Don’t you know that you can count me out…(in)

Stands to reason our Military would finally adopt the latest techniques in guerrilla marketing…

March 22, 2005 · Matterform Media, makers of spam filtering and tracking software, has identified spam messages apparently being sent by the United States Department of Defense to advertise a Web site used to market military careers to young Americans.The spam messages were collected as part of Matterform’s spam collecting and analysis services.The spam messages hawk scholarships, tax-exempt pay and training and invite young people to “See it for what it really is.” The spams advertise a Web site at   


Truth vs. accuracy in photographs

Richard Avedon once said: “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” In this Age of Fungible Pixels, when not every publication, political campaign, or advocacy organization follows the Times policy prohibiting manipulation of news photographs, I’m not even sure about the accuracy part. But the untruth—or, at least, imperfect truth—of any single photograph is inescapable. Some readers object to the way a picture is cropped, arguing that evidence changing its meaning has been sliced out of the frame. But meaning is determined long before that. A photographer points the camera here , then turns three inches to the left and snaps again: different picture, maybe a different reality. A photo editor selects from the images the photographer submits (should the subject be smiling? Frowning? Animated? Distracted?). The designer wants it large (major impact) or small (lesser impact). The editor picks it for Page 1 (important) or not (not). By the time a reader sees a picture, it has been repeatedly massaged by judgment. But it’s necessarily presented as fact.  

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.)

Effective text-only presentations

Lawrence Lessig’s presentation on the history and evolution of copyright law is an excellent example of simple but effective text used to support a speech. There are no fancy charts or clipart. The words on screen simply provide focus to what is being spoken, while judiciously chosen images –usually one per screen– effectively evoke what words cannot. This online version requires the Flash player…