It’s Showtime

Good and bad Powerpoint.

Erik Spiekermann Berlin
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Someone recently worked out how much economical damage was done by Powerpoint presentations – those occasions where several adult people all sit in the same room, watching some guy who tries to predict the future with the help of a few colored charts.

The expenses that incur because they end up trusting charts more than their own judgment reach billions. The damage done to the body and souls of the audience, the steady loss of visual culture cannot even be calculated. When Colin Powell tried to prove the existence of WMD in his pathetic presentation to the UN Security Council, it became evident how blue graded backgrounds with yellow lines in Arial on a drop shadow have already destroyed all the knowledge Old Europe had acquired since Gutenberg. With Photoshop and limited layout skills, almost everybody could have done a better job of forging maps and aerial photographs showing chemical factories disguised as trucks. Even at the Pentagon, Microsoft’s monopoly seems to have leveled taste and judgment down to that of your average Enron type of company. Are presentations all wasted? Or only those made in Powerpoint?

Software itself cannot be evil, not even when it originates from the «Evil Empire» in Seattle. Blindly repeating tasteless templates is habit-forming and bad. Software makers need to design for a worldwide market of millions of users, so they not only have to find the lowest common denominator of all visual cultures, but first sell even these lowly designs at countless meetings in-house. Calling the results «cultural imperialism» gives it far too much credit. It is simply all the perpetrators learnt back home at their colleges in Ohio or Kansas. In the end, users get what they deserve.

You can actually design very cool presentations in Powerpoint. Although we usually only get involved in nicely packaging someone else’s content, designers ought to follow what few and simple rules for that sort of work exist. The first one says: Never ever use Powerpoint templates! No ready-made format will ever guarantee that the speaker has something to say.

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This article was previously published in Form magazine.

This article does not express the opinion of the editors and managers of FOROALFA, who assume no responsibility for its authorship and nature. To republish, except as specifically indicated, please request permission to author. Given the gratuity of this site and the hyper textual condition of the Web, we will be grateful if you avoid reproducing this article on other websites. Published on 06/12/2013.

Erik Spiekermann

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4
Sole Verduga
Apr 2014

I think addressing the issue of graphic presentations is really interesting, because the current communication system and messages transmission requires a visual proposal capable of anchor the textual content. Much of the population still considers it as a low importance matter but the truth is to make a good presentation, visual strategy, conceptualization and aesthetics is needed. This way the persuasive impact on your audience will be evident. A good presentation is to your speech what body language is to interpersonal communication.

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2
Joaquin Varas
Jan 2014

The thing that kills bad Power Point presentations, is not only itʼs lack of good visual aesthetics, their epic length is also one of the reasons they are loathed. As with any other professionally made product, good presentations are meant to last as long as needed, short enough to not wear the audience, and long enough to state your point.

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517
Joaquín Eduardo Sánchez Mercado
Dec 2013

Never say never. Same could be said about Prezi or even video presentations. There are levels of skills, but Powerpoint is better than nothing.

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37
Miguel Gallego
Dec 2013

The content could be stupid or intelligent. Powerpoint is a tool, as well as Word, inDesign or a pen. It depends how you use it. I really love Herr Spiekerman vision of Design, but if we follow this path, how much money was put on producing rubish design for retail, annual reports, etc with inDesign Quark, etc. Do not blame the software, blame the designer!!

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2
Alejandro De Althaus
Dec 2013

There are many ways to use a simple tool such as Powerpoint. Anyone can make a disaster out of something beautiful and viceversa, and that is the problem: when you give a standarized tool to everyone, youʼll get those wanted and unwanted "uses" or responses. The only thing I can get out of that is that at least you have individual outcomes (in there lies our salvation), even if theyʼre not really nice to look at.

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Cristián Cárdenas
Dec 2013

There are far too many better alternatives to PP to be still using this software in the year 2013. Any designer (or intelligent human being for that matter) that still uses it should take a deep breath and analyze his existence.

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517
Joaquín Eduardo Sánchez Mercado
Dec 2013

I am still using pencil and paper an I donʼt need to analyze all my existence. The missing point here, is that everybody has a Powerpoint software in his computer.

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1
Carlos Alejandro Ramos Gradilla
Dec 2013

I think all is about the how the presenter is making the actual presentation, obviously powerpoint have the tools for made a legible presentation, but you need have a good sense and knowledge of color, structure and form, because the same way of how you can do a pretty and persuasive presentation, you can even make the worst eye-hurting presentation, they become bored and the attention get completely lost, powerpoint can be a very good tool for presentations but you need work very well for get it.

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