7 Deadly Sins of Visual Design: Gluttony

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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 five deadly sins are envy, pride, wrathsloth, and lust.  Today, we will examine gluttony.

“Slide junk” was a term I first heard used by Garr Reynolds.  “Slide junk” is the same thing as noise on a slide, and examples of noise on a slide include too many words, bullets containing complete sentences, too many images, purposeless animations, busy data, etc.  When my students are being slide gluttons, their slides bombard audiences with 10 fonts, dizzying animations, too many crazy colors, and cluttered images.  I once had a student put 17 pictures of Clint Eastwood on one slide.  Each was animated to fly in, and each image was stacked on top of the one before it.  Yikes!

You can avoid slide gluttony using 3 simple principles.  First, of course, ensure your slides have high signal and low noise on the signal to noise ratio.

Second, create unity in your slideshow.

Third, limit yourself and be purposeful, especially when it comes to fonts, colors, and animations/transitions.

Unity is extremely important in a visual presentation so that the audience can follow the story of the slides while listening to the story in your content.  There are many ways to ensure your slides are unified.

Garr Reynolds says, “Unity may be the single most important concept. All elements on a page (or slide, poster, etc.) must look like they belong together — nothing can seem accidental or random. The entire design, then, is more (and more important) than the mere sum of its elements. Unity can be achieved in many ways. For example, using black & white photography throughout the pages rather than, say, mixing cheap clip art with high quality black & white photography and common color stock images, can give the design a sense of unity. Unity can be achieved also by using similar items conceptually such as “things found in Japan.” For a PowerPoint presentation, a high-quality background theme used consistently throughout the entire presentation adds visual unity” (Source).

Please remember that a boring, overused PowerPoint or Keynote template is the perfect way to move into slide sloth territory, so create your own templates!

Consider fonts wisely.  Reynolds says, “Fonts communicate subtle messages in and of themselves, which is why you should choose fonts deliberately. Use the same font set throughout your entire slide presentation, and use no more than two complementary fonts (e.g., Arial and Arial Bold)” (Source).  Similarly, Nancy Duarte believes that each font has a personality and we should use one or, at the most, two fonts in a visual presentation (Source).

I say think about fonts as you do drinks with your boss.  If your boss has a drink, you can have one, too.  But two drinks is definitely pushing it, and you most certainly don’t want to go for a third.

In terms of animation, please avoid it if you’re using it for the attention-getting factor.  Consider Prezi.  I’ve never seen a good Prezi.  Even in this example from TED 2012, I think the animation is too gimmicky.  The only time the animation works, in my opinion, is when the globe gets larger and then larger.

Does the animation have a purpose?  What is that purpose?  If you cannot answer these two questions, don’t use animation between slides or on a slide.  Also, using any of the following animation automatically makes you a slide glutton: anvil, blast, bouncy, comet, flames, orbital, or squish.

What are your tips for avoiding slide gluttony?

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