Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thoughts on Visual Design, Part 3: Tips

This is the last in the three-part series on using visual design theory in documents and slide decks.] 

Readers viewing illustrations that accompany reports may closely analyze them than the text. Applying graphics is as critical a skill as writing content. Most problems in using graphics result from a failure to see how the text balances the illustration and vice versa. The visually inclined author might think that the illustration trumps the text; meanwhile, the linguistically inclined writer might minimize the great value of the illustration.

With these challenges in mind, consider these eight tips for using visual design in slide decks or documents:

  1. Employ the 6-Foot Rule. Use text and illustrations for slides that are readable from 6 feet away when not projected to ensure that they will be readable from the back of the room when projected.
  2. Apply the 6 X 6 Rule. Limit text on slides to no more than 6 lines per slide and 6 words per line.
  3. Show proportion. Start graphs and charts at a zero baseline, justify your baseline choice when you do not, and draw graphics to scale.
  4. Keep backgrounds transparent. Ensure that the text and graphics are readable in the chosen background.
  5. Place graphics strategically. Insert the graphic in an easily accessible, logical spot of the slide or document for the reader to process the combination of textual and graphical data.
  6. Label graphics thoroughly. Remember that people often read the graphics out of context, so label the heading and components clearly (e.g., x and y axes) and tell a complete story with the visual aid.
  7. Highlight the graphics in the text. Even though the visual aid should stand alone, you still need to focus the reader on its significance in the text. Show relationships among discussion points to increase reader interest and support your position.
  8. Minimize stylistic features. Use text styling (bold, underlining, and italics), color, and animation features sparingly.