Friday, February 25, 2011

A word on visuals: Where to start?

The preparation of slides is a task for graphical designers not for scientists. Scientists who prepare their own visuals should develop a sensibility for this art. I show examples of bad and good slides, some issues you should focus on, and some resources.  

The preparation of a presentation's visuals is work of design, and unless a scientist has some basic knowledge in the discipline of graphic design, he or she should  not prepare visuals. Now, the ruling culture of Powerpoint  forces most presenters to prepare a "presentation", so it would be unreasonable to ask scientist not to prepare slides for their presentations. What I'm asking is that you prepare your visuals with a basic element of graphic design taste. Bullet point list are to presentation visuals, what junk food is to a person's diet.

Take a look a this presentation I found at slideshare.net

and compare it to this one I also found at slideshare.net

Do I get my point across? You need to think like a designer when preparing your presentation slides.

So where to start on the discipline of graphic design? If I were to discuss the three more pressing issues that scientist should focus their attention on, I would suggest
  • White Space (also known as negative space)
  • Typography
  • Color theory 
You might want to check the Before & After Magazine website where you can find a selection of free tutorials in both video and pdf on these topics and more. 
I would also recommend Robin Williams' book (the graphic designer, not the actor) The Non-Designer's Design Book. It is just what the title says. It won't turn you into a graphical designer, but will change the way you look at a page.

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