I opened some old presentations on my hard drive and started thinking about how my work has evolved over the past years. Here are some observations:
- Starting points of presentations (the briefing decks I see) have gotten a lot better. Garr Reynolds, Apple product launches, TED talks, etc. etc., and maybe most importantly a younger post-overhead project generation is joining the workforce, raising the bar in presentation design
- The audience has evolved as well. People know the general drill of a startup pitch, the Internet or a smartphone is not as strange as it was in the early 2000s. People have the courage to cut a bad presentation short.
- Back in 2003, I was probably one of the very presentation designers in the world, now there are thousands.
- Given the above, my work is moving on a bit. While I still do the proper upgrading of the look & feel of a presentation, it is completely not the most important thing I do anymore. Actually, my graphics and visual concepts are getting simpler, and simpler, maybe even regressing to what I did a few years back.
- Orchestrating the flow of a pitch is still important, but as pitches get shorter and shorter, and everyone has pretty much settled on a classical investment pitch are start to focus more and more and the pacing of the story. People skip over important things too quickly, while spending far too much time on the obvious, and finally sometimes they do not even touch on a very fundamental missing step in their arguments.
- My favorite design work are the "puzzles": diagrams that need to show very complex trade-offs, technology infrastructures, or relationships of multiple factors impacting each other. In the end, these diagrams look very simple, but they can take a relatively long time to construct, burning through endless amount of scrap paper in the process.
Here it all comes back to my presentation app SlideMagic: the final technical slide design is increasingly a very, very simple diagram. The tricky bit is 1) get the pacing right, 2) find that simple composition that summarizes that complex relationship.
Painting by Max Lieberman