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History Holds the Secret to Great Slides 

Posted on March 20, 2017

History Holds the Secret To Great Slides

From the early years of our existence, we relied on more than just words to communicate. Maybe this started because two cavemen were mad at each other and implemented the silent treatment.  Or, they might have been really bad at Charades and preferred Pictionary!

The point here is that visual communication has been around for a very long time. Cavemen told stories of their wild hunting experiences with pictograms, pirates chose specific symbols for their flags to instill fear in other sailors, and propaganda during WWII was driven by symbolic visual posters that dramatically affected the morale of citizens.

How does knowing this help you improve your slides and the way you present?

Each of these examples has two commonalities:

  • There was a strong message being transmitted.
  • The visuals were what made it memorable.

Let’s take a closer look at the example of the propaganda posters in WWII. Arguably, this is when modern visual communication really began to take form.  These posters were like a perfect slide. They had powerful, creative illustrations accompanied by short thought-provoking phrases that effectively delivered a message and made it stick.

A more modern example is the freeway billboard where you can process the information on it in a split second.  I call this “billboard cognition” which is achieved with that same transmission of visuals and crisp text.

Slides should aim for that same effect.  When a slide is put in front of you, your brain is looking for color, images, key words and typography to help it process and retain the information. These elements help your brain do so by evoking specific emotion and aligning it to something you already know.

In 2008 when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was running for office, Shepard Fairey was a street artist, illustrator, graphic designer and founder of the popular clothing brand OBEY.  He designed the now famous “HOPE” posters which spoke to the American people with its intense patriotic colors, humbling image of Barack Obama and a single word that spoke to the nation’s climate at the time. Fairey knew his audience, what he wanted his message to be and delivered it in a unique visual way.

Your slides should ruffle some feathers, start a conversation and keep it going. Let me help you formulate a presentation with a clear message and visuals that are unique to you and your audience. That’s a winning presentation.