Sunday, February 17, 2013

Visual examples: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Obama's State of the Union speech 2013

It is February, time for the SOTU( State Of The Union) address and like in past years I have looked at the slides of the enhanced speech. The major why this matters to scientific presentations is because of the data visualization they provide to the public.  The National Public Radio did a piece on this and ask Steve Few author of Show me the numbers, and Nathan Yau of flowing data about the quality of charts. According to Mr. Few and Mr. Yau for the most part Obama's team did a good job. There were however some cases the criticized.  Here are 4 of them. Call it The Bad. You can click on them to see a larger version.

  • 12 Of The Hottest Years On Record  misplaces the x-axis by not setting it at 0. This creates an unnecessary dramatic effect. The y-axis has no units and the labels on the same axis should be "-0.4", "-0.2", … to emphasize these are rational and not integers numbers. 
  • Natural Gas Wells doesn't tell the whole story with the "zoom effect", in other words the y-axis should start at 0. 
  • Our Troops are Coming Back From Afghanistan misleads by presenting non-uniform time intervals as such.
  • Finally, Veteran Jobs  looks like a time series instead of a cumulative chart. On Yau's opinion is this not wrong by itself, but people might get the wrong idea.
You can read here the whole NPR piece about these and more charts, including a makeover of  Natural Gas Wells and Our Troops are Coming Back From Afghanistan by Steve Few.

Next, The Ugly.  The slide were finished the day before the speech. I guess these just came in right before the closing.

Finally, let's look now at The Good.

These are my four favorites slides of the more than 100 presented on the speech. I guess the colors made it very appealing to me. I'll get to the colors of the slides in just a moment, just for now, note how even 45,000 Wind Turbines is very slick its use. In fact, this slide is a paradox. There is a considerable amount of text and information, but still it doesn't overwhelm the viewer. There is hierarchy of 3 in it. The title, the image, and the additional information. There is even eye gazing from the foregrounded wind turbine to the supporting text.
Now Is The Time is emotionally powerful, as it should be. Its title might be a  reference to Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech (emphasis added):
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
The slide also reminds me of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington D.C. No wonder Obama's team decided to finish the speech with this topic. Watch this for more context.
The color of the overall design haven't change that much in the past 2 years. There is sample of the color used.
You can compare this with the two previous years here. Just in case this is slide stack of this year.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wanna give a better presentation? Well, start editing!

No big news, no breaking news. This is a classic: Edit your presentation. When I see people preparing their talks for the next day, I wonder how do they edit? How do they get feedback? A presentation should be written down. No to be read aloud, or to make a Powerpoint transcript of it, but to be used as a script. I mean, after all comedians also write their stuff. It doesn't have to be a book or prose. It can be a list of bullet points following a logical sequence. Still, edit that script. Get rid of everything that the audience doesn't care about.  Don't open your favorite slideware before you have written and edited your script. There. Now you have a better presentation.

Image credit: Inauguration designed by Filippo Camedda from The Noun Project.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What the font?! – A great typography education resource

I know I blogged yesterday, but this is way too important, at least to me. Yesterday evening I found an awesome educational resource on typography: FontShop Education. The content is excellent. It includes a glossary on typography, how to choose a type, "typo tips" from the renown german typographer Erik Spiekermann, and Meet your type. A field guide to typography.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Visuals example: 3 ideas for the outline slide

Last week I bought Numbers in Graphic Design by Roger Fawcett-Tang and it inspired this post.  In my experience the easiest way to start using pictures in slides is by using them to signalize the beginning of a new section. If the right name is chosen, the right picture might follow easy.  This is a creative task, and it needs time, specially if it is the first time it is done.  So let's say you have the names and the images. Now to the outline slide.

First things first, do not put "Introduction" or "Motivation" on that outline, it conveys 0 (zero, null, cero) information. The same thing goes for "Conclusions".  Another thing specially for those LaTeX/Beamer users, subsubsection (aka nested bullet  points) in the outline, are you kidding me? You are killing your audience right at the start of your presentation. Who's going to remember that?

The first example is a straight enumeration, to give a clue of the images I masks the section images with the numbers. After I finished it, I didn't like it. The images don't pop-up, there is a nuance though, that I thought could create a sense of mystery. The color scheme is also a bit of a mess. It looked as if I couldn't make out my mind. But of a bit of patience and tinkering the appropriate color scheme can be found.
Here is an improved version. This is much clearer. The images are cropped to squares (and aligned) and the shades of grey convey a sense of motion. I really like this one. Note that all the text is in upper case.

Finally, what if I want to go for only squares and there are only 3 real sections? This slides is inspired (shall I say stolen) from the work of Emiland de Cubber. Maximize images, minimize words.
I hope these 3 examples can get you some inspiration.

Image credits (all images taken from Wiki Commons):
  • Bullseye photo by Christian Gidlöf licensed under GNU Free Documentation License
  • Volcano photo by Nasa licensed under CC 2.0 Attribution-Share Alike
  • NYC photo by Paulo Barcellos Jr. licensed under CC 2.0 Attribution-Share Alike
  • Woman photo by Luca Galuzzi licensed under CC 2.5 Attribution-Share Alike
Update 10/2/2013 Here is one more take of the outline. This one makes plays a bit with the typography, unifies the color, and uses extreme cropping.