Design Tip of the Day


Our design tip of the day is simple: adopt a beginner’s mind.

This tip from Garr Reynolds really relates to everything we do as human beings.  It’s advice I try to take to heart every day.  Adopting a beginner’s mind means taking a step back to focus on what you can learn from others.

Adopting a beginner’s mind when it comes to slide design enables you to always learn, grow, and succeed as a presenter.

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Bruce Rosenstein writes, “Reaching into Zen […], adopt the beginner’s mind. That way you are open and receptive to fresh new ideas and concepts because you are not jaded and shackled by your own experience” (Source).

I’ve learned from working in higher education that people are incredibly rigid.  Some teachers on campus refuse to change their death-by-PowerPoint presentations.  Some argue their method words and refuse to even hear out the gospel of Garr Reynolds.  It’s frustrating in the field of education because my goal as a teacher is to constantly improve my craft – to live as openly as possible to new ideas and new thoughts.  Ultimately, these ideas and thoughts will help my classes be better and my teaching abilities be stronger.  It’s frustrating when other teachers don’t make learning a priority in their own lives… What can they hope to teach their students?  You definitely can’t be an effective teacher if you refuse to hear ways to improve your lectures and presentations to your students.  You can’t be an effective teacher if you don’t live with a beginner’s mind.

Many people at work hear that they need to improve their visual presentation and refuse.  One instructor protests that his slides are perfect and his students love them.  One instructor says she uses “vague bullets” on her slides to connect with students.  The first instructor’s students complained to me for a solid month about how horrid his lectures were, and after seeing the second instructor’s “vague bullets” in a slideshow (what does that even mean?!), I needed one bullet and a gun to put myself out of my misery.

Garr Reynolds says this about the beginner’s mind: “As the old saying goes, in the expert’s mind there are few possibilities, but for one with the beginner’s mind, the world is wide open. Designers understand the need to take risks, especially during early explorations of the problem. They are not afraid to break with convention. Good designers are open minded and comfortable with ambiguity early on in the process, this is how discoveries are made” (Source).  Why not adopt a beginner’s mind when it comes to slide design, presentation, and teaching?  Why not explore a world where you always have a beginner’s mind?  All you have to lose are your terrible, boring death-by-bulletpoint slideshows!

Check out these Presentation Tips from Garr Reynolds.  If your slides look like this document, please stop making slides.


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