Great Design Goes Mainstream

June 4, 2012

Place settingFor the past several years, I have been working with people who share my conviction that the same design principles that are used to create award-winning websites, compelling logos, and stunning point-of-purchase displays can and should be used in PowerPoint presentations. This viewpoint isn’t commonly shared; the majority seems to believe that PowerPoint is nothing but a necessary evil that must be suffered through like some kind of horrible rite of initiation. These people are missing out on a powerful design trend: the mainstream acceptance of good design.

We are surrounded by increasingly sophisticated designs without necessarily being aware of it. Think about how easy it is to order just about anything under the sun from Amazon.com. Their revolutionary website sets the bar for great user experience. Industrial designer Phillipe Starck’s work for Target changed the way mainstream America believes even such mundane items as dustpans and trash cans should look. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, with its translucent case and bold blue accents, it smashed the paradigm that personal computers needed to be housed in beige boxes.

For some reason, this increased design sophistication doesn’t always carry through to a company’s PowerPoint presentations. Tired sales reps and harried admins are still banging out text-heavy, bullet-pointed borefests in much the same way they did in the late eighties when PowerPoint first hit the market. The only difference now is some of the “cool” animation effects and clipart available in PowerPoint 2010. But presentations can be made much more effective with great design. And the public is increasingly demanding great design.

Welcome to the Era of Design proclaims the headline of a recent blog on Forbes.com by Adam Swann, head of strategy at gyro. This article talks about how design is becoming mainstream, affordable, and expected in today’s marketplace.

In an era of design, bad design really stands out as being, well, bad. Today’s innovators stay ahead of their competition by ensuring that great design is carried out in all aspects of their marketing mix.

Your turn

What role does design play in your business?


Cheating Death by PowerPoint: Graphs as Infographics

April 27, 2011

Cheating Death by PowerPoint: Graphs as Infographics


Cheating Death by PowerPoint: Animation

April 7, 2011

Click here to view video


PowerPoint Design Gets Set Back 20 Years

March 28, 2011
Documents to Go

Image (c) DataViz, Inc.

Last week, the New York Times published an article about creating and editing PowerPoint presentations on mobile devices (such as iPhone, Blackberry, and Android smart phones, and iPads) using an app called Documents to Go. Reading it sent shivers down my spine — not the good kind — because this application sets presentation design back twenty years.

Sure, for the professional-on-the-go this might seem like a good thing. Why not create a presentation on a mobile device? You can add things as inspiration strikes, move bullets around, and add speaker notes. For somebody who travels often, it might seem like a boon not to be tied down to an office computer. But designing presentations on a mobile device isn’t a good idea. Here’s why.

When PowerPoint was first released, the general pattern a slide followed was: Title, Subtitle, Bullet Points 1–5. Although this pattern has, sadly, remained the norm for unenlightened PowerPoint users, those who wish to Cheat Death by PowerPoint understand that the latest trend of incorporating  images, sound, and movement into their decks creates more effective presentations. They’ve moved beyond the bullet point and entered the world of PowerPoint multimedia.

While entering text is easy to do on a mobile device, the audience won’t appreciate reading it. Neither will they enjoy the lack of images, animation, video, and sound. Viewing and editing presentations on miniscule screens removes people from the reality of the large screens upon which their presentations will ultimately be projected.

PowerPoint presentations should blend in with a company’s overall marketing mix. They should be (or appear to be) professionally designed, following specific design guidelines and standards. I can’t imagine that a presentation created on a mobile device would look like one that has been thoughtfully put together.

And while recording train-of-thought ideas is a great use for a mobile device, train-of-thought presentations are not. Presentations need to be well thought out, propoerly designed, and rehearsed before being given.

Sure, it might be handy to be able to make quick fixes to typos on a mobile device. But think twice before giving this whizbang technology a whirl for presentation design. You might be undoing hours of design and forethought while undermining the success of your presentation by creating your presentations on the go.


Cheating Death by PowerPoint: Analyze and Synthesize

February 4, 2011

Are your PowerPoint slides full of text? Well, guess what, your audience is going to have a hard time dealing with that. So don’t make them work so hard to understand your message! The more focused you can make your slides and the less text you use on each one, the better your audience will retain the information your presenting.

This video introduces the “Analyze and Synthesize” method of reducing the amount of text on your slides so that your audience can understand your core messages.

To view this presentation in myBrainshark, which gives you more viewing options, click here.


Oh, Everybody Knows This Already!

January 18, 2011

The woman who sold my husband his car in 2006 keeps in touch regularly, sending letters and occasionally calling. She is doing a great job reminding us that she’s still around, waiting to sell us our next vehicle. But even though she constantly updates him on things like trade-in deals, discounted vehicles and the like, she dropped the ball on a huge piece of news about the dealership that we really should know: the fact that they’re moving to another town.

Now, it’s not like we’re strangers to the dealership. I bring my own vehicle there for all major maintenance, so I’m there at least twice a year. You’d think that something this major would’ve merited its own marketing initiative. Instead, the first sentence of her most recent letter went something like, “Now, I know you know all about our move, so let’s talk about our latest shipment of 2011 cars!” In fact, it was the first we’d heard about it. When I last took my vehicle in for service, I confirmed with the receptionist that they would be moving sometime in February.

This is not an “across the street” kind of move. They are moving the whole dealership to a different town entirely. And their new location is right off the highway, making it much more convenient to visit than their old location. Boom! I’ve just given them two new ideas to use in their marketing.

It just goes to show that you should never assume that your clients know all about your business. What may seem obvious to you may come as news to your clients when you finally remember to tell them. Keep ’em in the loop so that they don’t show up to your old location and find that you’re gone. How would that be for cementing a years-old customer relationship?


MT Hauling’s Great Business Card

January 6, 2011

Sometimes in this age of electronic communications, 24/7 cable news channels, and instant Twitter and Facebook gratification it’s nice to come across an old-school design that works extremely well. Take a look at this beautiful business card:

MT Hauling business card

Here’s a very basic two-color design used to beautiful effect. The color choices and the woodcut image of the old truck for me evoke memories of the past, and perhaps imply a simpler time and doing business with a handshake. I also love the fact that whoever designed this did it with a single font and a minimum of text, avoiding a common small-business pitfall of stuffing as much information on the card as will fit and showcasing all the great fonts available in Word, which they used to design their card.

Well done, anonymous business card designer!


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