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December 2011
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March 2012

January 2012

Hans Rosling: The Jedi Master of data visualization

Dr. Hans Rosling is one of my presentation heroes; he's been featured or mentioned in all my books and several times on over the years. If there is a Jedi Master of presenting data clearly, visually, and simply, then it is Hans. He proves time and time again, that data are not dull—and when you are trying to change the world, there is no excuse for boring presentations. Most people are aware of Dr. Rosling through his popular TED Talks, but just in case you've never seen him present, below is a nice 5-minute piece he did on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. At you'll find many video presentations and articles on Hans Rosling.

US in a converging world: Hans Rosling on CNN
This segment is from March, 2011. Go here to see loads of videos on

Documentary: Rosling's World
One of the videos you will find on is this documentary on Hans Rosling. It is fantastic and well worth your time (about an hour). It is in Swedish so do not forget to click on CC in Youtube for the English subtitles if you need them. Dr. Rosling is an inspiring figure who is doing his own bit to change the world in a big way. His story is one more people need to hear. And is an invaluable resource for educators. Loads of videos, and downloads, and tons of indicators displayed in Gapminder World.


New: Presentation Zen (2nd Edition)

Pz_istockphoto.Four years ago my first book Presentation Zen was published by Peachpit Press. Since then I wrote two other presentation books and a sketchbook/storyboard book and a DVD (plus an additional DVD/Book just for Japan). Although a lot of time had passed, I was still happy with the original Presentation Zen. And yet, the original Presentation Zen book could benefit from a little freshening up in the form of a 2nd edition for 2012. This 2nd edition of Presentation Zen has the same look and feel as the original book and I still did all the design and layout myself. The biggest difference is the book is about 70 pages longer, and although the same high-quality paper is used this time, the price is lower than the original.

Presentation_zen_2nd   PZ_2nd_backcover
Above: The front and back covers (click for larger view).

Frequently asked questions
I get a lot of questions about the book (thank you!), so below is a brief FAQ. I hope this helps.

I already have the first edition, should I get the 2nd edition?
I intentionally did not change too much from the first book. My goal with this 2nd edition was to make the first edition better and more complete, not to rework everything in the book. So if you have the first edition and are looking for something completely different, then you should not get this book. If you liked the first edition and you'd like to own a newer and better version of the first, then you will be happy with the book. Of course, if you do not have the first edition, then although I am quite biased, I can highly recommend you get this 2nd edition. (See Dirk Haun's overview of the 2nd edition at the mobilepresenter.) To give you a better sense for the look and feel of the new 312-page book I sat down in our washitsu at home in Nara, Japan and recorded this rough 4-min video on my iPhone (YouTube link).

I hear there is a DVD with the 2nd edition. Is this true?
Barne_noble_pzBarnes & Noble are indeed including the Presentation Zen DVD I made in 2009 with the 2nd edition. This deal is a special promotion available only with Barnes & Noble. This was B&N's idea. Although the DVD is not new, the ideas and examples are still reflected in the 2nd edition book. The B&N price is cheaper than even Amazon (which does not include the DVD) and is almost 1/2 off the list price. The 50-minute DVD is broken in to four sections and many teachers and instructors use the DVD as part of their own classes or seminars.

Is there an ebook version?
Ipad_pz2_kindleYes, there are ebook versions on Amazon and on iTunes and ebook and PDF versions available here at Peachpit Press (which sells a bundle of two ebook versions plus hard copy for one price). The visual presentation of the ideas in the book are much better and more complete in the paper format compared to the ebook version available on Amazon, but the Kindle version does have advantages (including cost) and I am a big user of Kindle books for the iPad. (The photo above is of the 2nd edition on the Kindle app for iPad and gives you a sense for how the design of the book is disrupted in this format.)

Is there a special offer on free images from iStockphoto?
Istockphoto_offer_slide.321Yes. iStockphoto has been very supportive of all my work and they are indeed offering 10 free high-resolution images again. This deal is only available for the hardcopy version. At the back of the hard copy you'll see an iStockphoto page which has a special url that will take you to the Presentation Zen 2nd Edition iStockphoto page. You can use a special code to get 20% off a purchase from their massive collection or you can just get the 10 images you like for free from the selection of 50 high-res images. (The Japanese garden images here and at the top of this post are part of the 50. The original size of each is 4304x2800 at 300dpi which is suitable for printing, or you can reduce the image size for presentations or web, etc.)

Thanks very much to everyone who has purchased the 2nd Edition already (or any of my books for that matter). Your support in trying to help people present and generally communicate better is greatly appreciated. There is still along ways to go, but there has been good improvement. And I thank you for that.

10 great books to help you think, create, & communicate better

In the spirit of personal kaizen, I have listed below a few books that I read (or reread) over the past year that you may want to read as part of your own continuous improvement journey.

Brain_at_work(1) Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. Over the last 10-20 years scientists have made many remarkable discoveries concerning the brain and how it works. David Rock is not a neuroscientist but he is a good "neurotranslator" of the scientific evidence and does a good job of explaining in clear terms how the brain works and how our own understanding of the brain can help us in school, work, and beyond. If you want a small taste of David's work watch this Authors at Google talk or this TEDxBlue talk.

Design_learn(2) Design For How People Learn.
This book is quick and easy to read. If you are already well-read on e-learning and the brain and memory, etc. then there may not be much new here for you, but it has good material for professionals and students that can help them understand how people learn and how to design learning experiences (like presentations) that do a better job of engaging audiences. For me it was an interesting review of many of the key concepts in e-learning. A much deeper (and expensive) related book is e-Learning and the Science of Instruction.

100_things(3) 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. I like how the book is broken up into 100 chucks of 1-3 pages with key principles and practical tips in each of these short sections. As the book covers a lot of ground, it may lack the depth for some, but for most people it will be a good primer or a helpful review of important principles. Areas covered include: how people see, how people read, how people remember, how people think, how people focus their attention, what motivates people, and others. I think this is a book that will help a lot of people who read it to design better visuals and communicate in more engaging ways.

Biz_plan(4) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers.This is a beautifully designed book. The book is billed as "a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises." Even if you are not in need of deigning a business model, there are lessons in this book that can challenge your thinking and help you clarify your ideas and objectives. Amazon says the book is designed for doers who are ready to "abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new models of value creation." I am thinking now to design an entire semester-long course around this book. The book is simple, visual, and clear. Good bits on their website.

Visual_meetings(5) Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. As someone who loves whiteboards and other analog tools (and hates typical, boring meetings), I found the ideas in this book very refreshing. I can't sum it up better than Amazon: "Visual Meetings explains how anyone can implement powerful visual tools, and how these tools are being used in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to facilitate both face-to-face and virtual group work. This dynamic and richly illustrated resource gives meeting leaders, presenters, and consultants a slew of exciting tricks and tools, including." I have been trying to use many of the principles and techniques discussed in the book in my college courses and seminars. I think this could be very useful for teachers and college professors even though it may seem more targeted to business professionals and entrepreneurs. Good discussions on using visual language to facilitate and present to groups. (Video about the book.)

Game_storming(6) Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers. I am a strong advocate of serious play. Play and school—as well as play and work—are often treated as contradictory ideas, yet it is though play—and games—that we explore, discover, and learn. The authors of Gamestorming get that. There are 83 games introduced in the book that are explained clearly and simply. You can choose the games to fit your needs and your situation. All of the games (or activities if "games" is a scary word in your work environment) can help engage your audience and get them involved in your meeting, seminar, or classroom. The Amazon page has a few examples from the book and there is a video as well here.

Universal_principles(7) Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design. This is an absolutely fabulous book that I have recommend before a few years ago. This is the 2nd edition which includes many new concepts that are all beautifully and simply spread out across a 272-page book. This is a great reference book for anyone, but especially for designers, engineers, architects, and other creative professionals (and students) who want to learn to sharpen and broaden their understanding of design. The book is informative, educational, and also inspiring. Love this classic book.

Blah_blah_blah(8) Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work. I liked Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin books, but this one is even better. I received an advance copy of the book for free and my endorsement is on the back cover, but it's true: I really do think this book is great. The spoken word is wonderful, of course, but Dan is correct when he says we are being drowned out by the "blah, blah, blah." Pictures, sketches, and other visuals are not panaceas for bad ideas, but the techniques and approach found in "Vivid Thinking" can help good ideas come to life rather than be lost in the "blah, blah, blah." The book is, of course, highly visual and the concepts and techniques are explained using interesting and varied examples from the real world. This video explains the "Blah-blahmeter" introduced in the first chapter—just one of the tools in the book.

White_space(9) White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design. This a bit like The Non-Designer's Book on Design Book but with more varied content. This is a great introduction for all types of working professionals or students, and yet those already experienced in graphic design may want this on their shelf too if for no other reason than to loan it out from time to time to friends or colleagues who could benefit from knowing the basics. There is nothing really on presentations per se, but many of the concepts can be applied to presentation design as well. A well designed book with loads of visual examples.

Zen_of_creativity(10) The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life This is not a new book, but one I always recommend. While there are many books written on the subject of creativity, this is one of my favorites. Simple, smart, inspirational, and practical. The ideas in this book just may give you insights and perspectives into a very different way for looking at the world and approaching your own creative endeavors. This is the kind of book you can read and then reread (as I did) years later and still enjoy it and learn from it. A classic.

In the spirit of Spinal Tap, this list of ten books actually features eleven.

Pz_2(11) Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition). New for 2012. This is the 2nd edition of my first book Presentation Zen. This book is the same as the first edition, but I am much happier with it. I think it is a better book. I designed it to have the same look and feel as the first book, but with an additional 70 pages or so, including a new chapter on engagement. Most of the photos and some of the examples have been changed and many new ones added. There are a few new callout sections such as a special 6-page section on Steve Jobs. There is another special offer from iStockphoto also included in the print version. I'll dedicate a future post with more information about the 2nd Edition soon.