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Before & After: A valuable resource for presenters

6a00d83451b64669e201287674b042970c-120wi The helpful advice from designer and executive director John McWade from Before & After is one of the most useful websites out there. I'm a huge fan of John's simple, straight forward approach to graphic design and teaching. His advice is always very practical and he has helped thousands and thousands of people over the years communicate more clearly by learning the essentials of graphic design. John even contributed a lovely four-page spread about using images in presentations which appears in the Presentation Zen Design book. Recently, John began to make short, well-made videos which feature a simple principle and practical tips. As Dean Laffan in Australia reminded me this week, John's videos are actually good examples of how short teaching videos like this should be produced. As Dean said in his note to me, these videos are good because (1) They are short and sweet, (2) Have good production values, (3) Are well thought out and professionally edited, and (4) Are not overly slick. John's style in front of the camera is very natural and down to earth. Two of John's recent videos appear below—let's hope he makes many more.

Video 1. Make sure your words and graphics are in harmony
In this video below John shows how a typeface can express an unintentional message. Now, the "after" example does not mean that it is the best solution possible, but it is a big improvement and serves to illustrate what a difference shapes (from sharp to soft) can make. Personally, I do not have a problem with the color red for the tooth as the tooth is actually white taking up the negative space (though John does raise a good point). Additionally, red has good contrast with the blues and red & white are also a symbol of help or medical care such as in the Red Cross association, etc.

Video 2.
Working in a tiny space: Think simple
John's point in the video below about choosing simpler and more focused images is especially important for websites but the concept is applicable to presentation visuals as well. A common problem in presentation graphics are designs which have too many elements and lack a clear focal point. A good photography tip as well is to try to compose your shots in a way that eliminates unnecessary detail or clutter.

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I used to be a fan of this publication till many months went by between issues, formats changed, and remainders of subscriptions were never honored. I loved the make-overs but waiting nearly a year between supposedly bi-monthly issues caused me to loose interest.


As always, a very interesting post. I work in education and find your advice on design invaluable. I sometimes think that the messages given about visual design might usefully be appied to the things we say and how we say them, too. The content of the second video might be a case in point.

I will mention this post on my blog. I am trying to work out how to use 'backlinks' but don't think I have really got the hang of it.

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