Friday, January 15, 2010

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within

For some time, I've appreciated the work and insights of Edward R. Tufte and one of his books is in my library entitled, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Dordt’s library has a copy… check it out. The book was required reading for one of my OEM clients in the 1990s.

Last semester, when we were implementing the Iowa e-Health Identity Project the design principals discussed whether or not to present to the IDPH panel with PowerPoint or with art mounted to large presentation boards. In the ensuing discussion about the pro and con of PowerPoint the decision was made to use the traditional black boards for the presentation (Madman style), which was a decision that turned out to be very beneficial. Anyway, I thought about Tufte’s, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.

Someone wrote this about the book:

“In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now “slideware” computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.

Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?”

For more about PowerPoint, here’s a sample from the essay:

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science—and Better Techniques for Technical Reports

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