Saturday, September 01, 2007

Politicians and PowerPoint

Well, this seems to be the year that PowerPoint has really made a big splash in American politics. It seems that using PowerPoint slides has started to become more popular with presidential candidates. They are even starting to post them on web sites for all to see. So how are they doing with their slides? One I looked at this week from the campaign of Mitt Romney was not too bad. But the designer made a few mistakes. First, there were a few instances of poor color contrast - black text on a medium gray background and black text on a turquoise background. Unfortunately in both cases they were using a background to the text in order to try to highlight it, but ended up making the text harder to see instead. Another mistake was in using meaningless titles for some maps. The title told us the topic, but with multiple colors and a legend in micro printing, you have no idea what the point of the map is. And in a graph on how malpractice premiums have increased, the swooping lines don't look so dramatic when you realize that the vertical scale has been altered to range from 90 to 150. This makes an increase from 100 to 120 for All Physicians look much greater than it would if the scale started properly at zero. Are these mistakes restricted just to politicians? No. These are common mistakes presenters and those who create their slides make every day. It is just that now we will get to see the mistakes played out in public more than we have ever seen before.

Disclaimer: I am not an American, so I can't vote in the upcoming elections. I don't have a bias for or against any candidate, I offer these comments as a useful discussion of slides we are seeing and what we can learn from them.


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