Blog #8: PowerPoint — Bad tool or bad design?

More than a decade ago, John Schwartz asked in a New York Times article, “Is there anything so deadening to the soul as a PowerPoint presentation?” That negative view has been reinforced and extended by Edward Tufte in his monograph, The cognitive style of PowerPoint: pitching out corrupts within, in which he castigates PowerPoint as a medium for presentation. And we’ve probably all seen too many really, really bad PowerPoint slides.

The question, though, is whether the problem is inherent in the medium and technology, as Tufte maintains, or is the problem the result of poor design design and implementation? Do we blame the tool or the designers who use the tool? Microsoft offers a number of good reasons for using its 2013 version of PowerPoint and then discusses new features that make this version a vast improvement over the 2010 release. These explicit marketing efforts are not subtle; they are designed to sell the tool.

Some authors, however, provide a more nuanced analysis of PowerPoint. You need to carefully read Mike Markel’s article, “Exploiting verbal-visual synergy in presentation slides,” in which he argues that designers should “Use functional graphics, not decorative graphics [and should] [s]how what is best shown; say what is best said” (2009, 123). Using these two principles, Markel offers suggestions about ways to “to use tables, drawing tools, and images such as maps, diagrams, and photographs” ( 2009, 125) as part of PowerPoint slides.

Posting: Group 2

Commenting: Group 1

Category: PowerPoint and Communication Design

In your Blog #8 post, you need to take a position about the problem with PowerPoint: an inherent flaw in the nature of the tool or an inadequacy in the skills of the designer and the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of use? Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog. You can quote from additional articles you read as support for your position. You should include specific examples of PPT slides to further support your argument—either slides you create or ones you find on the Internet. Make sure to document your sources (even if the slides are your own).

Sources Cited

Markel, Mike. (2009). Exploiting verbal-visual synergy in presentation slides. Technical Communication, 56(2), 122-131 (You will need to be logged in with your Panther ID to access, and from the abstract page, you will need to click “Download” to get the full PDF.).

Microsoft. (2013). PowerPoint 2013: Presentation Is Everything.

Microsoft. (2012). The New PowerPoint.

Schwartz, John. (September 28, 2003). Ideas and trends; the level of discourse continues to slide. New York Times.

Tufte, Edward, (2006). The cognitive style of PowerPoint: pitching out corrupts within, 2nd ed. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

Featured Image Credit: “Willy Media” by Claire L. Evans on Flickr.

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