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Employing effective visual aids

Like all forms of design, visual design is about problem solving, not about personal preference or unsupported opinion

india Updated: May 18, 2006 14:43 IST

Like all forms of design, visual design is about problem solving, not about personal preference or unsupported opinion
 — Bob Baxley, Designer

Are you creative? Have you ever stopped to give an advertisement or a hoarding a second look? Think, what is so extraordinarily special about these visual modes of communication that force you to take a second look and marvel at the design and the content? You can be sure of one truth, almost a commandment for designing the visual — Thought, Effort, Creativity and Time (TECT) is required for creating a visual. TECT ensures visual and mass appeal, which is in turn, a long-term retention.

Creating Visual Aids (VAs) for presentations hinge on similar principles as are applicable for any graphic representation used for marketing or advertisements. VAs are slides that are pictorial or schematic representations/ illustration of data, points, graphs and charts that help in explaining if the medium of projections is an Over-heard Project (OHP) or in the form of slides for a PowerPoint presentation.

They can also be in the form of movie clips to illustrate a point. VAs are extremely effective devices for making successful presentation if you are clear of their usage and equally certain about the content to be used. Let us assume that you have structured the content of the presentation and are raring to give it a shot on the slide. Wait! Do not rush through the process.

Think analytically, dispassionately and objectively. Can the entire content to be delivered in the course of the presentation be listed or punched on the computer in the form of slides? Definitely not! Careful thinking and prudent pruning of the text is to follow a meticulous and proper designing and structuring of the content.

An interesting research reveals that when a person listens, his/her retention rate is around 20 per cent. However, when visuals are presented along with the information, retention rates can shoot up to 50 per cent. Thus, if the message is to be remembered, VAs are to be used with caution. Hence, the need for application of TECT.

A simple rule for the design and structure of VAs is to ensure creativity and clarity in the design and the content of the slides. In the process of making the slide creative, do not lose sight of the link between the design and the  content. Definitely, if VA is pictorial, the message is meaningful and retention is high.

For example, if you use the rupee sign to represent the inflation rate in the country, the VA becomes a value add to the presentation because the audience is able to see the link between the sign on screen and the verbal content. Creativity and clarity in the design gently persuade the audience to new ways of thinking.

In short, VAs are used to:
1 Impress and attract the audience with clarity and precision of points

2 Clarify ideas

3 Simplify concepts

4 Emphasise points

5 Summarise the ideas 

Courtesy: The Effective Presentation by Asha Kaul, Published by Response Books India