In the last decade, the emergence of Presentation/PowerPoint Designer roles has skyrocketed from the darkened corner of Desktop Publishing (DTP) to the heights of keynote speeches and world-viewed presentations as well as touched on practically every design discipline in-between. The niche lovechild of DTP and Graphic Design, Presentation Design, now sits on the precipice of becoming the newest specialization in Graphic Design.
The history of graphic design has seen the development of three major disciplines each of which have various levels of overlap. Of the three key disciplines, the print-based design was the first and oldest. The next development was motion design with the earliest examples being the Phenakistoscope and then the animated flipbook in the early-to-mid 1800s. As the century ended, there was an explosion of interest in motion and animation design which then thrived for the next 100 years and now every time you turn on a TV, you are bombarded with motion design, everything from the intro reel of your favorite news channel to the credits at the end of a movie. The third discipline, Interactive Design, evolved broadly with the advent of computing. The user not only watched motion or looked at print, but could also interact with it by giving commands or prompts. The first broad use of interactive design was in the mid-to-late 1900s with early computer systems. As computers became more sophisticated and operating systems were designed and improved upon, the visual design became more and more important. This was the first boom in interactive design, with early operating systems leading the way. As the World Wide Web developed, this form of design branched out and exploded across the world, every website is an interactive design, every program on your computer (including PowerPoint) is an example of this design discipline. In fact, anyone reading this article either on a phone or on a computer is engaging in at least 3 levels of interactive design.
The development and emergence of these disciplines of design have been largely chronological, however, the big question that is most relevant to us today is: where does Presentation Design sit? After discussions with many people from these disciplines, there is a feeling that Presentation Design sits outside the scope of Graphic Design altogether. I’ve met many professional and highly skilled Graphic Designers across all these disciplines who will simply not touch Presentations. Why? Because there is a significant stigma associated with working within the programs available to create presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.). Some blame lack of features, some blame inexperience, some blame operability, but ultimately it stems from the elitism of specialist Graphic Design software and the ‘commonness’ of Presentation Design software.
I see PowerPoint a little differently. I see it as a tool that can encompass all of these design aspects. Admittedly, there are pros and cons of using PowerPoint as a tool to produce each of these designs, however, show me a program that allows you to display on one screen your design, which encompasses the principles of print design, then seamlessly integrates animation into the design all the while allowing the end user to navigate them, or allowing a pilot to navigate an audience through a non-linear presentation based on the needs of the audience, all whilst being a program that is included in the world’s most famous productivity suite of applications and on over 500 million computers worldwide. Nearly everyone with a computer has PowerPoint. Anyone can open the program, create some slides, some bullet points and press ‘Start Slideshow’. This does not make them a Presentation Designer. The hurdle we need to overcome is not introducing Presentation Design to the world, the hurdle is to show the world what Presentation Design SHOULD be.
The good news is that a Presentation Designer is always in relatively high demand. Industry demand will only ever grow for this service as pitches and inter-business presentations become so competitive many companies are moving from ‘getting whoever knows how to use PowerPoint in the office’ to ‘getting a professional with knowledge of audience communication and best practice in designing for these circumstances’.
The big question is, will the Graphic Design industry eventually accept Presentation Design (and by extension, PowerPoint) as a new specialization? What do you think? Let’s get the conversation started.
About Tom Howell:
Tom Howell is a PowerPoint designer and the founder of Synapsis Creative, a boutique presentation design agency. Tom started his career as a designer for multiple disciplines and specialized in PowerPoint 10 years ago, and has never looked back. With a talent for animation and interactivity, his work has been featured on Microsoft’s webinar series on PowerPoint and in multiple online magazines and articles. He regularly speaks at conferences and seminars and is a key figure for presentation design in the industry. His clients come from an array of different industries. Tom loves the challenges and successes that are achievable in PowerPoint and lives to make presentations stand out for all the right reasons.
Don’t miss my “Dishing on Presentations” conversation with Tom Howell. It is engaging and packed full of presentation wisdom from “down under”. Click here to watch