Review: slide:ology–The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

5 Star, Communications, Decision-Making & Decision-Support

slideologyAMAZING–not about slides, about mind to mind communication, August 26, 2008

Nancy Duarte

I just destroyed this book with folded pages and ink annotations, so the perfectionists out there may want to order two copies, one for eating and one for sharing. The price is phenomenally reasonable, especially for something that is all color and totally elegant.

This is not about powerpoint slides. If anything, it is a very subtle but explicit critique of how retarded they still are (e.g. no separation between bullet groups). This is an utterly inspiring combination of wisdom, education, visual excitement, and plain fun that “lives” what it preaches.

When I get back to the office I am going to read this book again while I create a briefing on the Earth Intelligence Network and educating the poor one cell call at a time that respects the deep knowledge being imparted by this author and her team. Mills Davis, visualization and semantic genius (Project10X) called my presentation “dense” yesterday, and I needed this book to understand just how polite he was being.

Bottom line mechanically: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 font size MINIMJM. For the advanced audiences, 20 slides, 20 seconds each, 6 minutes and 20 seconds total.

I read and reread sections, and the recurring thought in my head was that this book may well be all one needs to run a semester long course on the communication of important complex ideas. The author does not just show a correct slide, the author breaks down every aspect (e.g. fonts, color, grid layouts, use of images, creating your own art) into separate chapters with very ably-illustrated palettes covering all the options. I have a note on this, “nuances are unpackaged and illustrated.”

I note the author’s admonition that change across the presentation is a distraction, that animation should support the message and the continuity of understanding.

For large organizations, the author covers templates as a means of harnessing the diversity of knowledge of varied functions and employees, while maintaining a consistency of brand. BRAND is huge within this book, and in this book BRAND is not a legal term, it is a philosophical term. I am hugely impressed by a chart showing UK companies that treat BRAND as a design imperative being so much more competitive and profitable than those that do not. This book is not just asserttions and demonstrations, it is fact and case based and eminently authoritative.

I learn for the first time that powerpoint slides can be instantly made to be black and white to focus audience on the speaker, or made all white, by pressing B or W. Why didn’t I learn that from Microsoft? Because their tool bar is not designed to teach….perhaps?

Special pages for me:

10-11 The Presentation Ecosystem (Message, Story, Delivery)
12-13 Time Estimate for world-class presentations (36-90 hours)
18-19 Rick Justice and 27 slides on eight topics (organization)
58-59 Making Diagtrams Work Together
64-65 Following the Five Data Slide Rules (Tell the Truth is Rule 1)
82-83 The (Financial) Value of Good Design
116-117 Lose the logo on every slide….
142-143 Dissecting a font (this section alone was HUGE eye-opener)
148-149 Typesetting a block of text (what powerpoint does not do)

The references are phenomenal, and comprise an instant library for any person, firm, or school of design. I only have ten links allowed, so below I list the reference categories, and link to a single book from the multiples identified–no disrespect intended for the others!

DESIGN
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter)

BRANDING
The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design

VISUAL THINKING
Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands

INFORMATION GRAPHICS
Nigel Holmes On Information Design (Working Biographies)

DATA DISPLAY
Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data

CONTENT
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

BUSINESS BOOKS
The E-Myth Manager: Why Most Managers Don’t Work and What to Do About It

The index is very good, another manifestation of the utter devotion to quality of the publisher, O’Reilly (I dislike most of their book sets, this one very properly rose to a proper high level).

Lots of white space. There isn’t an ounce of fat or irrelevance in this book. It is world-class in every respect, and most publishers are so crummy about price and color that I want to end with a tip of the hat to o’Reilly for getting this one “just right.”