Dean Allen on Tufte

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, 24 self-covered pages to tide us over until Tufte’s next book, Beautiful Evidence, looks to be similarly unlikely to budge too many people from bad design habits, like the millions now working up presentations in PowerPoint (AutoContent is just too killer an app, and don’t forget WordArt). But, as a hilarious collection of pot-shots at the ludicrous meatgrinder of ideas that is PowerPoint, it is one satisfying read. The data is of course unimpeachable, and the examples are exactly right, but one wishes the key points were presented in a breezier style, like, oh, a bulleted list, with some lively colours and graphics. Ahem.  

Dean Allen pretty much echoes my thoughts on the design philosphy of Edward Tufte. Specifically, I agree that while Tufte is absolutely right about how to present data clearly in a bar chart, and he does a great job of elegant book design, when he rants about the horrors of Powerpoint, he misses a few essential points. Powerpoint can be employed extremely effectively to compliment a live presentation. Autocontent can be turned off. WordArt can be eschewed. Default templates, color schemes and fonts can be reconfigured and suddendly Powerpoint is not such a horrible tool. (One may still cringe at the application’s inability to properly kern text, though even this limitation has been mitigated on the Mac through OS-X’s Quartz text rendering.)

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