When it comes to slide presentations, I am a believer in good design, even though I am not a design specialist. Oh, I know a few things that you can do with software like PowerPoint and Keynote, but most of it is pretty basic. Good design is more than just flashy technology up on the screen; good design is about following some basic principles. Principles apply to many things that are far removed from the world of presentations and public speaking.
I often look for inspiration from people who work in professions about which I know little or nothing. Doing so gives me unique perspectives on issues and gets me thinking in different and creative ways about how to transfer a message. When it comes to good design, I have sought wisdom from people who have worked in a wide variety of fields, including the following:
- Dieter Rams – Industrial design
- Pablo Picasso – Art
- Alain de Botton – Philosophy
- Jan Taminiau – Fashion
- Steve Jobs – Computers
This morning, I read a post on Medium by Julie Zhuo. She is a Vice-President of product design at Facebook. The post contains three doodles from her sketchbook that capture some of her thoughts about design. The first one, in particular, caught my attention. It is entitled The Holy Grail of Good Design:
I like the Venn diagram: enjoyable; useful; easy and accessible. Of course, you might not agree with where Julie has placed some of the items. For example, I bet that this guy would argue that “pencils that require sharpening” are also enjoyable and useful. And, over time, items can change location. For example, as technology improves, “robots that can take care of shit” will undoubtedly become easier and more accessible.
The point is to think of each of the three circles when you design your slides so that you can reach the “Holy Grail”:
- Are they clear and easy to understand?
- Are they enjoyable, with the right mix of text, images, graphs, videos, etc. or are they a godawful litany of bullet points?
- Can the audience learn something useful from them?
If you just keep these three ideas in mind for every presentation, your slides will be much better than most of the slides that are floating around out there.