Garr Reynolds' new book, PresentationZen Design, follows-up his first book, PresentationZen. His first book was in many ways a summary of Garr's presentation style, looking at presentation preparation, design and delivery. I suppose it is no surprise that his second book expands on one key area from his first book, slide design - I say it is no surprise because it is Garr's design style that most defines him. If you already have his first book, this new book is really chapters 5, 6 & 7 expanded, however don't take this as a negative, what Garr has done here is to write a whole book about slide design. So what should you expect from a book that's subtitled, 'Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations'?
The title of the first chapter gives you a good idea of the focus of the book - Design Matters. As most people who create slides for workshops and presentations are not trained designers, Garr takes us on a journey through his design thinking, drawing heavily on the Zen design traditions of his adopted home, Japan. Slide design is Garr's passion, and to be honest, thank heavens it is, because his approach to presentation slide design may just save us all from having to sit through another slideshow chock-a-block full of bullets, complicated charts, corny clipart and flying text!
The book is divided into three key sections:
In this section the book covers the often ignored importance of Typefaces, particularly the choice of type and it's placement on the slide. Next Garr looks at Communicating with Colour. In addition to looking at some expected terms related to colour and it's use, for example hue, value, saturation, colour combinations, emotional connections and colour choices, Garr brings in aspects from the Zen aesthetic through a lesson in Sumi-e. In Using Images and Video to Tell Stories we enter the area that in many ways defines the PresentationZen style, the use of full screen images to complement and strengthen the spoken and written message - I particularly liked this area! Area covered here again include some technical aspects of image creation and editing as well as reviewing 10 things to avoid when using images. Finally in the component section Garr looks at how best to Simplify Data, how charts can communicate and indeed miscommunicate key messages, I know from experience that many presentations use charts that are barely readable, with far too much data, if all presentations followed the advice given here there would be less sleepy and bored learners and audience members!
So many slides used in presentations and workshops are full of text, bullet points, charts, and data. The first part of this section looks at Seeing and Using Space, beginning with a lesson in the Japanese art of flower design, Ikebana. Garr looks at the importance of white space, symmetrical/asymmetrical balance, Gestalt theory and the importance of 'less is more'. The use of focal points in slide design is illustrated through the Japanese room design feature known as a Tokonoma, in essence this part of the book, Creating Purpose and Focus, is about how to ensure the audience's eyes see what you want them to see. The section, Achieving Harmony looks at the 'rule of thirds' and grids in general when aligning aspects of your slides and working to connect the various elements to create balance and harmony. Garr must adore his food, especially a Bento Box, I've seen photos of his lunches uploaded via Twitter on more than one occasion! There is a point however, Garr sees harmony in a Bento Box, a balance of flavours, colours, sizes!
Finally Garr provides pages of examples of great Slide Samples that illustrate the principles outlined throughout the book. It is always good to see examples, as just as the book reminds us, visual messages trump the written word. The book concludes with a chapter on Continuous Improvement, a good way to end, reminding readers that improving your slide design is a journey not a destination, that through continually learning from the lessons that are all around you - Billboards, Advertising, TV, brochures, package design - your slide design will continue to improve.
Finally I really liked how the book was scattered with 'guest appearances' from Nancy Duarte, David Rose, Maureen C. Stone, John McWade and Scott Kelby. They add another layer again to the book.
So, do I recommend this book, well clearly, yes! PresentationZen Design provides many valuable lessons that can help you to design slides that will engage your audience, it should be on your book shelf!.