Thursday, May 24, 2012

Presentation (anti?)guru: Don Mcmillan

Remember chicken chicken? Well, let engineer and comedian (his words, not mine) Don McMillan break it down for you. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A word on visuals: Typography

Source Wikipedia under CC license by Brandenands

I have always been hesitant to write about typography because I have no formal education on it. However I can't keep quiet after what I have read and seen last week. Last week I found Emiland De Cubber.  He describes himself as a "full-time presentation lover and a part-time presentation designer." Certainly, Emiland's visual stacks stand out, but I disagree with his advise on typography and how he uses it. Now, I know I'm nobody in the Slideshare /presentation world, neither do I want or pretend to be.  I also know that in graphic design there is an entire world of styles. But I also know that design should be One and Universal, and that respecting the audience also means offering them type they can easily read.  So here is can I think about typography. 

One single typeface is enough for one presentation stack

I'm with Seth Godin in that a slide shouldn't have more than 6 (six) words, so creating emphasis and hierarchy don't require a different typeface. Instead think of varying the type's size, color, weight or style to achieve.

OK,  two are also fine. But never, ever use more than two.

It is absolutely fine to use a second one— as long as you know what you are doing. In this blog I sometime use Helvetica for the post's abstract. I got the idea from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. If you are going to combine two typefaces, here is some advice I read from Before&After Magazine and Robin William's book The Non-Designer's Design Book
  • Slab serifs (…) can be used as heads when combined with any simple sans serif (…). This reverses the usual habit of using of using serifs for body and sans serifs for heads, and gives a casual, airy look. 
  • Try to match x-height of fonts that appear side by side —even if you must use a different point size. Or you can exaggerate their differences by making one font at least two point sizes bigger—or a lot bolder— than the other.
  • A Contrast of size does not always mean you  must make the type large—it just means there should be a contrast.
  • Not only does a contrast of weight make a page more attractive to your eyes, it is one if the most effective ways of organizing information.
If Slab serifs and x-height don't ring a bell, then you should stick to use one typeface. If you want to know what they mean get this book:
It will teach you that and much more. 

Cheap types will yield cheap results

In the new computer age the proliferation of typefaces and type manipulations represents a new level of visual pollution threatening our culture.
—Massimo Vignelli

Resist the temptation of downloading and using free fonts. If you use a Mac you have all the typefaces you need to make great visuals. Even if you don't have access to Garamond, Bodoni, Futura or Helvetica don't use sites like dafont or squirrel font.

Fair enough, what if you need more typefaces? I suggest you either use Google's Roboto or the Ubuntu font family
Source Wikipedia under CC license by Google and Cal3briley
These are not in heaven with Futura, but neither are they in the hell of cheap fonts. I like to think of them as been in the purgatory of typefaces. 

Having said all of this, take a look at Emiland's 7 tips to create visual Presentations. There is valuable information in it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Great documentaries for great presentations

In recent months I have turned to documentaries for inspiration. Truth be told, this post is inspired by Sheila Bernard's book Documentary Storytelling. Make no mistake, documentary makers are researchers, some scientific, some not.  In any case good documentaries contain important lessons for scientific presenters.

Learning from documentaries is only helpful if you watch a same documentary several times and start identifying its structure and visual consistency. Particularly,  listening the director's commentary you will find that there is a lot of valuable and important material that doesn't making it to the final cut.  This is a lesson for all scientific presenters: you can't present all what you have found and pretend that your audience is going to care.

Documentary-makers face the awful challenge to compete with fiction films. It would hard to get people interested in documentaries if directors, producers and writers don't show their research in a creative and storytelling way.  In other words these people respect the audiences by building a piece that is meant for the viewers and not for the makers, that's another lesson for presenters.

Having said this, here are three documentaries that might help you building better presentations.

Source: Wikipedia under CC license by Wiros
Man on Wire. A 2008 award winning documentary, Man on Wire tells the story of Phillipe Petit and his high- wire talk between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New City. Why should you watch this movie? Because it illustrates what a conclusion is. It ends strong, just like public speaking should. It is a beautiful, well crafted film.

Source Wikipedia under CC license by Fletcher6
Inside Job is another Oscar- award winning film, directed by Charles Ferguson, PhD, about the financial melt-down of the 2008. Why is this film important for presentations? For one, this is organized in a clear chapter-by-chapter way, very similar to most scientific talks, so it is easier to identify the similarities between the two. Inside every chapter there is complete story, and each one keeps the film moving forward. It also includes good visualizations of what the financial crisis was about. The hard technical and historical parts are beautifully shown.

Source Wikipedia. Public Domain image
 An inconvenient truth.  This film doesn't have the intensity of Man on Wire or Inside Job. However if you are involved in scientific presentations, you must see this movie, for it is for its most part a presentation. Like Inside Job, this film shows examples of efficient data and information visualizations. The slides are superb, and it shows a pro on-stage.  This slides of Mr. Gore's presentation were done by Duarte Design and some of them can be seen here.