In 1914 the world was in crisis and nobody could predict the horror that was to come.
Communicating serious messages clearly and effectively was imperative and the drive to encourage enrolment in the armed forces was a real and urgent priority. The Parliamentary Recruitment Committee set about producing 150,000 posters featuring Lord Kitchener to communicate their very real need for recruits.
I’m going to take an educated guess that the image above is not the one you were expecting.
In September 1914 a graphic artist called Alfred Leete was asked to design a cover for London Opinion magazine. This is the image you were expecting…
Leetes background in visual communication gave him the ability to create an image powerful enough to emotionally engage its audience and be easily recognised 100 years later.
Its impact was so great that it was immediately adopted as an official part of the war effort. The poster itself seems to have had a very limited distribution, it’s rarely seen in contemporary photographs and very few originals exist today – but its impact far outweighed its circulation.
It’s hard to reconcile the quality of an image that did its job so well with the realisation of what that job led to and the fate of so many of those who responded to its call to action.
On its own it is just a poster – a sheet of paper with an image and some text. It’s an object that was carelessly discarded, pasted over and left in damp cupboards until the mildew consumed it.
But, in context, it is one of the most powerful and in Eyeful terminology valuable visuals ever produced because it still has the power to make emotional connections, long after so many of its original intended audience have paid the ultimate price.
It’s a little while now since I dabbled in art but today the ever informative internet has thrown up another instance where art can help us to understand presentations better.
Scientists have confirmed that Picasso’s The Blue Room is actually painted over an earlier image of a man with a moustache. This is not an unusual phenomenon, many artist did this as part of the creative process and to reuse expensive materials, indeed Picasso’s own Woman Ironing also hides a moustachioed gent (but Picasso’s penchant for hirsute men is not what we’re here for).
While it’s easy to assume that the original image was painted over with something better and was therefore inferior and not worth investigating, it’s important to remember that newer and better are not the same thing.
Fashions change in art as in everything. Anyone who’s ever bought an old house will know that peeling back layers of wallpaper can be a real journey through tastes that time forgot (and then remembered – and then forgot again). Sometimes things are replaced for nothing more than whimsy and in the case of a struggling artist I suspect that hunger or impending homelessness could also be great motivators to produce something more marketable.
Presentations are subject to the same kind of trends and pressures, often with similar results.
First there were the text heavy slides that included every minutia of the information that we wanted to share in painstaking detail. Then bullet points came along, allowing us to dispense with the standard rules for forming coherent sentences without a second thought.
It’s not that long ago that we all got very excited by clipart and merrily inserted images hither and thither, thus making the whole thing prettier.
Then there were transitions, animations, imbedded videos, motion paths – the list goes on and on. As each new thing arrives it is greedily incorporated into presentations and as its star wanes it is replaced.
But somewhere in amongst all this ‘improvement’ is every presentations ‘moustache man’.
He’s been painted over a hundred times but he’s still important because he’s the reason you have a presentation in the first place.
The problem is that as presentations become more and more advanced they can become more and more removed from their purpose. We’ve seen many variations on this over the years and the results vary from the plain ugly (Presentationstein) to the gravely misguided.
While art conservators employ the latest high tech to find out what’s behind the old masters getting to the heart of your presentation will be much easier, all you need to do is look at it through your audiences’ eyes and ask a few simple questions:
Does my presentation have a natural flow or story?
Is all the content relevant and necessary?
Do the visuals support that content effectively?
Is there a clear call to action?
If any one of these things is missing, obscured, or unclear it might well be that it’s been painted over and the result of this can also be demonstrated by art.
Whilst cleaning a 17th century painting of a coastal scene, restorers found a beached whale that had been painted over. While it’s easy to understand that a painting without a dead animal as its focus would be eminently more market friendly, restoring it did explain the ‘hitherto slightly baffling presence of groups of people on the beach, and atop the cliffs, on what appears to be a blustery winter’s day’.
Whether removing, enhancing or replacing content is for the best aesthetically is always going to be a matter of opinion, but when that process interferes with the integrity of your presentation, and prevents it from making sense, you’ve got real problems.
If you’re worried that your presentation message might have got lost along the way, we’ll be more than happy to help you, simply get in touch to find out how.
Being one of the best presentation consultancy and design companies is about having the best people and we’re always excited to welcome new talent here at Eyeful Towers.
2014 is turning out to be a big year for us and with new challenges on the horizon our team at Eyeful Towers is growing again.
So without further ado, here are the latest members of the Eyeful family (L to R) Lorna Boyer, Hannah Clarkstone and Harri Kaol.
After initially advertising for one designer to join our in-house team we came across two outstanding candidates and never able to let great talent walk away, we employed then both; Lorna’s background is in graphic design and photography and Hannah is a graduate in Multi-Media Textile design.
Harri has left behind a world of underfloor heating and plumbing to take up the challenge of project management and appears, thankfully, to be suffering from very few u-bend withdrawal symptoms.
We’re really chuffed to have them on our team as we pursue our aim to rid the world of Death by PowerPoint – one presentation at a time….
The power of visuals is something that pervades everything we do here at Eyeful. When we optimise a presentation it often involves taking concepts or data and developing a visual that clearly expresses the content and it’s very often a case of less is more.
With so much technology available many people are tempted to fall in the trap of using every visual trick available to make an impact on their audience but when those images are conveying information a deeper connection is needed.
Now I’m sure some of you will be expecting me to introduce you to a long forgotten publication by an early visual innovator, and indeed when this book first hit the shelves in 1931 there were a lot of sculptors, architects, painters and designers pushing the boundaries, but you’d be categorically wrong.
The kind of informative visual imagery that The Highway Code contains is the sort that is easily dismissed. We see road signs every day and once the L Plates go in the bin, we often pay little conscious attention to the messages they convey. But that’s where their genius lays, road signs use simple visuals to convey concepts that need to be fully received and understood without distracting from the task a hand – in this case driving.
When it comes to presentations your visuals need to perform at a very similar level, they need to communicate their information clearly without distracting your audience from your message.
There have been vast leaps forward in information technology since the road sign was invented and while we do now see the occasional variable message or ‘matrix’ signs we haven’t really welcomed them. Sometimes their information is useful but here in the UK (where we seem to have a particularly low tolerance for things we deem unnecessary) they are often derided as being a ridiculous distraction. For example the nothing-to-report message ‘Tiredness Kills – Take A Break’ is often countered with the observation that taking your eyes off the road to read the flipping sign could also be quite dangerous.
That’s why traditional road signs are a thing of beauty and should be an inspiration to anyone who wants to get their message across clearly without and causing a distraction. But before you all go splashing out £2.50 of your hard earned money on this inspirational masterpiece there are a few things that you need to consider.
The messages that road signs convey are clear and in order to get the same effect from your presentation visuals you also need to have clarity of message, it is often unnecessary to pass every minutiae of detail to your audience and decided what stays and what goes is all about understanding your audience.
Getting it wrong is easy and even the best intentions can lead to the presentation equivalent of this…
Fortunately, here at Eyeful we’re always on hand to help you get it right, we have training courses to help you find out more, specialist consultants who can guide the way and the best designers in the business to bring your presentation to life. (And for those of you who’ve already opened Amazon in another tab to check out The Highway Code, we’ve a book that you might be interested in too.)
Here at Eyeful we know that our success is down to keeping our customers happy and we love looking for new ways to spread a little more Eyeful magic.
Always striving to be exceptional – we’re really excited to be launching our latest extraordinary example of ensuring an excellent customer experience – Eyeful Extra.
Alliteration over, here’s what it’s all about.
From March 1st 2014 every job we do will benefit from a package of additional support and expertise completely free of charge. For the first three months after sign off of your completed presentation our experts will be on hand to help you with technical support and minor amends for up to two hours. We’ll even contact you after one month to remind you that this service is included.
We’ve never ‘locked down’ our presentations because we know that despite the love and attention we lavish on them, they don’t belong to us, they belong to our customers. We give our customers the ability to make their own amends and Eyeful Extra means that our expert designers and technicians will be on hand to support that process, ensuring that every presentation remains as effective and engaging as the day it left our studio. Or, for those of you who prefer not to tinker, Eyeful Extra gives you the option to simply let our experts do their thing.
And because we believe that every cake should have a cherry on the top, if you don’t use any of your Eyeful Extra time, we’ll send you a Presentation Lab resource pack full of great presentation ideas and useful goodies.
Modern presentations are the product of years of advances in software and technology and making them visually stunning is easier than ever before. Not only that, but there are a plethora of books telling you, minute step by minute step, how to get PowerPoint ‘popping’ – The Presentation Lab is not one of them.
So once you’ve stripped out the whizz bang of visual impact, what’s left to fill a book?
Well, for those of you who like your presentations to connect and engage rather than dazzle and stupefy, there’s a whole lot of great stuff to get your teeth into and here’s a quick look at what’s on offer….
Regular readers will know we feel a certain affinity with Lego. We’ve used the eponymous little bricks as a Presentation Optimisation metaphor , we loved how they were used to honour Felix Baumgartner’s amazing jump and now we’ve found an excuse to include them in our advent calendar….happy days!
Here at Eyeful we love to push the boundaries of PowerPoint because, in the right hands, it can create some truly amazing presentation visuals.
Whilst much of the world is happy to blame PowerPoint for poor presentations we believe that’s akin to blaming cars for speeding. The brilliance (or otherwise) of a presentation is not about PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Prezi, or the infamous napkin) it’s about getting the best from whatever tool you’re using. And, if we may say so ourselves, when it comes to squeezing every ounce of brilliance from the seemingly mundane, we’re just the people for the job.
Here’s an example of what happens when we give one of our PowerPoint aficionados the seed of an idea and the opportunity just to have fun.
No story, no compelling message and no structure, just the chance to make PowerPoint work that little bit harder as well as play around with some video clips of cute cats. Happy days.