Tag Archives: visuals

Data Display of the Day: Wealth On a Plane

I ran across this visualization from visual.ly, and it upset, enlightened, and intrigued me.

It truly speaks to the power of using relatable imagery paired with strong design, clear organization, and relevant statistics. It’s also an awesome example of progressive disclosure. I am still working on my unemployment slides for the Tweak your Resume debut, and I may have to abandon them for now, as I am far behind on my launch date for this deck and the stat is really being used for a small idea in a bigger presentation. I’ve now included some progressive disclosure; I am hoping it will move me in the right direction!
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Tweak Your Resume1.087

Enjoy today’s Data Display!


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Visual Thinking, an undeniable reality

After much deliberation and anxiety about overloading Slideshare.net with yet another presentation about presentation design, I’ve debuted by deck for March, Simple Design:

My decision to share this deck with others was difficult. I yearn for new conversations in the field of presentation design and visual communication and I want to be a part of these new conversations. However, I want to share something that is a stronger example of design with users than my previous deck on design, Tweak Your Slides.

The subject of visual thinking and cinematic visual aids is inevitable as we move further and further towards a society that yearns to connect with experience/brand/individual beyond the textual. In class, we devote a significant amount of time to designing a visual story, but more than this, we consider how inherent visuals have become in the conveying of our ideas and brands. Outside of class, I spend my time defending the post-clip art, post-1987 PowerPoint approach to presentation design against what I can only classify as a lizard brain-driven anxiety that comes with doing something different or non-traditional. Many of my colleagues accept how I approach teaching and see that it works, but cannot believe it could work outside of the vacuum of “fluffy” subjects like public speaking (this is of course not true in any respect). Alex Rister discussed this resistance on her blog, and lists this as one reason why this approach “won’t work” we often hear. But, then there are times when the visual thinking bug takes hold. One of our colleagues created a dynamic and immersive GoTo training complete with zombies and sound effects, and this month, super student Chris Martignago completed his month’s work of homework using visual thinking:


Assigning reading homework is the bane of my existence--Resonate is an awesome book, but forcing students to read it means some of its impact is lost in the miasma of routine and compulsory action. Chris's solution, which was to make the outline something immersive and kinesthetic is brilliant!

Assigning reading homework is the bane of my existence–Resonate is an awesome book, but forcing students to read it means some of its impact is lost in the miasma of routine and compulsory action. Chris’s solution, which was to make the outline something immersive and kinesthetic, is brilliant!

In the past few weeks, several new decks focused on the topic of visual thinking have debuted on Slideshare. The first I’ll share with you today is Duarte Design’s #IllustraTED, which is a project developed by Duarte Design that gathers amazing illustrators and artists together to visualize and draw out some of this year’s talks:

(My favorite of course is Andrew McAfee’s talk on scifi and jobs.)

I also want to share with you two decks on visual storytelling and marketing that really give us a glimpse into where visual communication can take us in the future.  The first, created by Column Five Media, “Visual Content Marketing: Capture and Engage your Audience,” is an impeccably organized presentation that blends the essential ingredients–text, color, shape, layout, line, texture, and image–to communicate a core idea–we consume, communicate through, and are engaged by visuals, but succeeding with this in mind is not just about slapping a picture on a site and calling it a day.

The second deck, “Instabrand: The Rise of Visual Storytelling in a Content Marketing World,” an e-book by Christian Adams, isolates the same six communication media as the previous deck (photos, infographics, memes, videos, comics, visual note-taking), but focuses less on the how and more on the why this has happened and what the future will hold. This deck works less as a stand alone than Column Five’s, but I found the exposure to future forms of visual marketing/visual communication to be very enlightening.

What do you think? Do we still have room to grow this conversation? Have we said all there is to say about visual communication? If so, why is there still so much resistance?

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The Rhetoric of Presentation Design, Revisited

Rhetoric of pres design.001

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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September’s 20-minute slide slam

Each month Alex teaches, she challenges students to take a bulleted slide and revise it to a set of bullet-free visual stories. I previously blogged about that here.

This month, I decided to try my hand at a few new images/strategies. In working with one student, who wanted to display the idea, “Cats are the most popular pet” by showing an image of the earth and a pie chart, I came up with the idea of making the earth itself the pie chart. Since Cody Higgins had already chosen to create this for his slide slam, I decided to go with a different option. However, just as an exercise, I chose to recreate Cody’s excellent slide using the percentage of households that own cats and households that own dogs.

The students also work on creating grids; the last slide, just for fun is a ninja grid.


Images: Anna Fischer, thedalogs, Angelo González, squacco

Try a 10 or 20 minute tweak challenge to brush up or practice those design skills. Design is a skill that must be cultivated daily. Grow your design!


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Does visual really matter?

The simple answer is yes, of course it does. This may seem like a given in an age where children learn how to draw on an iPad and the basics of text speak before they learn (if they ever do) that it’s Shakespeare who claims that “all the world’s a stage.” However, in the business and education worlds, verbal and textual communication is still king!

Since 1987, PowerPoint users everywhere have followed a standard operating procedure–open the program/application, choose a template, insert notes, speaking points, a transcript, or an entire report’s worth of information on text-driven, bulleted slides. This is what Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds describe as a slideument–a document (something to be handed out and distributed). On the presentation axis Nancy describes below, the exact opposite of this is a cinematic, story-driven (Duarte’s phrasing) presentation. Check out what else these two gurus have to say about how the slideument relates to the scientific and technical world.

So, even a scientific presentation could benefit from at the very least the splitting of information over more slides. Well, one way to do this and ensure that this material resonates with an audience is to not only focus on one idea per slide but also pair that idea with a strong visual. Thus, you apply the picture superiority effect.

What is the picture superiority effect? I posted this video last week, but, who couldn’t use a refresher–in 30 seconds, here is the picture superiority effect as it relates to cognition and our brain function.

In essence, we retain information when it is visually displayed. But, why is it that pictures have this incredible impact on our minds? What is it about images that makes our brains work so well (at least in terms of information retention, which is definitely one goal of a presentation)?

Let’s check out what John Medina, my superteacher superhero, has to say about his 10th Brain Rule:

So, we learn two important lessons related to presenting from studying this important Brain Rule:

1. Vision Trumps All Other Senses.

Vision is the primary sense of the majority of your audience. Vision also takes up some major real estate in our brains, making it one of the most powerfully complicated senses. For Medina, most things come down to survival and procreation. Vision was how we observed danger in our environments; it was also how we determined the characteristics that made a suitable genetic male. Tor Norretranders mapped the processing speed of the human senses and found that sight has the processing speed of a computer network, as compared to taste, which has the processing speed of a pocket calculator (Source).

2. Even Text is Visual.

Our brains translate the squiggles, lines, and shapes that make up letters, connect them to the sound we were taught matches that pictorial representation, and then determine how that pictograph in relationship to other pictographs creates a sound, and a word. But, according to Medina, this process takes more time and effort. We can, however, process a whole image much more quickly than pictorial representations of sounds. Medina’s advice? Business professionals and teachers should “burn their current PowerPoint presentations” and ditch the inefficiency of oral and text-based information (I fear this opens a giant can of worms–I am not saying text is useless–merely that as a means of conveying information in a set time and context that invites distraction and noise, it is best to amplify your signal through the visual medium). So, to harness the true power of the visual medium and shoot retention through the roof, we have to pair one impacting image with one clear and concise idea.

Image: Stacie Stacie Stacie, Image: Julian Santacruz

Choosing an image and pairing it to an idea is a challenge that takes conceptual or metaphorical thinking, which is a separate, post-worthy topic. For the time being, let’s take a look at how PETA uses the picture superiority effect to drive home their point about fur for fashion.  Consider the text only visuals as they compare to those applying the picture superiority effect–do these slogans carry more cognitive retention power when paired with a recognizable, moving, or arousing image?  Note, the Shirley Manson ad is not for the weak of stomach–you have been forewarned!

Consider how much more lasting this image of NBA star Chris “Birdman” Anderson is. We tend to equate fur with status, but Chris is comfortable in his own tattooed skin.

Visceral images that juxtapose beauty and delicateness against brutal reality hit us at our emotional core. Manson’s porcelain skin creates amazing contrast to the horror and cruelty she displays for the viewer.

This is one of PETA’s most popular campaigns. Gone are the days of splashing red paint on fur coats. Now, PETA appeals to one of our most basic visual drives, the drive towards attractiveness while also challenging the viewer to embrace the vulnerability of nakedness.

So, to fully harness audience retention in your next presentation, ditch the pre-made template (or even if you don’t!), and focus on visually-driven slides that pair one image, with one idea. Remember, visual is king!

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Infographic of the Day: Picture Superiority Effect

Why is it that we retain more information when we see something rather than when we simply hear it? The phenomenon is known as the picture superiority effect. Pairing images with text brings retention up from 10% to 65%. Check out this short infographic for a simple, yet thorough visual explanation of how this phenomenon works:

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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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Tweak Your Slides: the Workshop

I am off to conduct my favorite workshop, Tweak Your Slides for Educators. In an effort to continuously improve my own design, I’ve updated the presentation, added a few more examples, and revised my ten principles a bit.

I noticed today that this presentation has been viewed over 900 times. Neato! I am super glad the ideas that sparked my design obsession are helping others.

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The Rhetoric of Presentation Design: An Introduction and More

This month is my first solid month off from 16 hours of active classroom teaching time each week in three years. I have put this small break (I still sit in on class, though my monkey dance time has decreased significantly) off for a while, partly because I am a complete control freak, and partly because if I am perfectly honest, interaction with my students is the closest I get to a meaningful exchange of ideas outside of chatting up my friends on the weekends. I live in a slightly more rural area than I am comfortable with right now (there are roosters in my backyard), and teaching is also my excuse to leave the farms of Apopka and venture into the big city. On top of all that, I also just really love teaching, and the thought of spending the month away from discussions on the subjects I love most is just not that appealing. However, I’ve seen the difference a bit of a break has made in fellow superteacher Alex Rister’s personal and professional endeavors, so I figured I owed myself the chance to work on projects of my own choosing.

This bit of time has given me a chance to explore the place of slides and slide decks in 21st century presentation rhetoric. I had a small “aha moment” when I realized that one way I can punch through that decades-old wall that prevents many teachers, professionals, and individuals from making their way into the realm of simple, clean, design-driven visual aids is to emphasize that whether we realize it or not, a slide deck’s ubiquitousness makes it a powerful, yet often misused tool of rhetoric and persuasion.

Not sure how Aristotle would feel about slides. He might think them a lazy man’s approach to public speech. Then again, show him what they can do in the right hands and he’d be sold.

Image: Brett Jordan

For Aristotle, rhetoric is the ability to find the best available means for persuading an audience  in a given situation. This best available means often comes in the form of the three affective rhetorical appeals, ethos or credibility, pathos or emotion, and logos or logic. Like it or not, our slides have become one of the most powerfully effective means of developing these three appeals. But, with such great power and possibility comes responsibility. As presenters, whether we are trained designers or not, we have a responsibility to good slide stewardship. Disregarding the rhetorical power of your slides to be conveyors of your ethos, pathos, and logos is poor stewardship and can damage your audience’s perception of you, your message, and their connection to your topic. So, what exactly is the role of your slides in developing a strong persuasive message?

The Ethos of Your Slides

Image: AlphaChimpStudio

Ethos is a blend of trustworthiness, empathy, and authority (I mesh reputation in here with authority and trustworthiness).  Most important to me is empathy, and here, I can only point presenters to one idea, The Golden Rule: Never give a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through yourself. Great slides are a breath of fresh air in the forest of slideuments because they illustrate a concern for the audience and the audience’s experience.

How long would you pay attention to a speaker whose presentation featured 10 slides just like this? 20? 30? What does this say about this speaker's command of subject? Whether the view or judgment is accurate, how would you as an audience member view the presenter?

Image: labanex

Your slides are a powerful conveyor of ethos, but they can also be an ethos killer. A well designed set of slides contains information that is accurate and displayed in a clean and understandable way. A poorly design set of slides illustrates that you either don’t know your subject or don’t care about engaging your audience. This is especially important in terms of information and data display. Nancy Duarte establishes a very useful set of guidelines for data slides. A great data slide follows these five rules; a great slide also follows these basic principles:

1. Tell the truth

Image: arimoore

If you have to skew your information to get your audience to believe in your message, then your message is not very strong to begin with. Good ethos is illustrated by command of subject.

2. Get to the point

Why is your slide on the screen? If you can't answer that in one sentence, neither can your audience.

3. Use the right tool for the job

Most people assume I place slides first in the presentation landscape because I devote so much time to them, but designing slides has also taught me to use them only when I need them.

Image: NFS-974

4. Highlight what’s important

Contrast and hierarchy are not just fancy design words--they are principles to live by. Show your audience you see things from their perspective by following the glance media rule--information should be processed quickly and easily.

Image: blackham

5. Keep it simple

Great design may be simple and straightforward, but that doesn't make it easy. Reduce your text, reduce your attachment to slides, and reduce the chances your audience will view your credibility in a poor light.

Image: mr • p

As designers, we can use this as a guide for the ethos of our slide deck. These rules help reinforce the importance of trustworthiness and transparency; they can also help establish authority. Authority is a subtle element in slides, and one that many individuals and organizations fail to maximize. Good design lends a presenter authority. Good design indicates confidence (if you don’t rely on bullets, that also means you know your stuff) as well as proof of knowledge and support for the speaker’s ideas, not repetition of the speaker’s ideas. A well executed presentation also shows your audience you bothered to practice and rehearse. Your presentation and your idea matters to you, so it will matter to them.

Look for two more installments in this series–the pathos and logos of presentation design.

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