This year's Presentation Summit at San Diego began with a keynote from Nolan Haims. After careers in theatre and the circus, Nolan Haims moved into the world of presentation, designing presentations for Fortune 500 CEOs, leading financial institutions and all the major television networks. Nolan was the Presentation Director for Edelman, the world's largest independent PR company. He writes about visual communication at PresentYourStory.com.
Rick Altman, the host of the Presentation Summit introduced Nolan as an authority on simplicity. Nolan's topic for the keynote of course was Simplicity. Simplicity is a "simple" word, but what Nolan tried to explain was more profound. He said that "simplicity is important because audiences remember whatever is simple enough to remember!"
Nolan started by comparing two famous movies: Star Wars and The Phantom Menace. The audience agreed that the former was a better movie, and Nolan emphasized that this was because Star Wars had so much simplicity, and comparatively, The Phantom Menace had complexity. Nolan added that "simplicity has a guarantee that it will always succeed." He also added that "simplicity in slides can be achieved by deciding what we need to remove."
Nolan then discussed his background about how he belongs to a family of designers, and how he is the only person in the family who is not formally trained in design. In his earlier days, he just started using Adobe Illustrator and ended up creating something simple. He then encountered "heavy" graphics with bevels, 3D effects, etc. that were quite a rage in those days. This led Nolan to create the type of extreme graphics that were anything but simple!
At this point, Nolan realized that his clients, although impressed were not selling design, so they had no need to use such an extreme form of design. Instead, they were selling products! So that made Nolan ponder whether it would be better selling products with stories and simplicity rather than with extreme design? This realization led Nolan to the main topic of his keynote, that being: Simplicity Works.
Nolan then discussed 4 arguments for simplicity:
Beyond these 4 elements, Nolan added that there is also a 5th element, and that element is difficulty.
He then explored the new Twitter logo, which is essentially full of circles. He also explored the new Microsoft logo, which was created from geometry.
Nolan then put up a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (the author of The Little Prince):
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to taker away."
Nolan also showed a hotel key-card from a Washington DC hotel that had so little content on the card's surface -- and lots of awesome white space. Also in Washington DC, Nolan spoke of the simple monuments here that create a more moving impact because of their simplicity. An example of such a monument is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The designer of this monument, Maya Lin said:
"It almost seemed to simple, too little...
I toyed with adding some large flat slabs that would appear to lead into the memorial, but they did not belong. The image was so simple that anything added to it began to detract from it."
Nolan then concluded with some thoughts to help you become a better designer:
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