Edward Tufte and Smart Art

on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I just read Edward Tufte's snarky, funny and deadly accurate diatribe against PowerPoint,The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, and thought I'd address a solution to one of the problems he poses in the essay.

Tufte correctly points out that a limitation of Powerpoint is that the bullet point format forces the content of every slide into a hierarchical relationship, with one bullet point relentlessly following another down the slide. PowerPoint 07 offers a partial solution to this limitation with Smart Art.

PowerPoint 07 offers the option of sidestepping the traditional march of bullet points down the slide. Go to the Insert Tab and choose Smart Art. The dialogue box offers plenty of visual formats to represent not only lists, but processes, cycles, hierarchies, relationships, matrices, and pyramids (an example of the "Cycles" options in the dialogue box is shown at left). Some example of slides are shown below.

Smart Art won't magically turn a boring, sloppy or badly designed presentation into an exciting and meaningful one. But it is a step in the right direction.


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