New Techniques for Your Slide Design Toolkit

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Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist, U of MN College of Liberal Arts
Last week at the Innovate! Teaching with Technology conference in Morris, I attended a workshop about academic slide design led by Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist in the UMN College of Liberal Arts. Ann’s interactive session provided lots of examples, research, practical tips and a space to discuss challenges people have with visual design.

Below are a few of my takeaways from this workshop. Be sure to also listen to the Extension Quick Bytes podcast discussion we had with Ann this week!

We aren't born with visual literacy skills. 

  • Analyze lots of examples
  • Practice making visuals
  • Practice collaborative critique with other people and iterating your own designs. 

Try to be intentional with your design.

You should have a reason for every slide and for every element on each slide.

People cannot listen and read at the same time.

When you are doing a live presentation, people are watching and listening to you. If you show slides that are too text-heavy, you force your audience to divide their attention between reading your slides and listening to you.

Do you need a slide?

Slides that try to do 3 things at once (teleprompter, speaker notes, and visual aids) end up doing none of them well. To decide whether you need a slide, ask yourself whether your slide is meant to
  1. Clarify
  2. Help them retain information
  3. Sustain interest
Look at this awesome decision tree!

Photo of a PowerPoint slide titled "Do you need a slide?". It includes a graphic of a decision tree about needing a slide or not.

Bullet points may still be the most efficient design choice.

For example, use bullets only when:
  • You want people to recall items from memory
  • Items map directly to your learning objectives
  • You need a list
TIP: use progressive disclosure: conceal parts of your slide and reveal them when you want to talk about them.

Use assertion evidence technique.

People remember more when you put your main point (short sentence at the top) and use an image to prove it in the body. Don’t assume everyone can see/read the slide or understand the use of an image. Here is one of Ann's before/after examples:

Before:
Poorly designed slide example with the title "Buffer strips" and several long sentences bulleted.
Fandrey, A. 2017. Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. Mpls: Scale + Fine
After:
Redesigned slide with an aerial photo of a field with large text and an arrow showing Buffer strips improve soil, water and air quality.
Fandrey, A. 2017. Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. Mpls: Scale + Fine

Use a style guide.

A style guide is a set of micro-agreements you make (with yourself) at the start of the slide design process. Making these decisions with colors, fonts, animations, pointers, alignment, shapes (use round or hard edges), etc., helps you stay consistent within slides. Consisten slides create a more cohesive deck, which makes it easier to learn from your slides and adds up to your professional credibility.

Other tips.

  • White space is the best tool to focus attention 
  • The big thing or the bright thing on your slide get looked at first 
  • Eyes follow lines. Lines divide content

My notes barely scratch the surface of this workshop but I highly recommend you check out Ann Fandrey’s book Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. that was just published in April 2017!  It will be available in mid July at the UMN library and of course available to purchase online on Amazon. It is full of examples, tips and an excellent resource. Thank you Ann for a great workshop, podcast conversation and sharing this great information!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the tips and will check out Ann'S book

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  2. Thanks for the feedback Karyn! Ann's research, examples and tips are great.

    ReplyDelete