The other day I was surprised to hear a radio journalist use the word simplistic (meaning childish or oversimplified), when they meant simple (straightforward and easy to understand). It made me wonder if other people are confused about these two words and whether this results in simplicity having a bad name?
I have a sign on my desk that says SIMPLICITY IS THE ULTIMATE SOPHISTICATION (courtesy of Leonado da Vinci) and it serves as a reminder to me as well as people around me. I am constantly exhorting people to keep things simple, but I’m not talking about reducing ideas or concepts to the point where they become meaningless. Quite the contrary, reducing the complexity of information should increase the impact of your message and make it stronger, not weaker. Simplicity is about focus, order and clarity. It’s about making it easier for people to understand what you are saying, so that it will be memorable.
Do you face this challenge at your workplace? Do you have any suggestions about how to encourage people to make things simple, rather than more complicated?
You can always learn something new about presentation design, even if you have been doing it for some time. I have read quite a few of the presentation design books on the market so I thought I would talk briefly about a few of my favourites and you can decide for yourself if they would be useful for you to read.
My number one pick for people starting out in presentation design would definitely be The Non-designers Presentation Book by Robin Williams (not the comedian).
This is a fairly short book and covers clarity, relevance, animation and plot as well as the fundamental design principles: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. So basically it covers CRAP + CRAP.
I particularly like what Robin has to say about handouts. Rather than advising presentation designers to avoid providing handouts because they distract the audience, she advises us to create handouts that augment the content. This can be a good way to provide attendees with additional useful content as well as a permanent record of your presentation. However you can’t simply convert your presentation slides to a handout and hope that this will do the trick. It won’t. You need to craft your handout in the same way that you craft your slides and use the same design rules. This can take a heap of time and is not something that you can realistically do for every presentation, however it’s a great idea for a presentation that is going to be used across an organisation or that you are planning to deliver on multiple occasions.
There are many other fantastic tips and hints in this book, so if you want a really well written book on presentation design and can only afford one, you should think about purchasing this one. It’s not as flashy as Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design (both of which are beautiful) but it’s good.
Look out for next week’s post on good design books and please let me know if you have any personal favourites.