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December 2009

10 non-PowerPoint books that can help you create better presentations

Catbook_slide To learn how to design and deliver better presentations, we need to pull from many educational sources. Books are good, but which ones? I don't usually suggest PowerPoint or Keynote "how-to" books, but instead recommend reading books from various design and communication fields to stretch your knowledge and perspective. Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte is great, of course, and there are many others that I've suggested over the years. Below are ten additional books I can highly recommend; three of them I have recommended before.


JobsThe Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo.
Since I began this website in 2005, I've talked about the presentation style of Steve Jobs ad nauseam (for example: here, here, here, here, here, and many more). Carmine Gallo does a great job of summarizing all the many good things that Jobs does in his famous Apple keynotes, and he provides concrete takeaways. The point is not to present like Steve Jobs — each case after all is very different — but there are many lessons to be learned by careful observation of the Steve Jobs keynote.
A very nice read that just may change the way you present. (Amazon link.)

Scott Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun.
I met Scott Berkun in Sweden this year and spent some time with him in Denmark discussing public speaking and what it takes to be an effective presenter. Scott, a former Microsoft manager, is a great guy and he's a very experienced presenter. If you do a lot of public speaking, you'll get a kick out of Scott's stories. And if you are thinking about starting a speaking career, Scott provides a lot of interesting tips and lessons. Teachers — who speak in front of people every day — may also find the book useful.
(Amazon link.)


KelbyScott Kelby's Digital Photography Boxed Set (Volumes 1, 2, and 3) by Scott Kelby.
I have almost all of Scott Kelby's photography books. He writes in a very informal, engaging style and there's a reason he's the #1 computer book author for five straight years: his books help people learn. I love Scott's work so much, I asked him to contribute tips for the Presentation Zen Design book (he offers 10 tips for taking better photos). These Digital Photography books are colorful, instructive, and aimed at the novice photographer who wants to get a lot better. I found them very useful (especially for the price). You can buy the books individually or as a set.
(Amazon link.)


StephenNow You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis by Stephen Few.
I have all of Stephen Few's books — he's the Zen Master of presenting data as far as I am concerned. I saw Stephen present in Seattle this summer at the Tableau Conference and we had a chance to spend some time together before the event. He's a fantastic presenter on stage and he's a very down-to-earth guy who knows how to visualize data and how to help others get better at displaying quantitative information more clearly. This is a big hardcover book with some really good lessons. (Amazon link.)


Vis_lang Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand by Connie Malamed.
This is a really large book that begins with a section on how we process visual information and then goes on to introduce principles and techniques that help you understand how to organize for perception, how to direct the eye, clarify complexity, and simplify visuals. This hardcover book has many excellent examples. Beginners will benefit tremendously from the book, but I think many designers will also find the book a good addition to their library. Connie Malamed's website. 
(Amazon link.)

John Before & After: How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade.
John McWade — known to many as "the world’s first desktop publisher" — is the founder and creative director of Before & After and the author of numerous books on graphic design (this is his latest). John was kind enough to contribute his tips for making better slides for the PZD book. I've been a big fan of John's for a long time and this latest book is his best one yet. Loads of simple, practical, visual lessons. Check out the Before & After website. (Amazon link.)

Design_elements Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual by Timothy Samara.
This is a really good book that I have mentioned before which both beginners and experienced designers may enjoy. The book does an excellent job at covering the fundamentals but also goes into some depth with many good examples. I like how Samara starts out the book by discussing just what graphic design is and what designers do. I especially like his
"20 Basic Rules of Good Design." (Amazon link.)

Stone A  Field Guide to Digital Color by Maureen Stone.
There are many books on color, but this one focuses on digital color and provides a great deal of depth. This is not really a book for novices, but it's an excellent book for designers of all types. I met Maureen Stone in Seattle this summer and saw one of her presentations. She's an excellent presenter and teacher. Maureen spent twenty years working at Xerox PARC on color printing, digital color, interactive computer graphics, illustration and design systems. She knows her stuff. (She was also kind enough to contribute a nice callout section for the color chapter in the PZD book.) This is an excellent book. (Amazon link.)

Think Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2nd 3rd Edition) by Steve Krug.
You might think a book on web usability design has little to do with presentations, but the lessons in this simple book have applications beyond the web. If you have even just a small interest in how to design websites that minimizes cognitive strain and make information clearer, you may find this book helpful. This classic is only about 200 pages and is a quick read with many good lessons that will make you a better judge of what works and what doesn't in a website. Steve Krug's website. (Amazon link.)


Write If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Breda Ueland.
I have mentioned this book before, but it's a must-read. This is not only a book about writing. In fact, it's much more a book about the imagination, spirit, and creativity. We need more art and creativity in our personal and professional lives; this book gets you thinking. A lot of people, including myself, have found this simple book to be quite inspirational. It was first published in 1938 and it's still a very relevant book today. (Amazon link.)

Presentation at Apple Store Ginza (Tokyo) Dec 15, 7:00 pm

Ginza_photoOn Tuesday (December 15), I will be presenting (in English) in the theatre at the Apple Store Ginza beginning at 7:00 pm. I'll be sharing some simple visual principles and design lessons from the world around us that can be applied to presentation design and beyond. I'll talk a bit about the contents of the new book presentation zen designwhich went to press last week and we'll have some copies of the first book in English and Japanese to give away (PZD will not be available until about Dec 27). If you are in Tokyo this Tuesday, it would be great to meet you at the Apple Store. If you can't be there, I hope you will pass on this announcement to your friends in Tokyo. 本当にありがとう!



Apple_store_pres About 130 people showed up in Ginza for the presentation. There are only 84 seats in the theatre so many sat on the floor or stood in the back. Great audience. We gave away a lot of books and loads of iStockphoto image credits. Presentation was done in about an hour and we took another hour meeting people and signing books, etc. Alex Fung from Hong Kong took some snaps here. Hiroaki Yamane took this photo of me taking a photo of him in Ginza. A big ありがとう! to everyone who attended. Fantastic group!