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Thinking Visually

September 17, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

via brandspankingnew

Would you study the same thing in college if you could go back and do it over again?  I was an Art History major back in the dark ages and while my plans to be a professor were derailed long ago, I find myself using my liberal arts skills plenty in my PR work.  Critical thinking, presentation skills, oral and written communication…all that good stuff.  Plus I got to look at paintings all day for 4 years (6 if you count the M.A. study).  So all good, no regrets.

That said, can’t help but be jealous of today’s college students when I read things like this post by Sara Quinn of the Poynter Institute, recapping a Q&A with Karl Gude who teaches information graphics to visual journalism students at Michigan State.  I’ve always been fascinated by how ideas and data can be presented visually, and try to do a good job of this when presenting to our clients.  Our medium for better or worse is still Powerpoint (I know, I know.  My cool Mac friends tout Keynote and there’s groovy open-source stuff out there too, but we like to rock our presentations old-school here at DeVries.)

Powerpoint has become the punchline of bad corporate presentation jokes because it’s been abused so terribly.  We’ve all been subjected to (or the perpetrators of) endless decks with nothing but tiny-type bullet points and no visual relief save the occasional clip art stick figure, or overly-designed presentations with a hot mess of competing typefaces and visuals on each slide…let’s face it, garbage in, garbage out.

So how do we make it better?  I’m working on an internal training module for our senior staff that has promised to shed some light on this question.  I’ve got a few weeks but am looking for inspiration wherever I can find it.  Like this quote from Karl Gude:

“I see information graphics as a convergence –- a combination of four things. One of them is content…strong information. Another one is art and design. You have to be pretty good at that stuff. Another is technology. And finally, critical thinking. That’s what journalism is all about.” 

Sounds like the components of a great client presentation to me.  Who knew I had this much to learn from visual journalism?  For all you like-minded geeks out there, Visual Voice and Information Aesthetics are both brilliant sources for all things infographic.

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