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It’s not just the image that counts… it’s how you use it

March 23, 2010

I get the impression that more presenters are copping on to the fact that clip art, fuzzy low-res images and those AWFUL cheesy corporate stock photos (that seem to be from the 80’s) just don’t cut it these days. I think that more people are going to sites like Flickr, iStockphoto and Canstock (my fave stock site) in search of more engaging imagery, and this is an undeniably good thing. Putting better images in our presentations is a good start, but they also need to be used in a better way.

Let’s examine this point using a brilliant picture of the absurdly beautiful Angelina Jolie.

Option 1. Try and fit the image to match with an existing template.

I see slides like the one below all the time, presenters are determined to keep their template visible at all times. I suppose it is an attempt to stop the picture getting in the way of, or grabbing attention from, their lovely template which they have used for years. But using the image in this manner does far more harm rather than good. The picture is clearly being underutilised and is playing second fiddle to a poorly coloured background and… comic sans text (the font of the devil).

Option 2: Put the picture on a white background (but small and squished… for some reason)

Another thing I see ALL the time is images that have been squished, stretched, widened and generally altered from their original and correct dimensions. I cannot think of why people choose to do this… all I know is that it effectively ruins the purpose of using the image altogether. The image in this example is also far too small and gains nothing by being so small.

Option 3: Let the image speak for itself

Another option (and in my mind, the best) is to just let the image do what it does best, speak for itself. If you are trying to describe the concept of “beauty” or “something beautiful” the chances are that this picture will be able to describe it better than you can in 10,000 words or less. I realise that is it tragic occurence that your template is now gone… but I think you will agree that this slide utilises the image much more effectively.

How I used this slide: I actually did integrate a tiny amount of text with this slide as I was using it as an intro slide to a presentation I was giving. I opted to have half of the face occupy the right 1/3rd of the screen and add in my title. I still think this is a strong usage of the image.

SO… now that we are all subscribing to the idea that the image counts, it is also time to start realising that HOW we use it counts just as much. So let’s all get smart about how we use our lovely images and make sure they are working for us as well as they can.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2010 12:10 pm

    I’m with you all the way here! Absolutely.

    Two little tricks I sometimes add are to make sure the text is in a colour that’s obvious in the image (such as matching the lipstick colour etc) and integrating the text a little, so that, for example, my *personal* take on your last pic would be to lower the text (raise the image??) so that the text went under the hair, getting it ‘inside’ the image, so to speak.

    But that’s pedantry compared to your overall very valid point!


  2. March 28, 2010 12:42 pm

    Not a bad idea at all Simon, must try that next time. Thanks for the comment.

  3. March 28, 2010 1:13 pm

    Downside is that I canet myself get carried away and spend five weeks on one slide 🙂

    • March 28, 2010 1:16 pm

      Ha! tell me about it, sometimes you can get into some seriously “diminishing returns” territory!

  4. March 29, 2010 2:38 pm

    Great post Ed. Personally I’d have reduced the pitch between the letters in the word Beauty – they look a little too widely-spaced. But I’m another one who can spend ages on a single slide…

    Corporate templates are my biggest obstacle when designing slides for customers. Corporate visual identity freaks impose that the template must be visible, so all the company’s presentations are easily identifiable.

    Sadly they succeed, and their presentations are not only identifiable, they’re also ugly. Does any corporation seriously want to be easily identified with ugliness?

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