Without knowing anything about Charles and Ray Eames, you’ve probably heard of, or seen, the Eames lounge chair. It’s been in production continuously since its creation in 1956, and its ideal fusion of comfort and style will cost you a pretty penny: around $4,500 in the US, and upwards of $9,000 in Europe. In addition to creating the venerable lounge chair, Charles and Ray Eames were important contributors to modern architecture, as well as major influencers in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art and film. Here are a few lessons in presentation design we can learn from the esteemed designers, derived from a list of fifteen pieces of advice excerpted in essay by Keith Yamashita.
Notice the ordinary. Design not for the elite but for the masses.
Based on their famous lounge chair’s $4,500 price tag, it might seem as though the Eames’ were designing for the elite, but the appeal of the chair lies in its mixture of comfort and style–– an ideal combination for a mass audience. Remember this when you’re designing a presentation. Don’t risk alienating your audience by using a too-high level of vocabulary or complex jargon that they may not understand. Make your presentation as accessible as possible for your audience by employing a design that transmits your content in the smoothest, easiest way possible. Many times, it’s better to go with the ordinary rather than the exceptional in an effort to disseminate your information most effortlessly.
Explain it to a child. Get lost in the content. Get to the heart of the matter.
These three pieces of advice are essential components to creating an effective presentation. Just like the Einstein quote we constantly mention on this blog: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough,” what is the easiest way you can disseminate your presentation’s content? How can you simplify that complex explanation? How can you make your information more accessible to the ordinary audience member? Cut out all the extra fluff–– we don’t need it. And make your succinct information compelling. Create a design that grabs and holds your audience’s attention. Make them get lost in the content.
Never tolerate “O.K. anything.” Remember your responsibility as a storyteller.
If you want your presentation to make an impact on your audience in any significant way, mediocrity is unacceptable. People don’t remember unexceptional moments. People remember who came in first place, not who came in fourth or fifth. Aiming for “O.K.” is essentially giving up on the possibility of making a real impression on your audience. A great, yet simple, way to make an impression on your audience is through stories. The Eames’ call storytelling a “responsibility,” which is precisely the case in your presentation. Use stories to tell your audience why they should care, why they should remember, and most importantly, why they should act.
Make design your life… and life, your design.
Ah, saving the best for last. Get in touch with your aesthetic on a daily basis. Know what you like, and know what you don’t like. Don’t wait until the day before you start crafting a presentation to discern what design elements and styles you like. Keep an inspiration notebook. Cut out things you like, bookmark typography that catches your eye, save examples of well-designed things that you admire. If you already have an idea of what good design means to you, designing your presentation will be infinitely easier.