7 Deadly Sins of Visual Design: Wrath


To help my students learn important visual design concepts, they were assigned to read slide:ology.  To accompany the text, we spent time studying the 7 Deadly Sins of Visual Design.  The first two deadly sins are envy and pride.  Today, we will examine wrath.

Wrath is defined as “strong” or “fierce anger” as well as “deeply resentful indignation” (Source).  Slide wrath occurs when you hate your audience so much that you kill them with bull points.  As Nancy Duarte explains in slide:ology, bullets kill.  Imagine each bullet point you use on a slide as the murder weapon for one member of your audience. Do you use 20 bullet points per slide for 20 slides?  Everyone in your audience is dead.

Now, let’s think about this realistically.  If you are writing your speaking notes on your slides, your audience will read ahead of you.  You can never, then, catch up to what your audience already knows (because they read it on your slide).  Guy Kawasaki explains it best:

“If you start reading your material because you don’t know your material, the audience is very quickly going to figure out that you are a bozo. They are going to say to themselves, ‘this bozo is reading his slides.’ I can read faster than this bozo can speak. I will just read ahead” (Source).  And keep in mind that if you put all of your content on your slides, you are more likely to read your slides.  Audiences don’t enjoy presenters who waste their time.  Give them a handout, and practice the principles we learned during Visual Design Deadly Sin #1: Envy.

So how much text should you include on a slide?

There is no hard and fast rule.  Guy Kawasaki promotes 10/20/30.  Read about this rule here.

You should remember, however, that the goal of a slideshow is to reinforce your content using visuals that resonate with your audience.  If you’re full of wrath, and if your slides are full of bullets, you aren’t putting your audience’s needs first.  In fact, you aren’t considering your audience’s needs at all.

Remember that there is no rule saying you have to cram everything on 10 slides.  Use as many slides as you want!  Chiara Ojeda’s golden rule of slide design is that “it costs nothing to add another slide.”

I’ve found that on a slide, a single word or a short phrase works best.  Remember our Slide Envy lesson on glance media… Audiences should be able to process the slide within 3 seconds so that they can best understand, retain, and repeat that content.

You can also create a slide with no text at all!  Does the slide speak for itself?  Then let it.  Don’t add text just to have text on your slides.  Every piece of your slide should be purposeful and have meaning.  Remember the elements of a slide: the background; the color; the text; and the image.  These elements should work together to create an effective slide.  Nancy Duarte explains that each of these elements are ingredients, so consider the purpose of each ingredient in a recipe.  Every ingredient has a purpose, has a place.  The same goes for your slides.

What steps are you taking to avoid slide wrath?


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