplicity because design is about focusing on the meaningful. In a world of death-by-PowerPoint, this idea of simple design is even more important in the creation of visual aids and slideshows. Why? Because at the core, slides are a form of information design, the use of design elements to communicate, persuade, or inform.

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However, when we choose a template and create a seemingly endless repetition of title, bullets, clip art, incongruous transition/animation, we make content more important than the visual presentation or design of that content. So, what’s the solution? Well, you guessed it–it’s time to make presentation design SIMPLE. The six simple design elements are:

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The first lesson in the Simple Design series is “simplicity takes work.” Before jumping right into designing slides, we must first prepare ourselves for the design mindset, and that means defining what we mean by work.

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When it comes to slide design, one of the first and very honest things I tell students and teachers alike is that paring your work down, resisting the urge to jump right into a template, and being ingenious with the tools presentation software provides you with takes much more work than the opposite. To work towards simplicity, begin by considering three areas.

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Firstly, it’s important to analyze the context of the presentation and whether or not slides are truly necessary to communicating your message (yes, they are expected, but are they necessary?). A set of slides, if it’s only decoration, can quickly become a distraction for your audience and can cause them to focus less on what you have to communicate and more on what is happening behind or next to you.

Secondly, if you’ve determined that slides are necessary, you should then create a framework for the presentation by developing a storyboard of your content and organization. One of the most consistent pieces of advice given by professionals like Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, and Steve Cherches is go analog! Get away from that computer (believe me, you’ll spend plenty of time on the computer), use your visual thinking skills, and draw your ideas out. Drawing out your presentation can help free you from the restriction that can come from only relying the imagery you search for (whether it is stock photography or creative commons images/iconography). Drawing and storyboarding also helps you see connection you might miss via the linear layout of a slideshow.

Finally, it’s important to set your slides up for design.

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This means beginning with a blank slate, so that you can resist the urge to conform your ideas to a template, as opposed to building a “look for your ideas”; turning on grids and rulers (would you build a house without a way to measure your dimensions?), so you can make precise placement a priority; and familiarizing yourself with your presentation software’s advanced tools such as cropping and image editing, font or typography, shapes, objects, and visual effects, so you can polish your individual elements and overall design.

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Whether you use Keynote, PowerPoint, Prezi, GoogleDocs, or Slide Rocket, it’s important to begin with a blank canvas. The biggest detriment to original simplicity is the pre-made template.

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Any good presentation software includes features that assist you in designing. Designers make deliberate decisions and consider alignment and hierarchy above all. Using grids, rulers, and getting a “bird’s eye view” of your slides will help you move towards simple design.

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Finally, explore your software’s advanced features. Keynote and PowerPoint both allow users to edit and enhance images, for instance, which can help you mold an existing image to fit your original theme.

Once you’ve set your slides up for design, it’s time to move on to the I in SIMPLE Design. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series, in which I’ll cover the glance media rule and its connection to slide design.

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Tweak Your Lessons: March Updates

The reboot of PCPO is two weeks in, and already the team has seen several areas where “tweaking” will be needed in order to help students successfully complete their major project in the course, the Ignite presentation. Current challenges we face with this week by week process-based model are:

  • Students don’t sufficiently study welcome materials and don’t understand the course is based on the major project. There seems to be a disconnect between our communication of the process and their conditioning, which is to complete one task at a time without considering how each task connects with another.
    • Possible fix–schedule GoTo earlier in the week. Require attendance?
  • Students are choosing overused or unsuitable topics for the format and approach.
    • Do what we do in class–students must submit ten topics, workshop each one with their instructor, determine which three will work best for the project, then analyze each one using the model Andrew Dlugan proposes in his article “The Secret of Choosing Successful Speech Topics”.

In addition to testing the reboot of the class, I’ve also been working on several of the decks from last month I didn’t have a chance to tweak because of REAL Delivery and SIMPLE Design. I’ll be debuting Tweak Your Resume online next month, and I just used the Brainstorming and Structuring deck in today’s group workshop/planning/design session for the upcoming worst case scenario presentation.

The second version of Tweak Your Resume uses a more cohesive color scheme. I am also experimenting with smaller text unified visuals.

The second version of Tweak Your Resume uses a more cohesive color scheme. I am also experimenting with smaller text and more unified visuals.

This deck will need serious revision before it's  show ready. The content is specific to an in-class project the students are working on, though I'd like for it to become a general purpose tutorial on choosing a topic for and organizing a demonstration speech.

This deck will need serious revision before it’s show ready. The content is specific to an in-class project the students are working on, though I’d like for it to become a general purpose tutorial on choosing a topic for and organizing a demonstration speech. In this presentation, I’ve tried to detach from the image-only approach to include vector icons from thenounproject.com

What presentation projects have you been working on lately? What decks are you excited to share with others?

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The Rhetoric of Presentation Design, Revisited

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Monday marks the first on campus class of the year for me. As it’s been two months since I taught in a classroom (aside from faculty development workshops), I have been devoting the past week to preparing my class by revising assignments, creating a new 2-page max layout for all instruction sheets, and revamping my 15 decks for the month. In preparing for the rhetoric and persuasion portion of the class, I have begun revisiting my writing/research on persuasion. In 2011, I wrote a series of articles discussing how we as presenters can use our visual aids to develop the three rhetorical appeals necessary to persuading an audience–ethos, pathos, and logos. I have been working to integrate this aspect of rhetoric a bit more explicitly since then, primarily because we devote so much time to slide design in class and because as presenters, we must continue to work to ensure slides are accompaniment, enhancement, proof of concept, and motivators towards action–not crutches or teleprompters.  Several months ago, super student Travis Ockerman created the video below as an extra credit activity in the online iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation.

Rhetoric & Persuasion Summary from Travis Ockerman on Vimeo.

In the video, Travis summarizes not only the course’s basic lessons on persuasion, in particular ethos, pathos, and logos, but he also beautifully integrates what he’s learned about visual design by creating a well-designed presentation and discussing how presenters can use visuals to help strengthen the three appeals. I added this video as a required viewing in my online classes, and now that my on campus course is web enhanced, I’ll be adding this to the list of assets available to students beyond their require text, Resonate. It’s back to grading and preparing for next month. Happy Friday!

 

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Data Display of the Day: Two views on Online Privacy

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All infographics by GDS Infographics

After seeing this beautiful video by Michael Rigley’s Network via an Ethos 3 Motion Design analysis, I was both fascinated and terrified.

Network from Michael Rigley on Vimeo.

Rigley’s approach to explaining data networks, a topic that most of us (including me) would find much too abstract and puzzling if presented in report-form, is beautifully illustrated and animated–it’s also understandable and impacting. Rigley doesn’t just lay out a series of facts, he interweaves them with a visual representation. It’s the approach to presenting this information that makes it that much more impacting. The information comes to life in a way the audience can understand; one cannot ignore the ramifications of our networked world. I found myself surprised and shocked at what I didn’t know about my digital footprint, and of course wanted to know more.

I ran across this infographic created by Abine, an online privacy company,  from Daily Infographic, and it only confirms what Rigley explains in Network.

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Through our activities, our private information and habits, from shopping and liking someone’s status to making travel plans, are being mined and sold to advertising and tracking companies. This may seem innocuous when a site raises a price because an individual looks up a certain item, but when it can cost a person his or her job of affects his or her credit, the need to stand up for privacy becomes greater. Today’s examples amplify their important messages through design, so what design lessons can we draw from today’s examples?

Lessons from Today’s Examples

  1. Use simple shapes and icons to convey complex ideas.
  2. Organize information so it sequentially builds towards a solution.
  3. Infographics in print do not necessarily follow the glance media rule; they are meant to be absorbed over time.
  4. Video motion display should have a cohesive theme that helps further clarify the complex concept being animated.

Consider these four lessons, and remember, there is always room to…

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Infographic Candy: David McCandless’s Rhetological Fallacies

Logical fallacies are an element of Professional Communication and Presentation that have fallen a bit by the wayside–with only one month of class and a semester’s worth of material to cover, it’s difficult to talk about everything without just lecturing at students for 4-8 hour periods. Any true superteacher knows this doesn’t work. That’s why I am glad for beautiful visualizations by the master, David McCandless of Information is Beautiful. Check out his infographic on all things logical fallacies, “Rhetological Fallacies” below and at his site, Information Is Beautiful.

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