Visual Storytelling Goes Viral

While sifting through my Twitter feed I recently came upon a video about the distribution of wealth in the United States. I read and research various topics every day, but I have to admit, I’m more often reading about social media, advertising, design, storytelling and less often about finance and the economy (to my detriment—I only have so many hours in the day).

I didn’t know what to expect. The video was embedded on a site so I couldn’t see how popular it has truly become (over 4 million views). Within the first few seconds, I was hooked. The narrator tells a great story, and as a tax-paying citizen of the U.S., I was interested because I saw myself in the story.

Combine the story with beautiful and effective imagery (with little text), and it was a prime example of the power of effective visual storytelling.

Check out the video and I’ll discuss more following your viewing:

Displaying Data Without The Dull

Every so often I receive emails that all ask a similar question: “I love the way you design PowerPoint presentations, but my presentations have a lot of data and don’t lend themselves well to full-bleed images. How can I effectively design my presentation without filling the screen with data?”

Effective PowerPoint presentation design isn’t just about slapping a full-bleed image on every slide. At its core, effective presentation design is about revealing the truth. It’s about utilizing visuals as a backdrop to your story in order to further engage the senses, turning your presentation into an experience.

Even if your presentation has loads of data that no photography could express, that doesn’t mean your presentation has to be boring. It just means you’ll have to commit to effective design and to think about your data not just as words and numbers, but as visual scenes.

The video in this story went viral, and for good reason. It proves that data CAN indeed be presented beautifully and effectively when told as a story and professionally designed with the audience in mind.

About the Author:

Jon Thomas is the founder of Presentation Advisors, a presentation design and training firm based in southern Connecticut. For more on the company’s services, visit

How to Use Typography and Visuals More Effectively in Presentations

When it comes to typography in presentations, there’s a wealth of power in playing up contrasts. Notice in this Slideshare example below how our designer used two different types throughout the deck: A plain san serif type, and a unique, bubble-like type.

They contrast each other nicely, while remaining alike enough that they don’t look strange together. Also, notice how the designer used varied text sizes, and varied weights (thin versus thick), on each slide so as to keep the text-heavy slides visually interesting.

Strive for sensible contrast when working with typography.


The SlideShare example has a relatively text-heavy deck, so our designer used very simple visuals to make the text the most prominent element on the page. Always make one element (text or visuals) more prominent than the other.

If you’re working with a visual-heavy deck, for example, you’ll want to keep the amount of text on the slide minimal. It’s also helpful to use natural word associations to come up with appropriate visuals (i.e. time = clock, fly = plane, quotes = speech bubbles, Michael Jordan = basketball) for your content.

Our designer used illustrations to convey the deck’s simple visuals. He created them in Adobe Illustrator using shapes and sometimes, icons.

Look at Slide 2 for an example of using overlapping shapes to create depth (i.e. the simple tree shape overlapped again and again to create the impression of a forest). Also, play with the opacity of your visuals to make an element stand out more or less than another element.

Notice how on many of these slides, the designer dropped the opacity of the illustrations to make it seem like they live in the background, which further draws our attention to the text on the slide.

About the Author:

Scott Schwertly is the CEO and founder of Ethos 3, a leading presentation design and training company. From big names like Guy Kawasaki to big companies like Google, Pepsico, and NBC Universal, Ethos 3 has been responsible for bringing the message home. For more information about the company’s services, visit

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