How to make truly horrendous PowerPoint Slides.
Author: Ray Blake
Ray is Head of Software Design at GR Business Process Solutions, a UK-based business which provides specialist services around knowledge testing and skills assessments. He develops and sells Excel, Access and Visual Basic applications, both as off-the-shelf products and as custom jobs to meet specific client needs.
The website he maintains for his company GR Business Process Solutions contains a range of articles of interest to Office developers, and a page of RAQs (Rarely Asked Questions) on Excel and Access.
With three sons all under the age of 6, he gets little time for interests of his own, but seems to get dragged into each of theirs. Consequently, he has built up an impressive knowledge of young persons literature, mostly surrounding the adventures of rodents and other small mammals. Although not proud of the fact, he can also name each of the Wild Force Power Rangers. Repairing toys and replacing batteries are activities he has learned to undertake in his sleep.
Let me take you back to the days of my childhood in the 1970s. In many ways, this was a more carefree time, of course. People had respect for their elders, the village bobby was always welcome for a chat at the garden gate, pop records had real tunes and you could understand the words.
Back then, there were 3 channels on the TV and the programmes for us children would run out before the 6 oclock news. Manys the day when the strains of the Captain Pugwash closing theme would fade out and the strident chords of the BBC News bulletin would cruelly break in long before I was sated. In desperation Id watch the opening minute or two of the news in the hope that there might today be a special version for children with cartoon characters.
The daily disappointment was sometimes tempered when the shot cut from a talking head to something cooked up by the BBC Graphics department. It might be some bullet point text listing the key points from the budget, or some stick men, boats and fish depicting the days manoeuvres in the Cod War. But always Id stare in awe at these screens, marvelling at the technology which allowed such things to be brought to us in full, black and white glory.
Nowadays, of course, this god-like power is easily available to all of us, thanks to PowerPoint and products like it. Sadly, though, this is rarely backed up by the sort of design aptitude and formal layout training that Im sure the BBC Graphics department used to insist on for its staff. Not to put too fine a point on it, the majority of PowerPoint presentations we are all now subjected to contain some of the most heinous design crimes since the Vision On Gallery closed its doors.
Id like to share with you some of the most widely-perpetrated of those crimes, through examining some slides Ive gritted my teeth to create specially for the purpose of lambasting. If, whilst looking at these slides and reading my diatribes, you spot some of your own sins, then please be reassured that there is not a single error I will highlight here that I have not at some time made myself; indeed, I am in several respects a multiple recidivist. Console yourself also with the thought that I have no formal design training either, and that this critique represents merely the opinions and prejudices of a man who has already freely admitted to an attachment to childrens television from the early 1970s.
That being said, lets start with a truly hideous example of what is possible in PowerPoint. Have a look at Exhibit A.
Exhibit A: So much to say, so little room
So, where do we start with this one? This slide has a number of errors:
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