Presentation Zen Design (the book)
June 07, 2009
As I mentioned before, I'm in the beginning stages of writing and designing another book, this one called Presentation Zen Design. For many of us, there is a hole in our education when it comes to communicating visually, and knowledge of even the basics of graphic design is missing for most people. This book intends to do its small part to help fix this problem by focusing on concrete graphic design principles and techniques in the context of presentation design, though the concepts and knowledge can be applied to other areas of one's professional life. This book is a deeper exploration of the Design section of PZ (chapters 5-7). The underlying guiding principles are the same -- restraint, simplicity, and naturalness -- but this time applied strictly to visual communication in general and graphic design in particular. My aim is to help the non-designer become a bit more savvy of a visual thinker and to give him or her the tools and understanding to apply this knowledge in concrete, practical ways immediately in presentations (and beyond). The look and feel of the book is very similar to PZ (e.g., exactly same size), but it will be even more visual. The book will be available in mid-November, 2009.
You can be a part of it (again)
I would love to hear your stories and suggestions. You can write to me here (or send a message to Twitter) or leave a comment below. What success (or failure) stories do you have using presentation visuals in your live talks at work or school? What do you think are still the most common design mistakes made by non-designers? Do you have any slides or other visuals (good or bad) that you can share, or can you point to particularly good examples? Your stories are important to me and I’d like to share them with a wider audience, even highlighting your visual examples were appropriate. I will not reprint your name or material in the book or use a slide, etc. without first confirming permission with you. Even if you want to remain anonymous I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions.
(The cover photo is an iStockphoto image by Alexander Gatsenko of some wagasa, Japanese traditional umbrellas, works of art that are simple and beautiful, yet complex and difficult to create.)
hi garr - looking very much forward to the new book! i'll hunt around for some good examples of bad slides. in the meantime, just my two cents that i would love to see you address technical presentations. this is an area i think really struggles with "how much is too much" and could use some inspiration. how does one stay zen even in a technical presentation?
keep up the great work!
Posted by: susan | June 07, 2009 at 04:18 PM
I would purchase your new book definitely. Presentation Zen did not changed my opinion about the quality of presentations but gave me better understanding how to pinpoint the weak and strong points. Also the process of creating my presentations changed dramatically, for the good.
For designing, not only presentations, I always use one important rule: lines should be easy to follow by a person's eyes. I believe this rule is one of the few general rules for beauty. Straight lines should look like they go to infinity and other lines should be curved. Of course this is not a law ;-)
Posted by: Artelomeus | June 07, 2009 at 05:37 PM
I think the first mistake by non-designer is to fill the space, all the space, so that whatever message get often lost.
I am working in a technical field and too often I see people trying to pack a 100 pages report into a couple of slides using extra small fonts and failing to make a single point.
Visualizations are not perceived as a mean to put through a message: unfortunately it is a common concept that it is far better to print the text and read it loud to let it stick across the audience.
And whenever visualizations are used, they are considered just as extra support for the text slide before/after.
Keep in mind that many mistakes are raising from bad design choices: I am obliged to strictly use company's templates that are no good fit for my content and my presentation style (too dark color palette, fixed image/graph size and position), limiting therefore interactions with the audience.
Posted by: Alessandro | June 07, 2009 at 07:25 PM
I sent you an email with some suggestions. Too long to put it here. Let me know what you think about it.
And, of course, can't wait for your next book :)
Posted by: Simone Brunozzi | June 08, 2009 at 06:12 AM
Your book together Nancy Duarte's slide:ology have inspired me to experiment and share your ideas and my learning to all of my co-workers. In order to get the message across I've created parallels between project management stages and presentation stages. I've managed to create a guide called "Ideas on how to create powerful presentations - A guide for Project Managers", which can be found here:
I've delivered this presentation in front of my colleagues, 90% of them being project managers and it was a great success. Many have said it was the most inspirational guide on presentations they have seen delivered "live" in front of them and some of them are actually trying to follow its principles in their presentations. Afterward i have shared it on the internet and since then it has received more than 6000 views, hundreds of favs and dozens of embeds.
I've followed your principles in all my project communication (from presentations in front of a board to status updates sent to project stakeholders via e-mail) and they had a great impact. I am running customer satisfaction surveys at the end of my projects and everybody highlighted communication as the strongest area in my project delivery.
So.. a big thank you and, if you want to know more, don't hesitate to contact me via e-mail.
Posted by: Ciprian Rusen | June 08, 2009 at 06:14 PM
I would second what Alessandro says above about the amount of text people try to cram into one slide.
In addition, I do wish we could get away from using Powerpoint as some sort of analysis tool - you know the sort of thing, a really complex structure diagram with dozens of teeny tiny text boxes and arrows (ugh!).
I'm promoting simple open slides with large text. I'll se if I can find a couple of my favourites (both ways) to send on to you.
Posted by: John | June 10, 2009 at 12:02 AM
Presentation Zen took my presentations out of the stone age and I rarely use text in slides any more. However, I find myself using a lot of stock photography now. How do you get away from using photos for slides without backsliding into traditional bullet points with text slides?
Posted by: Jay Ehret | June 16, 2009 at 08:08 PM
I'm a faithful reader of your blog for two years now and I recently got your book too. As a young academic (I'm a master student in Communication studies), I went to a bunch of conference on various social science and humanities studies. I made a few talks and realised how the use of good visual, very few word and audience contact got my message heard. I also produced some hand-out papers for the audience. They were so popular that I had to send a few PDF by email!
Sadly, I also noticed the boredom of most of the academic conference. A lot of people just read their text in front of the audience and their use of power point is really clumsy: a lot of text, uninspiring visual, etc.
For your upcoming book on design, feel free to have a look at the slides of a short conference I gave last March (in English and in French). I guess it can be a good example for academic presentation. Most of the pictures were found on Flickr Creative Commons pool.
Also, I would like to make small suggestion. In the PZ book, you did a great job explaining why it is important to use quality images for the presentation and encouraged us to use stock photos.
Stock photos are good. They're made by pro, they're flawless and ready to use. However, I found that most of them have the same visual aesthetics. That's definitely good for a corporate or advertisement setting. But if you want your visual to communicate other sorts of emotions, visiting Creative Commons sites such as Deviant Art or Flickr or taking pictures yourself can be a good idea.
Looking foward the next book!
University of Quebec at Montreal (Canada)
Posted by: Olivier Gratton-Gagné | June 17, 2009 at 11:09 PM