Friday, August 24, 2012

Improve your slides using icons

Last week I briefly mentioned the Icon Representation Principle. Let's dig in a bit further. According to Lidwell, Holden and Butler (LHB) the use of pictorial images makes easier to learn and remember concepts.  They list  4 classes of iconic representation:
  • Similar icons. Images that are visually analogous to an action, object or concept. They are most efficient to represent a simple concept. 
  • Example icons. Images that exemplify or are commonly associated with a concept. They are useful to represent complex concepts. 
  • Symbolic icons. Images that represent a concept at a high level of abstraction. Mostly efficient when involved concept involves well-established and easily recognizable objects. 
  •  Arbitrary Icons
 So much for the theory, let's go to the example. If you are interested in more check out their book Universal Principle of Design.

The prime idea of the slide is to show the  4 dimensions that constitute the argumentation competence according to Grundler. First I was shown only text based slides with very few text (good), but poorly aligned (ugly). My idea of using the icons was to help the audience to remember the concepts by associating them with a family image. I based the design following my own post. The icons were taken from The Noun Project (see my last post).

 Here is a different version of the slides above.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Batch of visual resources

It's summer and I though it would be nice to spend more time outside, so I'll change the format of the post today.   


A Book: Universal Principles of Design

This is a great read. There is a lot of good scientific supported advice on how to improve a presentation. From the visual to the organization and cognitive front. You don't have to be a psychologist or a industrial design to understand and enjoy it. I counted at least 20 principles that directly apply to presentations. For example the Picture Superiority Effect and Iconic Representation which leads me to...

Links to get images and icons

  • The Morgue Files offers stock-photography-quality images from free, even for commercial purposes.
  • TinEyes Lab provides a Flickr search by color.
  • The Noun Project "collects, organizes and adds to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world's visual language."
Another item  in Universal Principles of Design is the Signal-to-Noise Ratio, which refers to the ration between the amount of decoration, and unnecessary elements (the noise)  and the amount of information that wants to be convey (the signal). The following video feature graphical designer John Mcwade is an example of how to apply this principle to slides.


A Video from Before and After Maganize

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Turn rocket science into the Rocket Man: Scientific and presentation writing. Part 1.

Finding the right words and connecting with the audience are two problems scientific communicators face.  One way the overcome this problem is to turn scientific writing into presentation writing. 

One of the smartest things I have read in the last weeks about presentation was
Great presentations rely on great writing.
                        — John Rode, Slide Rocket
Great writing implies clear thinking, thoughtful structure, and respect for the audience, among many other things. No wonder great writing is hard work, really hard work. Professors and young researchers know this. In fact they strive to achieve excellence in scientific writing. And here is where the problem starts: Scientific writing is not the same as presentation writing.

Last week Gavin MacMahon offered a free webinar on the 6 different types of presenters there are
  • The storyteller and the coach
  • The counselor and the teacher
  • The inventor and the coordinator,
their strengths and weakness and how to use slideware to leverage the weakness.  Gavin says that 75% of the presenter-population falls into the inventor and the coordinator categories. The problem these type of presenters face, Gavin continues to argue, is that they have trouble finding the words, and therefore their visuals end up being teleprompters. The counselor and the teacher also have problems and find it hard to connect with the audience putting content before people.

Hmmm... Presenters reading from their slides about their research. Yeah, you see a lot of that at scientific talks.

This brings me back to my point. Scientific writing is in many ways the opposite of presentation writing. For starters, the use of the passive voice is applied on purpose to detached the experiment from the researcher. Try to rephrase  the main object of your research in 2 or 3 sentences. Have ever read the titles on  research journals? 

Presentation writings relies on storytelling, scientific writing on argumentation and explanation.  And like film making, scientific writing has different genres. Finding common territory between scientific fields is tough. But there might be an important one: quantitative measurements. Make your quantitative results tell a story, make your conclusion the lessons learned from that story.  Click here for a concrete example.

How good is your writing? How do you present your data? How do you empower your audience with your research? What kind of presenter are you? Find out by taking Gavin's presenter diagnose.

While you think about it —and perhaps leave a comment— watch how rocket science is turned into a larger-than-sci-fi-thriller.