Friday, May 2, 2014

Corporate Logos on Every Slide Are a Bad Idea: From NASA to the "Pink Slip Powerpoint"

By Steven S. Vrooman

You’ve seen it. You might even be required to do it in your organization. It returns the word BRAND to its roots by tagging the flank of every slide with a hot and painful sting. There it is, the logo stamped somewhere on eeeeevvvvvveeerrrrryyyyyy slide:

Simplicity Versus Complexity

In my book, I talk about the dilemma between SIMPLICITY and COMPLEXITY. If it's not simple enough, I can’t follow and I give up. If it is not complex enough, I’m bored and check out. Your presentations are seesaws that balance these forces. So are your visual aid slides.

On the simplicity side is using an image. Here's Seth Godin:
Here's Edward Tufte:
At Tufte’s seminars he tells the folks in the crowd to just use Power Point as a slide projector.

This is connected with idealized post-Neurath design like Cook and Shanowksy's Department of Transportation signage from 1974, the most enduring pieces of which are the restroom man and woman:
Or there is my version of a preview, replacing something like what you see on top with what is on the bottom:

On the complexity side are stories. 

Visual stories like people try with Prezi or with infographics. You follow a long story-like process that reminds me of a comic book, like in this:

You also have someone like David Carson, who challenges the audience to figure out the mystery of what is being advertised behind a messy scrawl of surfer-style graphics.

When you design a slide you have to decide where you are positioning your audience. Probably you will push them, at times, toward one side of the seesaw, and then draw them back so that you can keep them shifting and so that you can pull in everyone.

The Logo

Now we come to the difficulty. The persistence of the corporate logo on the bottom of the page. See?

In the slide that Tufte blames for the deaths of the Columbia astronauts, you can see the corporate logo:
You might argue, from a simplicity perspective, that it is an unnecessary distraction. Do you really want your audience staring at the logo while they should be thinking of something else? The worst is the presentation that both you and I have sat through, where someone high in the organization delivers bad news to the rest of us, and there you sit, looking at the logo or the topline splash graphics while you find out there will be layoffs or a new insurance plan or something of the sort, as in this slide for what CBS calls Novartis' "Pink Slip Powerpoint"
Do you want your audience rehearsing the connection between your logo and bad news?

From the complexity perspective, you might imagine it is okay to have multiple foci on a slide. We can handle it. We will split our attention. But then, doesn’t the same logo on every slide then just begin to disappear? It becomes screen real estate we ignore because it stops interesting us. So then we are training our audience to stop paying attention to pieces of our slides, which is bad, and to the organization’s identity, which defeats the purpose of putting it on there in the first place.

However you look at it, the constant presence of the logo is a bad idea. Make it show up when needed and then put it away. As more organizations demand that we use their official templates for our Power Points, this failure to communicate will only increase.

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