Wednesday, February 2, 2005

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

Edward Tufte, the author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and other books, has written a devastating essay on PowerPoint:

In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now "slideware" computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.

Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint is available here.

And for the ultimate in PowerPoint satire, Peter Norvig's famed PowerPoint version of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

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