Postcript is…

A brief postscript to my “Design is…” post from a couple of weeks ago.

I used the design ideas from Presentation Zen to give a speech, a speech that needed to use visual aids at Toastmasters.

Toastmasters is a club that focuses on public speaking, and some members of my club are a little allergic to using powerpoint for this project. I was toying with the idea of using fabric samples to illustrate the colour wheel, but when someone in the club said that powerpoint was always awful I decided to rise to the challenge.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 5.26.15 PMI choose “Fear” as my subject, and gave an 8 slide presentation (the speech is 6 minutes) using images to illustrate the various fears we have and our reactions to them. I got positive feedback on the night.

Even better at the following meeting two people came up and said they’d “copied” the concept of my presentation – that is they’d gone for image heavy presentations rather than text and bullet points. I recommended the book and website of Presentation Zen – I really can’t take any credit for the concept but I’m so happy that that others are picking up on it.

Image Claustrophobia I /Laura Lewis/ CC BY 2.0

Design is…

One of the frustrations of being involved in a design process is that every can have an opinion on design, and express it. Having recently heard design dismissed as “aesthetics” (by a non-designer, obviously) I’ve been looking harder at some discussions of design principles.

Common principles include; balance, rhythm, proportion, dominance, unity, negative space, and colour. These are discussed on Digital Web in some detail.

Picture 3I’ve noticed is that there is a lack of understanding of these principles, and almost no understanding of the interplay between the principles. If, for example you change the colour of an element on your site from bright red to pale grey that element will recede. It will no longer be dominant, and your site may look unbalanced as a result.

And in my research I found a lovely discussion on Presentation Zen – a site well worth visiting for design inspiration – about Japanese principles of design. Emphasis is on providing a quietness in design allowing what is essential to be more apparent.

Seijaku (静寂)Tranquility or an energized calm (quite), stillness, solitude. This is related to the feeling you may have when in a Japanese garden. The opposite feeling to one expressed by seijaku would be noise and disturbance. How might we bring a feeling of “active calm” and stillness to ephemeral designs outside the Zen arts?

It’s a quality overlooked in many website designs; we’re often so focussed on impact, or trying to accomodate competing needs on the one page, that this simplicity is lost. I think it’s worth reviewing your designs for what can be REMOVED as well as what more can be added.

Powerpoint: Extreme Makeover

Powerpoint is alive and well but it’s undergoing a makeover, an extreme one. Which should be welcome news, except that something’s missing; content.

By now most of us have learnt what not to do, either by experiencing it ourselves or via the mockery of our colleagues. But just in case you’re one of the 3 people on the planet who has a computer and hasn’t heard the phrase “death by powerpoint” here’s what not to do.

There’s plenty of information out there on what you should do as well;

And apparently people are listening. I’ve noticed a much greater use of clever images in presentations, and while the text slide is not dead, it’s certainly playing more of a “supporting” role in presentations.

However what many presenters seem to have heard is “use more images, use videos – your audience will love you”. With the result that I’ve seen old videos, an image of a mossy tree used to demonstrate “embrace”, and worst of all listened to a presenter explain why he chose particular images to represent certain concepts. If you have to explain your choice of image then I’d say you have the wrong image.

What was missing was a story, a red thread, a concept behind the presentation.  What was missing was content.

In fact the best presentation I’ve seen all week was a rather old fashioned one, fairly ugly template, fairly text heavy. But there was content. There was a concept. There was a point of view. The presenter knew his content, and talked to the audience, looked at us, engaged us.

I suspect by racing to fill our presentations with the great, dramatic images that will deliver the high impact we’ve forgotten that old old golden rule. Content is King. And we’ve certainly forgotten the original purpose of our presentation – engaging our audience.

image presentation