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Nigel Holmes at the Presentation Summit 2011

The opening keynote at the Presentation Summit 2011 was kick-started by Nigel Holmes. Nigel came from England 30 years ago, and is an amazing graphic designer. He showed his information art from the times when digital graphic design was not the norm.

Nigel spoke about the difference between “simplify” and “clarify”. As an example, he showed the subway map of Tokyo. Apparently, there exists a complicated looking detailed map for the city residents. On the other hand, there is a much simpler map for tourists created by Richard Saul Wurman. This map only encompasses what travelers need to know. Look at these maps in the slide figures below — you can click on all these slides to view larger representations.

Nigel also talked about the power of a smile. He gave examples of the redesign of US currency, and a fantasy party arranged by the folks at National Geographic for the world population. Apparently, humor was not the norm in both these examples! Nigel said that it was easier to connect with your audience when you smile. And he made us all smile with an anecdote about a person who could tie 14 cherry knots using just his tongue.


His next topic was hot dogs, and he mentioned eating competitions. Participants gobble huge amounts of every type of food from asparagus to sausages. One of these “eaters” weighs only 105 pounds. Fame came to a Japanese eater who consumed 53 and a half hot dogs in just 12 minutes! So how did he accomplish this feat? He actually trains people on how you can eat faster than you can count! Apparently, some day the Olympics may have an eating competition.


Nigel then discussed helium, and the rift between balloon artists, also known as twisters. He then said how he was more impressed with the lifting power of helium rather than its presentation prowess.
Nigel Holmes moved to America in 1978 to work for Time Magazine. He became graphics director and stayed there for 16 years. Despite academic criticism, he remains committed to the power of pictures and humor to help people understand otherwise abstract numbers and difficult scientific concepts, whether in print or in presentations.

Categories: powerpoint, presentationsummit

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