Thinking About Design

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve spent a fair amount of time these last few days exploring the book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. It’s an amazing book – and he spends quite a bit of time teaching about how to avoid “Death by PowerPoint.” I’m totally intrigued – and want to rethink (and perhaps more importantly, re-imagine and mess around with) some of the many ways we get information across in presentations – and in the written recordings we make of meetings.

Reynolds rightfully shows that what we do in PowerPoint is often driven by the software itself, rather than by thinking through the most important aspect of the idea we’re trying to get across. We follow the template and create slide after slide of bulleted lists of text that say what we’re already saying. But here’s the question: what is the most important thing we are trying to say? And how can we work with images to bring our words to life?

I want to drop the bullet-lists of ideas in all the rather boring (but so-called professional looking) PowerPoint presentations I’ve created – and rather than starting in the space of trying to get across information, start in the place of design. I want to work with others to design an experience of the essence of the thing we’re trying to get across. I know it will take time to learn how to do this – to, as Reynolds describes, get still enough and open to creativity enough to create an experience – to learn to play more in getting ideas across – to learn to tap into other ways of knowing. And I’m excited to try!

So there’s Pecha Kucha. And there’s An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s famous Keynote presentation about Climate Change. And all the TED talks.? I’m planning to pay more attention to the visuals that excite and engage as I go through my day. I’m more and more drawn to the amazing work of people like Dan Jumanan at Visual Ink – who can bring discussions of foreign policy to life through visual, graphic recording.

And I wonder – what “draws” you to a presentation?

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  • Gibran says:

    Linda, please count me in! I want to share in this focus with you, I’ve also been thinking a lot about it. About design thinking in general as well as about the design of presentations, the use of images, sketches, etc.

    I’ve been using stacks of hand drawn sketches and sequentially placing them on the floor or the table as I make a point, and I’ve gotten great feedback on that approach.

    Are you familiar with http://www.slideshare.net/
    Good for interesting stuff and best practices!

  • Linda says:

    Gibran, I’d love to see the sketches and learn more about how you’re using them. Thanks for slideshare.net – yes, I’ve been following it as well. Great stuff!

  • Linda says:

    And another great one is Garr Reynold’s blog http://www.presentationzen.com/

  • Curtis says:

    What draws me to a presentation – simplicity, color, images that are easy to see and inviting to return to, shorter phrases, movement/dynamism . . .

  • Tara Healey says:

    Linda…over the past couple of years, I have changed my ppt presentations to reflect the style of Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte…using mainly images/photos to reach the audience. The topic I am using this for is mindfulness/meditation in the workplace. As an OD consultant, delivering many presentations, this style is by far the best way to reach an audience, keep them engaged…and as the presenter, feels easier, more natural. Hard to imagine ever going back to the old style of traditional ppt. Happy to continue the conversation….Tara

  • Dan Jumanan says:

    Linda, my wife just sent your article to me recently. Thanks for the honorable mention! Very interested to see/hear what you’ve been up to. I see Gibron has been playing in the visual space as well. I’d love to see your sketches my friend.

    Recently, I’ve been playing in the space of story boarding as another channel to visually communicate various subject matters (user experience, org processes, & more). That has also led me to create short animations example: http://vimeo.com/search/videos/search:jumanan/ce343920

    I hope you are all well at IISC and hope to cross paths soon!

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