Case study: Presentation Design

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The visual arts have always fascinated me. When my parents used to take me and my sisters to museums during family vacations I felt awed by the skill of painters and sculptors. One of my favorite classes in college was called “The Art of Florence,” taught by two professors who alternated sessions. One was an art historian, the other a history professor.

My love of design grew out of my later appreciation for more modern forms of art.  When I started out as a graphic designer, I focused on print for a while, then started learning more about designing in the digital arena. I was brought into the world of presentation design at an agency a few years ago. The team that brought me in was on a mission to bring presentation design out of the production realm and I was happy to join the crusade.

During my time working on presentations, one of the best resources I found on presentation design is Garr Reynold’s book Presentation Zen. Inspired by the Zen tenet of simplicity, Garr advocates the use of text only sparingly, and urges presenters to work on finding the most effective visuals to bring their ideas to light.

Here is one of my favorite Garr Reynolds quotes:

People learn better from narration and graphics rather than narration, graphics, and text.

Garr has written several books since Presentation Zen, and also has a blog.

While some of my colleagues agreed with me in theory, old habits die hard and not many took the opportunity to work with me to create a script, visual presentation and a separate handout. Common responses were that they did not have (or want to make?) the time to work on these three sections. Time is a precious commodity especially in the agency world.

I attended a conference recently, and although I enjoyed the narrated content (and in some cases the striking visuals,) my presentation designer’s mind was working overtime. While some presentations had strong visuals and a compelling narrative, others had jammed too much text on slides. If I’d had a chance to work with them, I would have helped them distill their topics into stronger visuals and helped them put together a handout with the information that had been crammed onto some of their slides. I also would have helped correct things like the occasional typo and small black numbers on dark color charts (a larger font size and white font color would have worked much better.)

Although I’ve moved on from presentation work, I still enjoy bringing visual elements to presentations to illustrate concepts and ideas. Occasionally, I work on projects to help presenters express their core message.

Photo credit:  Ealasaid
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Categories: Case studies, Graphic Design and Art Direction

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