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Visual Communication That Works! (PDF)


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The PDF version of a presentation done for the Council for Opportunity in Education Leadership Summit, March 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. This is a revised, updated, and much improved version of Creating Clarity 3.0. How to imagine your story, build your presentation, and design your slides. Encouragement to use presentation software as it\'s meant to be used and to be creative and effective with it.

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Visual Communication That Works! (PDF)

  1. 1. “Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.” Edward TufteSunday, March 6, 2011 1Youʼre brave to come out to a PowerPoint presentation of a Sunday morning! Iʼm sure youʼve heard of “Death by PowerPoint.” There are millions of victims of “cognitive asphyxiation,” adisease that strikes without warning, is debilitating, and is contagious. More often than not, the very victims of the disease perpetrate it on others—as soon as they can. This is what EdwardTufte says about PowerPoint. . . .[read]. Tufte is probably the leading expert on the visual display of quantitative information—incidentally, the title of his famous book on the subject. EdwardTufte despises PowerPoint.
  2. 2. “Rather than supplementing a presentation [PowerPoint] has become a substitute for it.” Edward TufteSunday, March 6, 2011 2Hereʼs another quote from him [read]. . . Now why is that? There are two reasons. First, people are hard-pressed for time or theyʼve procrastinated or theyʼre simply lazy. And PowerPointaids and abets that way of working. It provides templates, decorations, and clip art. It does the work for you so you donʼt have to think. And the second reason is many people donʼtunderstand what a presentation is for. So Tufte is right.
  3. 3. REPORT Document SlideumentSunday, March 6, 2011 3Many people think that if they use presentational software, like PowerPoint or Keynote, to create a report, theyʼve created a presentation. But they havenʼt! A document in PowerPoint is aslideument. As Nancy Duarte says. “Reports should be distributed; presentations should be presented.”
  4. 4. report Informational Factual Hierarchical CONVEYS INFORMATIONSunday, March 6, 2011 4So whatʼs in a report? Reports are informational, factual, and hierarchical. They are for conveying information. They are exhaustive, precise, and take time to examine. They are for text-heavy material and for that they do the job very well.
  5. 5. Words Numbers ImagesSunday, March 6, 2011 5But the three elements weʼve got to work with are words, numbers, and images. Thatʼs all. And here we have this marvelous medium of presentation software that makes possible the visualplay of all three elements—and we load it up with bullet points and line after line of text!
  6. 6. We learn better from words and pictures together than from words or pictures alone.Sunday, March 6, 2011 6But research shows that we learn better from words and pictures together than from either words or pictures alone. Visual and verbal data are processed indifferent parts of the brain—so they donʼt compete with each other. [Cook, M. P. “Visual Representations in Science Education: The Influence of Prior Knowledgeand Cognitive Load Theory on Instructional Design Principles.” Science Education, 90(6) 1073-1091, 2006.].
  7. 7. We are hardwired for understanding images. Garr ReynoldsSunday, March 6, 2011 7Our visual systems and our brains instinctively and instantly process and act upon images. . .
  8. 8. The image gives rise to thought. Paul RicoeurSunday, March 6, 2011 8For visual learners the image gives rise to the thought. For others, those with a more verbal learning style. . .
  9. 9. from thought to image. . . .Sunday, March 6, 2011 9—the creative spark might jump from thought to image.
  10. 10. from idea to story. . .Sunday, March 6, 2011 10However we learn, the goal is to move from idea to story. . .
  11. 11. story Dramatic Emotive ExperienceSunday, March 6, 2011 11And what is a story? A story is dramatic, with rising and falling action. Itʼs emotive, evocative, and it creates an experience. But many people are afraid to use the power of story when theybuild their presentations. It takes time and energy and reflection. So they hit the default button and load the slides with bullet points.
  12. 12. presentation report storySunday, March 6, 2011 12The good news is that presentations fall somewhere between a report and a story. It takes the best from each and creates a new form.
  13. 13. Presentation Simplifies Engages MotivatesSunday, March 6, 2011 13It alternates between facts and storytelling. It simplifies, clarifies, interprets, and illuminates. It engages the audience and motivates it to take action. So the question is not ʻHave you stoppedkilling people with PowerPoint yet?” but rather, “Why not use its power to really tell your story?” And thatʼs what weʼre going to do today.
  14. 14. What’s your story?Sunday, March 6, 2011 14So. . . . whatʼs your story?
  15. 15. In the hands of an honest and humble mentor a presentation can become a story that changes people and their worlds.Sunday, March 6, 2011 15This is the secret I want to share with you today. . . [read]. The alternative is that we maintain the status quo and continue killing people with PowerPoint.
  16. 16. Imagining the story Building your presentation Designing your slidesSunday, March 6, 2011 16So letʼs begin by looking at. . . Imagining the story, which involves finding your message, building your presentation (researching, outlining, and structuring), anddesigning your slides (composing words, numbers, and images on the slide).
  17. 17. Visual Communication the message the structure the formSunday, March 6, 2011 17Another way to say this is that all visual communication has three elements: the message, the structure, and the form.
  18. 18. “The tragedy of the world is that those who are imaginative have but slight experience, and those who are experienced have feeble imaginations. . . . The task of a university is to weld together imagination and experience.” Alfred North WhiteheadSunday, March 6, 2011 18Imagining the story. How important is that? Here is a quote from Alfred North Whitehead, a 20th century British philosopher, mathematician, and educator [read]. . . This is what you and I arecalled to do as educators. I come from a tradition and a culture in which we did not get a job but rather received a “call.” My grandfather was called to be a teacher and a college dean out onthe prairies of Alberta. It was a vocation, from Latin, vocare, to call. First used in the 1500s as a spiritual calling. I like that. Even in todayʼs scrabbling job market we can still have a calling—and we can answer it. Thatʼs what you folks do day in and day out—answer the call to make learning accessible for all. And that takes courage and imagination. How do you get that acrossto people?
  19. 19. “Education with inert ideas is not only useless. . . . it is harmful.” Alfred North WhiteheadSunday, March 6, 2011 19For Whitehead, ideas were the particles of energy that moved and shaped the world. Inert ideas were those which were merely received into the mind without being used or tested or put innew situations. So here we have a wonderful opportunity to raise ideas, throw them into new contexts, and communicate with passion, reason, and character.
  20. 20. Sunday, March 6, 2011 20Children are great at this! They have rich, vibrant, uninhibited imaginations. Theyʼre not afraid to experiment. They donʼt try to edit themselves. They say whatʼs on their minds. This is mystepdaughter, Eden, with her mother, Joy, my wife.
  21. 21. Sunday, March 6, 2011 21Sheʼs constantly on the move, a natural-born runner. . .
  22. 22. Sunday, March 6, 2011 22She was trying to remember the word for the day before today and she couldnʼt quite get it. But this is what she came up with. . .
  23. 23. LasterdaySunday, March 6, 2011 23It makes perfect sense, doesnʼt it? Simple, direct, itʼs a combination of two familiar words placed in a new configuration. Children arenʼt afraid to just have a go at the new thing. Somewherealong the arc of education we lose that—or it gets pounded out of us. But we can find it again! How do we do that?
  24. 24. Sunday, March 6, 2011 24Cast your net wide for ideas. Keep a notebook for jotting down great things people say or that you read. Then sit down and begin researching. Work from yourcentral idea. Develop the steps toward your goal. Get coffee.
  25. 25. “Most ideas you can do pretty darn well with a stick in the sand.” Alan KaySunday, March 6, 2011 25Work the idea down to its simplest, clearest form.
  26. 26. Sunday, March 6, 2011 26Stay analog rather than digital. Use a notepad for brainstorming and then use Post-It Notes. Its quicker and more versatile than trying to work in PowerPoint. Anditʼs more tactile—you can touch your ideas and move them around.
  27. 27. Sunday, March 6, 2011 27Post-It notes are bright, theyʼre small, and they can be moved easily. Keep it simple. If you canʼt get one idea on a note itʼs probably too complicated. Find a walland slap them up. . .
  28. 28. Sunday, March 6, 2011 28Then begin to work in KeyNote or PowerPoint. Follow your outline and draw together the words and images.
  29. 29. AIDA Attention Interest Desire ActionSunday, March 6, 2011 29A structure that persuasive speakers often use is this: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Grab their attention, focus the interest, create a desire for change, and provide a way to act onthe desire.
  30. 30. Apathy Interest Chaos Clarity Passivity ActionSunday, March 6, 2011 30We try to move the audience from apathy to interest, from chaos to clarity, from passivity to action. And this is where the arc of the story can move people.
  31. 31. Beginning Middle EndSunday, March 6, 2011 31All good stories — and presentations — have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  32. 32. Beginning Middle End situation complication resolutionSunday, March 6, 2011 32A simple way to describe the structure of a story is situation, complication, and resolution. (Duarte, Resonate, 29)
  33. 33. Beginning Middle End situation complication resolution what is what could be the rewardSunday, March 6, 2011 33We describe the way things are, the way they could be, and the reward at the end of the journey (Duarte, Resonate, 29). Thatʼs the basic structure. But there are two critical points that wealso need to introduce.
  34. 34. Beginning Middle End situation complication resolution what is g ap what could be the reward Call to Call to Adventure ActionSunday, March 6, 2011 34The first is the gap between the way things are and the way they could be. Thatʼs the first turning point, the call to adventure, as Nancy Duarte calls it. And the second turning point comesafter weʼve answered the objections, worked them through their resistance to change, showed the reasons to change, and arrive at the call to action.
  35. 35. ACTIONSunday, March 6, 2011 35This is the threshold weʼre asking our audience to cross at this second turning point. We ask them to take action. Why should they do this?
  36. 36. ce orld h em flu en e w T In ThSunday, March 6, 2011 36What are the benefits to them, to the people they influence, and to the world? Does it meet their basic needs? Does it provide a feeling of security? Maybe it gives them a good return ontheir investment of time and energy in your message. Perhaps it will strengthen their relationships with others. Identify the reward! Years ago. . .[Summer of 72 in Coventry]
  37. 37. “More important to culture than social fabric is the necessity of imagination.” James HillmanSunday, March 6, 2011 37
  38. 38. Imagining the story Building your presentation Designing your slidesSunday, March 6, 2011 38Having found our story and discovered our message we begin to organize it and give it a structure. As we found with stories, there is a natural flow andorganization to stories that everyone recognizes, even if they canʼt always explain it.
  39. 39. Sunday, March 6, 2011 39We look for patterns in a presentation, something that will let us know weʼre headed to a destination.
  40. 40. Sunday, March 6, 2011 40We look for a path, a way, as we listen and compare and evaluate.
  41. 41. Sunday, March 6, 2011 41Thatʼs why when we discover the heart of our story, the essential idea we want to get across, itʼs important to take the time to organize the flow.
  42. 42. TopicalSunday, March 6, 2011 42So think back to Public Speaking class when your teacher gave you some common patterns to use when organizing your presentation. The most common used in presentations is the topicalapproach, where you cluster similar themes under a common umbrella.
  43. 43. Sunday, March 6, 2011 43These structures have a flow that works well in a story format. The Chronological sequence works in a time progression, either forward or backward.
  44. 44. SequentialSunday, March 6, 2011 44A sequential approach works best for a process or a step-by-step sequence. . .
  45. 45. SpatialSunday, March 6, 2011 45The Spatial arrangement clusters elements together as they relate in physical space. . .
  46. 46. Sunday, March 6, 2011 46
  47. 47. ClimaticSunday, March 6, 2011 47Then thereʼs the climatic, which arranges elements in order of importance, usually, from least to greatest
  48. 48. Problem-solution Compare-contrast Cause-effect Advantage-disadvantageSunday, March 6, 2011 48Persuasive presentations often use these four which have contrast built into them.
  49. 49. Imagining the story Building your presentation Designing your slidesSunday, March 6, 2011 49Once youʼve generated your ideas, filtered out the best ones, focused the message, and organized the structure, its time to turn your words into pictures anddesign your slides.
  50. 50. Simplicity Empty Space ContrastSunday, March 6, 2011 50Iʼm going to give you three design principles that will work for any presentation. Simplicity. . . the use of empty space. . . and contrast—of all different kinds. But first some facts aboutperception!
  51. 51. Fact #1 We do not attend to everything we seeSunday, March 6, 2011 51Our perception is selective. We donʼt see everything we look at. I see a sign when I drive up to Stevenson University near Baltimore. . . . On my way to work I pass by a Motel 6 with a bigLED sign with 49 on it. . . . .I thought it was the temperature until one day when I knew it was 26 degrees it finally registered with me: it wasnʼt the temperature, it was the price! My brain sawthe numbers and my mind filled in the rest. Sometimes we donʼt see what is there but what we want to see.
  52. 52. Fact #2 We see what we expect to seeSunday, March 6, 2011 52Our eyes are drawn to familiar patterns and shapes. And once we register that familiar shape our brains say, Right! Got that. . . On to the next thing. So we may miss a lot of detail becauseweʼre just not looking for it. Iʼll show you what I mean. . .
  53. 53. Sunday, March 6, 2011 53A rose is a rose is a rose. . . isnʼt it? Do you see anything else here? If you look carefully thereʼs an image of a dolphin worked into the whorl of the rose.
  54. 54. Fact #3 Our working memory is extremely limitedSunday, March 6, 2011 54Not only do we not remember what we donʼt attend to, but in order to see something we have to look at it directly because we have only a limited number of receptors in our retinas. So whatthis means is that what we put up on the screen must be identifiable. It must aid our very limited working memory or itʼs no good to us.
  55. 55. W YS I W YGSunday, March 6, 2011 55Remember this? What you see is what you get? It referred to the graphical user interface (GUI) that made interacting with a computer screen visually intuitive.
  56. 56. GY W I SY WSunday, March 6, 2011 56What would happen if we flipped it around? Not that way?
  57. 57. W YS I W YGSunday, March 6, 2011 57Not that way either!
  58. 58. W YG I W YSSunday, March 6, 2011 58Thatʼs better! What you get is what you see. . . So whatever we can do to help our audiences really see and understand will make our messages stick.
  59. 59. SimplifySunday, March 6, 2011 59So the first design principle I want to share with you is to simplify.
  60. 60. Sunday, March 6, 2011 60Weʼre in a visual culture that constantly showers us with images. Cutting through the clutter helps to reduce our attention deficit, raise our interest, and step up our comprehension.
  61. 61. High Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) less noise = more signalSunday, March 6, 2011 61One way to create simplicity is through the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). The goal is to have the highest signal-to-noise ratio possible. The stronger the signal theweaker the noise; the less noise the clearer the signal. Noise is anything that detracts or distorts the signal. So cut the non-essentials from the background.
  62. 62. 2007 Obesity Rates by Country Australia Japan Thailand Germany United States 33 15 21 41 0 15 30 45 52 60 PercentagesSunday, March 6, 2011 62Hereʼs a chart with all the bells and whistles—full 3-D images, a grid of numbers, shadows, reflections, a fancy piece of work. And confusing. Lots of noise, notmuch signal. And this is the default option. This is what Tufte is talking about: increasing the clutter without adding to our understanding.
  63. 63. 2007 Obesity Rates by Country 52% United States 41% Germany 21% Thailand 15% Japan 33% Australia 0 15 30 45 60Sunday, March 6, 2011 63Weʼve simplified it by using 2-D bars, dropping the grid, highlighting the title and bringing out the numbers. A lot more signal, a lot less noise. . . But thereʼs stillsomething confusing about this slide. What is it? Thereʼs no discernible order. It doesnʼt descend from greater to lesser nor is it alphabetical by country. We try tofind a pattern that makes sense and we canʼt. And that introduces subtle noise into the slide.
  64. 64. 2007 Obesity Rates by Country United States 52% Germany 41% Thailand 33% Australia 21% 15% Japan 0 15 30 45 60Sunday, March 6, 2011 64Here is more clarity, more signal, less noise. We want to highlight Japanʼs low rate of obesity: why not descend from greater to lesser and bring the low rate to ourattention by using color and shading to distinguish between the best and the others? High signal, lower noise. . .
  65. 65. Lowest Obesity Rate, 2007 15 % JapanSunday, March 6, 2011 65Finally, if we want to emphasize Japanʼs advantage, we can highlight just the number and make that the transition into HOW and WHY Japan has such low obesity rates.
  66. 66. Sunday, March 6, 2011 66Numbers that simply numb. Thereʼs nothing here to draw our attention, everything is of equal value and thus nothing is of value. Edward Tufte says that a table like this has everything weneed—but it doesnʼt work in a slide presentation. Heʼs absolutely right! Tables are for examining, comparing, drawing inferences, taking the time we need. Up on a slide we canʼt do any ofthat. So. . . .
  67. 67. 52%Sunday, March 6, 2011 67At the very least we can pop the number we want out of the background. The table becomes a visual backdrop for the number that weʼre focusing on.
  68. 68. 52% of new office buildings in Washington, DC are empty. That’s 85 ‘see-throughs’Sunday, March 6, 2011 68Hereʼs an even better way. We create a visual that uses contrasts of size, shading, and color.
  69. 69. $100 million in leases/rentals lost annually. . .Sunday, March 6, 2011 69And as we do so we create a story by lifting the essentials out of the clutter, reducing the noise and raising the signal. Our first general principle in action — simplify.
  70. 70. empty space creates meaningSunday, March 6, 2011 70Our second general principle is the use of empty space, also called negative space or white space. The urge to fill all the space on a slide with information may beoverwhelming—but resist! Empty space in a design is not “nothing.” Itʼs a “something” that gives your slides elegance and power. Think of it as your consciouscanvas for the imagination. The main problem with PowerPoint is that the default templates make it easy to produce death-dealing slides. Donʼt use them! Justbegin with a blank slide. All weʼve got, after all, are words, numbers, and images. Three elements arranged creatively on a blank canvas.
  71. 71. 49,415 stress-related hospitalizations: Australia, 2001-2002Sunday, March 6, 2011 71
  72. 72. 94% of Americans won’t buy a car from a bankrupt automaker.Sunday, March 6, 2011 72An example of the use of white space and contrast through color. This fact is taken from Harperʼs Index, Harpers Magazine. February, 2009, 13.
  73. 73. Shaker furniture “It was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it.”Sunday, March 6, 2011 73
  74. 74. reboot yourselfSunday, March 6, 2011 74
  75. 75. Simplicity Empty SpaceSunday, March 6, 2011 75So with two general principles in mind—simplicity and the use of empty space, letʼs turn to our last one—contrast.
  76. 76. ContrastSunday, March 6, 2011 76Drawing contrasts is one of the most effective design principles we can use. We notice contrasts even when we miss details or see patterns that arenʼt there.
  77. 77. Arranging the Elements CONTRAST Alignment Flow Proximity HierarchySunday, March 6, 2011 77These are the major elements in slide composition and design. Weʼre focusing on contrast today. Contrast simply means difference. And we notice differences,even the smallest ones. Contrast is one of the most powerful design elements because almost anything can be contrasted with something else.
  78. 78. Contrast Size Shape Shade Color ProximitySunday, March 6, 2011 78So . . . here are some of the ways we can draw contrast in our slides.
  79. 79. Contrast Size Shape Shade Color ProximitySunday, March 6, 2011 79
  80. 80. Contrast Size Shape Shade Color ProximitySunday, March 6, 2011 80
  81. 81. Contrast Size Shape Shade Color ProximitySunday, March 6, 2011 81
  82. 82. Contrast Size Shape Shade Color ProximitySunday, March 6, 2011 82
  83. 83. Design . . . . is an act of communication . . . . a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating. Garr ReynoldsSunday, March 6, 2011 83And another using color, size, and shade.
  84. 84. Design is about humans creating great works that help or improve the lives of other humans. Garr ReynoldsSunday, March 6, 2011 84Hereʼs an example of contrast using size and shade.
  85. 85. Sunday, March 6, 2011 85When you build your next presentation imagine yourself moving from a wide shot of all your ideas. . . .
  86. 86. Sunday, March 6, 2011 86and then in for the closeup as you find your big idea. . .
  87. 87. Sunday, March 6, 2011 87Or you can move from theforest. . .
  88. 88. Sunday, March 6, 2011 88to thetree. . . .
  89. 89. Sunday, March 6, 2011 89to the leaf.
  90. 90. In the hands of an honest and humble mentor a presentation can become a story that changes people and their worlds.Sunday, March 6, 2011 90This the Big Idea I want you to carry with you today [read]. This is your canvas! What will you paint today? Thank you very much. . .
  91. 91. Entelech y P ro d u cti o n s (2 0 11)Sunday, March 6, 2011 91
  92. 92. References Duarte, Nancy (2008). Slide:ology:The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly. Duarte, Nancy (2010). Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Few, Stephen (2004). Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press. Reynolds, Garr (2008). PresentationZen. Berkeley, CA: New Riders. Reynolds, Garr (2010). PresentationZen Design. Berkeley, CA: New Riders. Reynolds, Garr (2011). The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides. Berkeley, CA: New Riders. Tufte, Edward (2001). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.2nd ed. Cheshire, CT: The Graphics Press. Tufte, Edward (2003). “PowerPoint is Evil” Wired Magazine, September 2009. Whitehead, Alfred North (1929). The Aims of Education. New York: The Free Press.Sunday, March 6, 2011 92