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Simplicity in Design

Lesson 18 from: Create and Design Memorable Presentations 

Andrea Pacini

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Lesson Info

18. Simplicity in Design

Lesson Info

Simplicity in Design

Welcome to a new chapter. Now, what you've done so far is you've brainstormed to find your key messages and then you've also translated your key messages into a clear story line. Now the third step of the presentation process is illustration. Now we need to illustrate, we need to support and amplify your storyline using effective visuals. Now here's the thing, you don't have to use slides all the time, but when you do, you need to make sure that they support your messages because if they don't, they work against them and that's why presentation design is important. Now, one of the main reasons why most presentations suck is is not the only one, but one of the main reasons for it is death by Power Point. This is where the speaker attacks the audience with bullet points and lots of text on the screen. But all that does is it kills your attention, it kills the audience's attention. So the problem with the slides full of text, it's not that I don't like it, I don't like it. But that's not ...

the problem. The problem is that people can't read and listen at the same time. If you look at how the brain works, the Britain text is processed in exactly the same parts of the brain that processes the spoken text. And so reading and listening are two conflicting activities for a brain. So if I show you a slide full of text, you either read the text or listen to me, You can't do both activities at the same time, not even women, not even women. So this is Death by power Point is a crime against the audience. You don't want to do this, we need to look for a better alternative. And why? Why do we need to look for a better alternative? Because in the end, what they tell us is that content is king, right? Content is the most important thing and I agree because if you don't know your content, if you don't know what you want to communicate, then design is not going to help you. But if content is king, then as they say, Design is Queen, which means that it's just as important, if not more so paying attention to the design of the presentation is crucial, not just because it makes it nicer. Yes it does. But that's not the main benefit. The main benefit is that you have your audience better understand. Your message is so powerful. Presentations should combine of course great content and that's why we've worked on that together in the first two chapters, but also great design. And if you want to be able to design great presentations, the audience will love the keyword you need to remember is simplicity. You need to keep it simple. For example, this is a work of art by Picasso 1945. The Bull. The way you look at it is you start from top left and then you go down in the first column and then back up in the second column and then down again and then back up in the third column and down again. And if you look at the first image top left, that's a very realistic bowl. It has all the elements you would expect to see in a bowl. But then what Picasso did was he went through a series of iterations and at every iteration he kept removing details, removing and removing to a point where only the essential elements were visible. If you look at the last image bottom right, he couldn't remove anything else. If he removed another element, it would have been very hard for us to understand that we were still talking about a bull. So you see it's this idea of simplicity of removing the unnecessary and it's not a coincidence that randy nelson uses this example. Randy nelson is the director of the teaching faculty of the university, which is an internal university for their employees. And he uses this example when he teaches his class communicating an apple. And if you think about it, it's not a coincidence that the design of their products is so simple and intuitive. For example, when they launched their new or the first remote control for the Apple TV in at the time. This is what was available on the market. That was the standard were more controlled. The standard remote control had more than 40 buttons. This is what it took to operate. That kind of device. Look at how many buttons, how many colors now Apple came to the market with something like this? Just six buttons. I want to go back and forth to turn the volume up and down one button for the menu and another one to select either play or pose. That's it like Picasso. They also went through a series of iterations and at every iteration they kept removing buttons to a point where only the essential buttons were visible. So you see this idea of simplicity of removing the unnecessary is very important when it comes to product design. Now what if we apply the same principle to presentation design? You might have read or at least you've heard of the book. The little prince, the author of the book said something which to me captures in the best possible way the idea the key idea behind effective design. He was not talking about design but it's very much connected to what we're talking about here. He said that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away, think about your slides, think about your presentations from a design perspective, perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Now let's look at an example, let's look at this light, What do you think? What's wrong with it? I can tell you that there is something wrong with this. Now the problem with this slide is that there are too many elements too much information that doesn't add any value to the message you want to communicate. So what you could do is you could present exactly the same information in a way that's more simple and visual. So what I've done here is like Picasso. I removed all the unnecessary elements in this version. I couldn't remove anything else. If I remove something else, then there would be something missing. So let's have a look at both versions together. Before after. If you look at the before version, think about it. We want to show a bar chart. Perfect. You really need to have a border for your chart. Do you really need to show a colored background or the vertical grid lines or the tick marks on the access? Do you really need to show a map of the Bahamas? Just because we're talking about the Bahamas, maybe we can highlight that in a different way using color as we did in the after version. Do you really need to have this line number or the date? No, because none of these elements make it easier for your audience to understand what you're saying. So you see what you have in the after version is the absolute essence of your design and therefore the absolute essence of your message. So if you go for a simple and visual design, if you remove all the unnecessary elements, What you're doing is you are putting yourself in your audience issues. So you see, design is not just about making your presentations look nicer, it's mainly about helping your audience better understand your messages. So keep this idea of simplicity and removing the unnecessary mind. What I want to do next is I want to share with you some fundamental principles of design and how you can apply them to your own presentations. I'll see you in the next lesson.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Exercise #1: ABC - Understanding Your Audience
Exercise #2 - Define Your Objective
Exercise #3: ATR - Brainstorm To Find Your Key Messages
Exercise #3: Mind Map - Brainstorm To Find Your Key Messages
Exercise #3: Traffic Light - Brainstorm To Find Your Key Messages
Exercise #4: 70 Words
Exercise #5: Storylines - Develop Your Storyline
Exercise #6: Storyboard - Sketch and Design Your Visuals
Recommended Reading

Ratings and Reviews

julie haskett

I was just beginning to create a series of presentations when I noticed this course. Serendipity! I thought I knew what I was doing, but learned some great techniques. More importantly I learned what NOT to do. Now I have much more confidence in the process.

michal babula

A lot of useful information.


Exceptional course. Very well organized and taught. The course was engaging and practical, with clear actionable approaches, examples, and activities from beginning to end.

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