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Creative Inspirations: Duarte Design, Presentation Design Studio
Illustration by John Hersey

Designing for impact


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Creative Inspirations: Duarte Design, Presentation Design Studio

with Nancy Duarte

Video: Designing for impact

(Music playing.) Michael Moon: A couple of years ago a fellow by the name of Mike Magee, he is a doctor at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals came to us looking to us for a presentation on the coming water crisis. Ryan Orcutt: And this process was a little bit different for us this time, because he came to us with a book instead of a script or a current slide deck that he had. Michael Moon: He had about two books and three websites or something? Ryan Orcutt: Right. So there was a lot of information to go through and we started by everybody that was on the team, read the book.

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Creative Inspirations: Duarte Design, Presentation Design Studio
51m 3s Appropriate for all Aug 01, 2009

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Duarte Design is on a mission to change the world, one PowerPoint presentation at a time. Nancy and Mark Duarte, the wife-and-husband team behind Al Gore's famous slideshow about global warming, have built a thriving business out of creating high-impact PowerPoint and Keynote presentations. Their company has become the go-to presentation resource for some of high technology's most visible companies, such as Adobe, Cisco, and HP. But Nancy will be the first to tell you that it's not the technology that matters most, but rather the story. This installment of Creative Inspirations tells the story of how this power duo elevated lowly PowerPoint presentations to arguably the most compelling form of modern media.

Subjects:
Design Creative Inspirations Documentaries
Author:
Nancy Duarte

Designing for impact

(Music playing.) Michael Moon: A couple of years ago a fellow by the name of Mike Magee, he is a doctor at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals came to us looking to us for a presentation on the coming water crisis. Ryan Orcutt: And this process was a little bit different for us this time, because he came to us with a book instead of a script or a current slide deck that he had. Michael Moon: He had about two books and three websites or something? Ryan Orcutt: Right. So there was a lot of information to go through and we started by everybody that was on the team, read the book.

That's no easy task for designers to sit down there and spend that much time reading a book. But we felt like that was the only way that we are going to be really able to grasp the really massive amounts of data that he had in his books. So we spent the time. We all read it cover to cover. Michael Moon: Because he had no presentation to start with either. I mean he was not the kind of guy who was going to come in and give you the 30 minutes synopsis of everything that he had been doing that he had been encapsulated in all the work that he had done before. So this was really a new media style for him and he had no basis or background in doing that.

So there was no place for us to start. We couldn't put him in front of a room and say, well, tell us what you know already because that didn't exist. We had to create all that from scratch. Ryan Orcutt: So that's what really he wanted us to do. It's like somehow make this an immersive compelling presentation from this really statistical data-heavy book that I have. That's kind of where we started, where we needed to come up with what was going to be the story, because we certainly weren't going to able to read the whole book to an audience, right, and that wouldn't be very compelling anyways. So we had to come up with three different ways or we wanted to give him three different options on how he could tell us the story in front of the audience.

Michael Moon: Our client picked the first option. If you want solve the problems of the world, go to the source. So that was the main construct that we used to develop the slide maps, which are the-- let's call them presentation storyboards. Their iconic views of what might go on a slide along with a loose script around what those things are. The purpose of this document is not to create the end all be all format for a presenter, but it's to provide guidance to the designers to say, here as I write this thing, what I am thinking about as going to go on individual slides, and for the presenter here are the main messages that you have to get across.

So it shouldn't be regarded as a word for word script. It shouldn't be regarded as cut in stone design direction, but it's the at least first pass of let's contain all this information and possible ways of displaying it in one place. Ryan Orcutt: So after we had developed that that story structure and we know that we have to develop the visual language and this is where I am able to break out my color pencils and be able to think really visual. I can start exploring color palettes.

I can start exploring different graphical styles. These were mostly internal. This was for an internal crit. I was able to show the team. The creative director that was working on it and we all decide on a couple of directions that we want to execute digitally. So once we picked these sketches that we want to take to the next level, then we developed a few different digital options for the clients to take a look at. In this case we delivered three different looks for Dr. Magee to choose from.

One was a little bit more organic. Stayed in the brown tones. The next one was really immersive and blue. It really brought the whole water theme to the forefront and we are going to take all the stats and put them right into this blue context. Then the last one was pulling heavily on the book cover. Ultimately, he asked us to choose. He was like, these all look great. You guys are the experts, what do you think will be the most impactful for the audience. We all kind of looked at each other and we are like, the blue one. Michael Moon: That one. Ryan Orcutt: Yeah. So we developed a template for him that had his logo lock up, that healthy waters or something that he came to us with and put it on this really nice blue background.

We knew from prior experience on lots of presentations that having a nice dark background will provide for a lot of contrast. It will let all your graphics pop off of it really nice and things just look really nice on that color of background. Michael Moon: It's a much more cinematic experience. We have a lot of clients who like to have their presentations done on a white background, but that so they can hand them out. We always get into a discussion with them at that point and say, well, if you are handing the thing out, why is it a presentation? Right. We are here to create the cinematic experience for you and put you on stage and make you look good and if you want to do good that, this is the approach that you really need to take.

Ryan Orcutt: Then we just give him a few slides to kind of turn into a template. If you are going to have a quote slide, it should look like this. Your title slide should look like that. We developed the color palette so that you can stay consistent. If you are building new slides or if another designer other than myself is going to be working on this, they can pull from it really quickly. Some of this stuff is really to build the efficiency and this is really where we start to get into-- Michael Moon: This is the custom mark. Ryan Orcutt: This is when we are going to start developing a presentation. So I guess when we began his presentation, we wanted to start off with a little bit of a science lesson.

Water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. What you might know though is that it's the only element that exists in three unique states: a solid form a liquid form, and a gas form. Then in the juxtaposition of what you might know, what you may not know. And that was sort of the theme that we carried throughout this presentation. This is a really good example of how we are taking something that was really statistical, really number-heavy and we tried to make it a little bit more understandable, a little bit more digestible for the audience.

What we did is we took all the water in the world and we represented it with 100 drops on the slide. Then we grayed out 97 of them to represent that 97% of is ocean water and it's not drinkable. So that's not acceptable. We can't use that. 2% of that water is locked up in ice, snow, and glaciers. We can't use that. So really we are left with just 1% of all the world, all the planet's water, that surface and ground water that's safe for people to share. So when you are really thinking about it, out of all these hundred drops, you really only have a fraction of this one drop that all of humanity has to share.

Michael Moon: Now you can represent this data through bullet points or you could do it through pie charts. You can do the 97%, a pie chart thing going on. But people have become inured to looking at numbers that way that they start to lack meaning. So what we always try and do is visualize the data in a way that people will take with them and remember. It's like those books in science, or pages in a science book that you recalled from a kid where you always remembered that cutaway picture of the volcano, right because it just made so much sense.

You could read about all that stuff until the end of the week. But if you just saw that picture, you got it, you understood. That's what we try and do with statistics.

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