Teachers and graphic designers have a few things in common: they work they do is powerful, complex and under-appreciated.  When I think about what makes “good design” good, I can’t put my finger on it.  I am reminded of that awful saying, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.

As I prepare for an IB workshop presentation this weekend, graphic design of my presentation is at the forefront of my mind. I’m starting off on the right foot by: abandoning PowerPoint, because it seems like every awful presentation I’ve ever seen is done on PowerPoint.  I have made so many piss-poor PowerPoints over the years that I have become numb to how horrible they are. So, in an attempt to shake myself up, I’ve made the switch to the Dark Side of the slide-show world: Keynote.  If you can
detect a sense of amateur-ness seeping in here, you’re spot on.

I’m hoping that Keynote’s slick “symmetry” guides, default true black background and stoic fonts will steer me in the right direction, even if I try to resist and put something awful together.  Reading about the principals of CRAP and Slate’s Lazy Eyes article reminded me to make sure that my headers, horizonal lines, text, etc. is consistent throughout the presentation.  Most importantly, I’ve been refreshing myself on the principals of Presentation Zen (by Garr Reynolds originally, but nicely summarized by a blog post by Kim Cofino).  In particular, the focus on provocative images–rather than text–as the content of the slide.

My favorite thing about this concept is that it turns the presentation-making process into an act of creation and discovery, rather than simply getting everything on the slide.  Hunting for (or csnailed-it-300x202reating!) that perfect image can feel like you are being pulled into a black whole, but when you find it–it is that feeling of terra firma back under your feet.

Imagery-based presentations are especially appropriate for me because I instinctively think in terms of analogies, and images are a perfect way to anchor the analogy.  For example, if I am trying to get across this idea:

New ideas can be difficult to comprehend at first, but after an initial introduction and a bit of time, the idea sinks in quickly.

In my mind, this analogy is born:  bone dry potting soil that refuses to wet. Imagine a beautiful orb of water, gorgeously spherical, sitting stubborn on the surface of the soil. Rather than rob my audience of the journey, I simply present this slide…..


Demand cognition from your audience: What is this image, and how does it relate? Image: http://www.marijuanagrowershq.com/surfactants-is-your-water-wet-enough/

and then play some B-roll of a student, who says, “….letting the information seep in for a while helps me understand things better.”  (PS–observant viewers will note an amusing source of this image–thanks, Google!)

The point is simple:  Let images be your guide. Simplify. You do the speaking, let the images stimulate and help formulate ideas in your audience’s mind.  And then don’t screw it up with misaligned text, oddly-placed ‘accents,’ and most importantly–use a black background!