Book Review: Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Slideology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Nancy Duarte
265 pages

Slideology is a beautiful book that is truely representative of the design principles that Nancy Duarte preaches.  I remember reading this book at coffee shops and trying really hard to keep the book pristine.  This is definitely one that will stay on my bookshelf for easy reference.  Be forewarned though, if you’re looking for a detailed, step by step, how-to book on designing a presentation, you’ll probably be disappointed by this book.  If, however, you’re looking for a high level starter guide on design and seeking differnt sources of inspiration, then Slideology is a great pick up for you.  The book covers a wide variety of topics related to presentation design and introduces you to the key players in the business, such as Garr Reynolds, Edward Tufte, and Stephen Few.

I felt I learned a great deal from reading this book.  One of my favorite topics was the science behind selecting a color palettes.  Typically when I created a color palette, for a presentation or a chart, I would simply pick a series of colors and change them around until they looked “right.”  I had no idea there was a science to the process.  In her book, Duarte explains how to pick colors from the color wheel to create visually appropriate color palettes.  You’ll learn what a split complementary and tetradic color selection is.  One method I wasn’t aware of is called using an eyedropper.  This is a tool used by designers to snatch and copy specific colors from an industry relevant photos.  By doing this, a designer can create a custom color palette that is appropriate and fitting for a particular industry.

Another key learning for me was the use of a grid system with your PowerPoints slides.  I’ve seen this feature in PowerPoint before, but never saw the value in using it.  Duarte explains how many design focused companies, including Adobe and HP, base their slide presentations on a specific grid system.  They then repeat this grid system internally and externally to make it representative of their brand.  It was really interesting to see her grid overlays on top of well designed slides and finally see the science behind the art.

One of my overall gripes with this book is its lack of depth on certain topics.  While many different topics were covered throughout, very few topics had more than 2-3 pages of actual content.  There are also a number of one page case studies scattered throughout the book.  Again, while helpful in providing real world context, I would have preferred more depth on particular topics (data visualization for example) and not a conveyor belt of different topics.

Another minor gripe that I had was Duarte’s intended audience of this book.  While the book is supposed to be relevant to all levels of the corporate ladder, some of her advice is only relevant to those who make a living doing presentations.  Her advice has included working 30-90 hours on a one hour presentation and prepping your deck to be viewed by 2,000 people.  A typical corporate goon like myself won’t face these situations very often.  My presentations are typically in front of a handful of people and rarely do I have more than a couple hours to prep.  I definitely would’ve benefited more with advice at this level.

Slideology is a comprehensive sampler plate of presentation design.  The design concepts that Duarte explains are both very enlightening and proven in the industry.  If you’re just starting to learn about presentation design and need some inspiration, you will definitely garner value from reading this book.

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