The Power of Beautiful Design

I admit it; I make ugly slides.

I can recognize lovely design, and I very much want to emulate it, but the fact is, I just don’t have a brain that can arrange content in attractive configurations. I’m the presenter equivalent of a sensible shoe. I get the job done in terms of delivering the information you need, but you’re probably not attracted by the styling.

One of my personal development goals is to improve my slide style, because the fact is that the format influences how people receive your message. More attractive slides are more engaging and reflect well on the presenter’s overall skills. In many cases, the formatting can even influence whether or not the audience accurately understands your meaning.

A recent case in point is Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report, which was released last week and is available on the KPCB website. This report is crammed with timely information; Meeker has also synthesized that information to produce actionable conclusions that are valuable for anyone working with technology. The slides are also busy and, well, ugly.

With that in mind, BusinessWeek asked designer Emiland de Cubber to redo Meeker’s slides with a more effective design. You can see the results here.

I was blown away by the improvement, and especially by how some relatively straightforward tweaks dramatically improved the audience experience. I’m not skilled enough to create my own icons, but even I can select a darker slide background and lighter text.

(As a side note, I wasn’t always thrilled with the redisplay of graphs and charts. Even though I agree de Cubber’s choices were always more beautiful, I did not think they always maintained the integrity of the data results. That said, there’s a middle ground between data geekdom and bohemian artistry.)

I’d love to hear any of your tips and tricks for beautiful slide design, or suggestions for resources on making more effective slideshows.

The redesigned cover slides from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2014 report.

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