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Design

The Art of Visual Communication

When was the last time you had a close look at the safety instruction card on an aircraft? Or went shopping at Ikea? Or even constructed a Lego kit? You may have noticed that the instructions are completely visual. Despite the absence of text, the meaning of the instructions is abundantly clear and easy to follow. Let’s take a look:Qantas Safety CardIkea instructionsLego InstructionsOften the most important information we need to communicate in life is done through imagery. Pictures transcend language, race and age and can be understood by people from all walks of life. Studies have proven that people think in terms of images and vision trumps almost every other sense. Here is a collection of signs I photographed today on a short walk during my lunch break. You can see that important information is communicated clearly without the use of words.Signs around the neighbourhoodImages attract attention and help us quickly comprehend and absorb information that might otherwise be lost in printed text. If a picture really is worth a thousand words, we should be challenging ourselves to present information in the most visual way possible.

Design by Committee

Working in a team can be great because you get the benefit of other people’s perspectives and creative input. Sometimes working in a team sucks…you have the burden of other people’s perspectives and creative input!

One of my favourite sayings is A camel is a horse designed by a committee, which originated with automotive designer Alex Issigianis in 1958. The term refers to projects that have too many designers with no single unifying vision. When you compromise between all the views of the project members you can end up with something that doesn’t meet anbody’s expectations. Depending on your work environment or the situation, it may be difficult to avoid being in a situation where you have lots of personalities and perspectives working on a creative project. My advice is to develop a strong vision, pitch it persuasively and involve others at strategic points.

If you have the committee blues, check out his great video by the team at Vooza:

 

The anatomy of a slide

Make Great Tip for PowerPoint DesignToday I want to share a PowerPoint design tip with you. There are only three components to a great slide: shapes, images and text. It’s what you do with these components that can either make or break your slide.

Shapes

Autoshapes appear a standard default blue when you insert them onto a slide, but they can be changed to suit your needs. You can adjust the shape’s size, line, fill, placement or transparency. Shapes are useful for ‘anchoring’ text to a slide or making text more visible if it is becoming lost on an image. Shapes are also useful for creating charts, diagrams or other interesting visual effects.

Images

Images are the key ingredient for bringing your slides to life. They might be photographs, illustration/vectors or diagrams. Choose relevant, high resolution images that accentuate your message and fill the entire slide. There are many free images available to you under a creative commons licence, which means you can use the image if you abide by the terms of the licence and properly acknowledge the creator. I tend to take a lot of my own photographs and source others through commercial photo stock libraries, which allows me to get exactly what I am looking for.

Text

Text should be used in moderation, it should be visible and the selected font should work well with the overall look of the slides. Most importantly your text should encapsulate the key message and sum up what you’re saying in as few words as possible. You can create interesting effects by varying the size and colour of the text, adding drop shadows or manipulating the text in PowerPoint’s Word Art feature. Although you can insert text directly into a shape, my preference is to place text into a separate text box as this give you much greater control over its placement and look.

The more you practice using these three elements, the more proficient you will become. I’ve included some examples below depicting the anatomy of these three elements at work.

And remember, it’s as simple as S.I.T.

Creating a Visual Resume

Have you considered that many of the skills we use to convey information in a professional setting can be used in other areas of our lives e.g. designing birthday invitations, creating a map to show directions to a venue etc. Recently I set myself the challenge of updating my resume so that it would be more of a visual display of my achievements and skills. I wanted to keep the document to one page only (reducing it from 3 pages) and distill larger amounts of information into key essential messages.

I created this visual resume in PowerPoint using auto shapes, text boxes and by inserting icons. To create a consistent effect, I used the colour picker tool to select a colour from my photograph to use in the rest of the document. I then saved the final product as a PDF document. I think this version is a much better reflection of who I am and the skills I have and I’m not sure that I could go back to the humble Word document again.

Make Great Tip

If you would like to create the effect of ‘dummy’ or latin text in PowerPoint 2010 when creating a document such as the one above, place your cursor in the text box and type in the following:

=lorem()

Then press enter and you will find your text converted to latin.

Communicating with Colour

This year I hinted for a Pantone Colour guide for my birthday and I was thrilled to receive this set of colour swatches. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) was invented in the 1960s to assign a number to every colour. It’s not an essential tool for a presentation designer, but it’s wonderful for replicating a colour, getting inspiration for a project and getting the expected result when you have something printed.

In terms of PowerPoint presentations, if you want to replicate a colour that you’ve seen on a poster or magazine, the colour can be identified by holding the fanned out colour swatches next to it and identifying the closest match. The set of colour swatches I have contains the corresponding RGB (Red/Green/Blue) code printed beneath each colour. The RGB code can then be entered into the PowerPoint text or autoshape settings to achieve a match.

Colour choice is an important component of any presentation. It’s full of symbolism, can generate emotions and provides another useful way to reinforce your message.

Here I’ve assembled a few of my tips on colour selection:

  • Consider the audience. The colours selected for an audience of young people would almost certainly differ from that of an audience of older people. It’s a fact that age affects how a viewer reacts to colour (think Wiggles). There might also be cultural considerations to take into account if designing a presentation for a CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community.
  • Choose colours that mesh well with your content and help to enhance the meaning of your presentation. For example hot pink might not be the best choice when designing a presentation with an environmental theme.
  • Experiment with the saturation of colours to achieve different effects.  Bold saturated colours are used when it’s important to attract attention. The best example of this is road signs. Bold colours also look great when used minimally or on top of a black & white image. Desaturated colours have a more calming and professional look.
  • Consider competitors’ colour schemes and the colours associated with the industry. Do you want to look the same or different?
  • Function comes before form. No matter how gorgeous the colour combination is…if you can’t read the text or understand the message than it’s got to go.
  • Learn to love the eyedropper tool in Powerpoint. It helps to create colour schemes from images within the presentation.
  • Once you’ve decided on a colour scheme, be consistent with it throughout the presentation. It will create a cohesive and professional look.

Do you have any of your own colour tips to add?

Wild Slides

I’m pleased to launch this blog by sharing my ideas on great slide design on Slideshare. This is the first time I’ve displayed my work publicly and I’d love you to check it out.

In addition to tips on slide design, my blog will feature posts on making great speeches, training materials, icebreakers, handouts and lots more. If you subscribe, you won’t miss a post.

Thanks for visiting and happy viewing.