Brenda Allen

      Hi @david, I couldn’t agree more about the curious predilection for overloading slides with gratuitous text.  You asked what we think, so I would start by suggesting that this tendency persists as a wider feature of writing in general.  Graphic designers constantly lament the (human?) tendency to “over-write” and editors struggle on a daily basis to reduce the density and volume of text – thus incurring the wrath of authors who are often strangely unwilling to face the physical constraints of pre-determined formats.  It is interesting that this often seems to be less the case with, eg, sales and marketing people, whose success can literally hang on the success or otherwise of their presentation materials. Nonetheless, Steve Jobs and co were once thought to have revolutionalized the art of presentation with their minimalist approach and yet, as you remark, it is astonishing how proven bad practice prevails in many quarters.  (Not least in academia?!?)

      I have already hit a barrier myself on this very course, which may be relevant, as I attempt to design slides for the set task in Unit 1. My issue is not that I do not understand or do not agree with the underlying design principles.  It is rather that I actually do not know HOW to physically create slides with the necessary features to demonstrate these principles. As an example, I would not know offhand how to incorporate the little arrow device you have just demonstrated so effectively in the example above.  It makes me feel like an idiot, but the fact is that I have never been taught – and I suspect many others have not either, judging by the evidence in the type of slides you allude to. Of course, all this can be discovered by osmosis or by trial and error, or by asking the right colleague (far more difficult when not in an office but stuck online at home).  However, it is easy to see why a busy academic might not feel inclined to add still further to their extensive skills portfolio and workload in this hit and miss kind of way.  On top of this, there is the fact that graphic (and other) designers undergo a long and arduous training to complement their inherent and often dazzling talents.  In my experience, it is not always realistic to assume that everyone can aspire to the levels of design we might envisage in our own mind’s eye.  “Horses for courses”, as they say in the trade!  It strikes me that, as a consequence, slides often end up being used to provide an understandable sense of security for the speaker, or as a replacement for reading source texts, rather than to illuminate the verbal content of a talk.

      Another factor relates directly to the shortcomings of, eg, Powerpoint (as the case in point) – and I am not convinced Google slides offer much of an improvement.  As the article itself suggests, could it be that such tools are just not up to the job nowadays?!?  I say that when comparing to, eg, an everyday platform like Padlet where – despite shortcomings – so much becomes possible so easily, especially with the effortless incorporation of the full variety of multimedia.

      The very strength of a tool like Powerpoint has resided in its ready accessibility to such a massive cross-section of the world’s population.  Can it be true that it is a lowest common denominator kind of tool, easy to use but lacking in true sophistication – resulting in a whole Microsoft generation who now think only in bullet points?  Or is it just a case of better training and deeper familiarisation? The article makes a point of referring to ‘default settings’ as the culprit.  Certainly, it often seems much easier to sketch and scrawl out a quick rough on a scrap of paper than to transfer this vision to the slide itself – which is where the good old whiteboard reigns supreme.  Please do all feel free to shout me down.  Practical tips always gratefully accepted…