Design Tip of the Day: Stop With The Faceless Alien Creatures


Dear Presenters,

It has come to my attention that a horror worse than 1990s clip art lurks among presenters today.  This horror appears in over 90% of slideshows that I see, and it is not only hideous but also terrifying and just plain weird.  That horror, Dear Presenter, is…




You can find the faceless alien creature doing almost any task: teaching, jumping, writing, skydiving… As you can see from the images above and below, you can also find the faceless alien creature joining with others to hold gigantic puzzle pieces and putting them together AND joining hands around the globe and enormous arrows to promote recycling.  Yeah… I just threw up.

Despite the faceless alien creature’s activity, one thing is always the same.  The faceless alien creature is completely nude, appears in one color from head-to-toe, and, of course, does not have a face.  If you are presenting to people with clothes on, with natural human pigmentation, and with faces, I’m not sure how faceless alien creatures connect…  But you probably didn’t think about connection, Dear Presenter, because faceless alien creatures come from a hasty Google search of things like “collaboration” and “academic integrity.”  If you’re too busy to create an audience-centered slideshow with audience-centered images, I’m not sure why you were asked to present in the first place.  You sound pretty selfish.



Dear Presenter, I’m sure you might argue that there aren’t enough hours in the day to find good images or that you’re too busy to care about pretty slides.  I’d ask you to count the number of people in your audience and to ask how much overall time those people will be spending with you and your terrible presentation.  If you have 30 people in the audience listening to you for 30 minutes, that’s 900 total minutes you’re wasting with your hideous slides.  And if you don’t care after doing the math, I’d strongly suggest you find someone who DOES care to present instead of you.

If you do care, Dear Presenter, I have two simple tips for you: 1) Stop using tacky faceless alien creatures in your slideshow.  2)  Find images of real people.  Try Compfight.  It’s a winner.

I will leave you with one final thought, Dear Presenter.  Every time you use a faceless alien creature in your slides, a real faceless alien creature from outer space begins his journey to Earth to kill you.  You may be able to take on one or two, but if your number at this point is nearing 50, you might as well call it a day.


Alex Rister


7 thoughts on “Design Tip of the Day: Stop With The Faceless Alien Creatures

  1. Ema

    Dear Alex,
    I understand you want to be humorous. However, I do not think you realize why many people are doing this: they are trying to avoid anything that looks (even partially)sexist or that can threaten some sort of “political correctness”.

    Thus, the faceless figures can be ” filled ” with the face and body of any member of the audience , whether male , female or third gender. If you put a man, women will object that they have been left aside . If you put a woman, men would say the same. Imagine the comments from a third gender!

    I completely disagree with your comments. I think you didn’t give you enough time to understand why so many people are using those “aliens”. It is not laziness. “Political correctness ” gone mad? Possibly . But this is the madness in which we live.

    Finally, something you forgot to mention regarding the site you recommended : they charge for the use of many of the good pictures. Or some of them even have a watermark!

    • Hey Ema,

      Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, I was trying to be humorous, but this is definitely a really important issue that I feel strongly about as a presenter and presentation designer. When we talk about this issue in my Professional Communication and Presentation class, I ask my students to consider video games. Faceless Alien Creatures remind me of 1981 Mario. We’ve come so far in terms of technology that in 2013, using a picture of that 1981 Mario looks outdated.

      You bring up a really great point about wanting to display images on a slide that are politically correct! As someone who feels strongly about equal human rights, I completely understand your point. However, whether a person is male, female, or neither, that person is still a person, a human being, and a Faceless Alien Creature is about as far from a person/human being as you can get. To be more specific, these Faceless Alien Creatures are never seen doing anything a human does: holding a XXL recycling sign; holding hands around a globe; etc. The 1980s cartoonish feel actually rebuffs audience members as opposed to drawing them in. No matter my gender, I can’t imagine myself being so large that I can hold hands with 5 comrades and circle Planet Earth.

      If you have a diverse audience, I would suggest finding realistic images that depict actual human beings. No matter the gender, a picture of a real person is going to be much more effective than a Faceless Alien Creature.

      Also, Compfight has a banner ad that runs along the top… Anything below the dotted line is free, and anything above the dotted line is an advertisement.

      Thanks for your feedback! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at I’d love to chat with you a bit more about this particular topic.


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