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The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within
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The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  908 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now "slideware" computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the ...more
Hardcover, Second Edition, 31 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Graphics Press (first published 2003)
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Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
What’s your Microsoft rage trigger? For years mine used to be the loathsome paper-clip assistant – it seemed like a perfect symbol of Microsoft’s sneeringly obvious contempt for their users. Eventually, the continuing forced exposure to PowerPoint at my job became an irritant as well. There’d be days when I’d have to suffer through half a dozen PowerPoint presentations by my colleagues. Weeks where I’d end up having to prepare three or four slideshows of my own. This gave me plenty of opportunit ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is brilliant – there is no other word for it. For anyone who has suffered through more PowerPoint presentations than is reasonable to inflict on an unsuspecting universe – this will show you just how stupid the medium can make the message.

The major point of this short essay is that slideware (the proper name for PowerPoint) is generally so badly used that it makes it very hard to learn anything real from what is being presented at all. He makes this claim on the basis of the limitations of
Chris Hanson
Jul 17, 2010 rated it liked it
"The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" has, at its heart, a reasonable message: Presentation software is no replacement for more technical forms of documentation and prose when making decisions. However, it suffers from two great failings: Petty hubris on the part of the author, and a lack of acknowledgment of the proper role of presentation software.

I'm not normally one to condemn a rant for failing to offer good alternatives - and this book (more pamphlet) is most definitely a rant - but one gets
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Back in a classroom after 17 years, I felt awkward and inept concerning my ignorance of PowerPoint. I may have seen PP presentations back then, but I didn't put much thought into the software, just tried to focus on the content and let the presenter take authority for the presentation. I was never called upon to present one myself. This year my 7th grade son created a PP presentation on Burkina Faso, his first initiation into PP. Having pretty much no information on Burkina Faso going in, I foun ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design, data-vis
I wish that more people read this book, because 99% of PowerPoint/slideshow presentations are terrible. A lot of the time, people don't even need slides; they just make them because they're expected, rather than to improve the presentation.
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
a great work from the legendary Edward Tufte. I first heard about the book when taking a data visualization course, and of course Tufte's name will be brought up! Looking forward to reading his other books.
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a much more engaging read than I expected it to be. It's not just a cranky old academic complaining about style. He really rips PowerPoint apart. The in-depth analysis of the NASA incident is especially damning. PowerPoints were used in place of technical reports when they were assessing the damage to the Space Shuttle Columbia's wing. Although the evidence did not truly suggest the shuttle would be fine, the takeaway from reading the PowerPoints was that everything would be OK. Instead ...more
Mr. Roboto
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
If you are a Tufte fan and have high hopes for this short booklet, you may be disappointed. Sure, you're only paying $7 for this slim volume, but it leaves much to be desired nevertheless. After the first few pages, we get it - Tufte can't stand PowerPoint (PP) presentations (neither can I) and believes they are a terrible crutch for weak, content-lacking, dumbed-down presentations.

The means PowerPoint provides for graphing data is neither informative nor intuitive, a point Tufte drives home re
Margaret Heller
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So right. I hear about the extreme misuse of PowerPoint in the federal government all the time from family members employed therein. Seeing the examples in here makes it even more alarming.

I dislike cutesy slides and boring slides both. As much as possible I try to present only salient graphics and photos. This can be challenging in teaching settings when you want to present a chart, but honestly I like to show the chart once and then draw it on the board later. I think that's probably more peda
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: geog-490
I first learned PowerPoint while I was a graduate student in the 1990s. For a few of those years I was an in-house software trainer in a mid-sized specialty food packaging company, where training managers to use Microsoft products was a big part of my job. I was pleased with my PowerPoint skills, and never thought very deeply about the questions of epistemology raised by its reductionist, linear structure. I gave a lot of thought to its aesthetics and even attended a workshop on basic graphic de ...more
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: design-type-etc
I read this booklet before realising the same content is presented in a similar form in Beautiful Evidence … anyway …

I agree there are a lot of awful powerpoint presentations out there and I agree with many of Tufte's points. The detailed NASA slide analysis is excellent. That said this is a really odd book. It's a self published booklet rant. Some of the material, as mentioned, is good, but a lot of it is weak. Like the Gettysburg address powerpoint … i'm sure this was a hilarious fw:fw:fw:fw:F
Sep 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
PowerPoints are bad. Never use PowerPoints. PowerPoints have no redeeming qualities.

Does Tufte hear himself? In this book he says powerpoints don't encourage discussion, they don't engage, they just tell you stuff. ...So does this... book... pamphlet... thing. Booklet? Yeah, I think this falls under the category "booklet."

All he does is pontificate (rant) at length about the evils of PowerPoint and about how all other styles of presenting information are better (and apparently perfect, because h
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I learned to use PowerPoint in 1993. My soon-to-be brother-in-law showed me how, by creating 5 or 6 slides expounding why this one guy where he was temping at MCI Worldcom was a complete bastard. I knew then that I hated PowerPoint. The guy in question was certainly a bastard. What I objected to, was how PowerPoint forced the extrusion of ideas into an even-gauged flow identical to that of any other argument made using PowerPoint.

Little did I know that my objection wasn't just my personal idios

May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: visualization
Valeu a indicação. O autor é suficientemente convincente e elegante em sua exposição, levando na prática suas recomendações de alta resolução de informação em um ensaio de apenas ~30 páginas. ET talvez falhe um pouco ao não reconhecer o suficiente que a questão da má influência do estilo cognitivo embutido no paradigma PP sobre a qualidade da comunicação científica pode ser tanto uma comorbidade quanto uma causa. Eu iria até um pouco mais longe, dizendo que esse tipo de influência atingiu de fat ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, business-finance
I feel so validated by reading this book. For years, I thought it was just me that I could not get past the superficial way data was portrayed on Powerpoint (PP). I could not find any way to aptly analyze data presented in that format. This book helped me to see that it wasn't me, but the style of the data presentation which is so limited by PP. Tufte states that, "PP templates for statistical graphs and data tables are hopeless." He goes on to explain that PP, since it is proprietary, has no in ...more
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: powerpoint users and those who hate them
After sitting though many abusive Power Point presentations, I got to thinking there's got to be a better way and began doing research...Tufte was one of the first vocal critics to gain wide prominence with an essay in Wired magazine titled: "PowerPoint is evil"

Tufte makes a powerful indictment of presentation-ware in general and PP in particular. This short book is a more detailed examination and critique of presentation-ware. In it he issues a challenge to everyone who presents information to
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very short and to the point, this book deconstructs everything that is bad about PowerPoint-based presentations (mostly how PowerPoint ends up dominating the presentation over the person giving it) and how Microsoft-created templates are now providing bad speakers with a bad default crutch. Tufte provides a few useful tips for making good presentations with PowerPoint and reasons for ditching it entirely. This information packet helped me re-work a friends presentation to Ford Motor company that ...more
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Life is not a bullet point! I just survived 2 years of a merger in a major corporation where consultants imposed management by Power Point. I am tired of sentence fragments and"stories" told in PP. The one thing that I think Tufte does not address directly enough is the audience's willingness to be stupefied and led by PP yielding messiahs. Until that weakness is addressed the evil of manifested in PP will persist regardless of the medium used for communication.
Jul 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Tufte is starting to rant a bit with this little pamphlet. He has very sound arguments for why most corporate presentations are really content-less and annoying, but I'm less certain that PowerPoint itself is really to blame for people putting irritating graphics and themes into their presentations. I think he exaggerates, given how useful PowerPoint presentations have been in the recent history of science. Sure, I use Keynote now vs PowerPoint, but I'm no snob about it. :)
Sep 04, 2010 marked it as to-read
Essay about how Edward Tufte, "the Leonardo da Vinci of data" (NYT), really, really dislikes PowerPoint.

"PowerPoint is presenter-oriented, not content-oriented, not audience-oriented."

Also, it mentioned this, which I'd forgotten -- the Gettysburg address via PowerPoint:
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
After reading this, I have to wonder why PowerPoint is used so often as seen as so essential for librarians and in other fields. Tufte has good arguments to back up his statement that "The PP slide has the worst signal/noise ratio of any known method of communication on paper or computer screen" (p. 26).
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I know other reviewers thought that Tufte rants too much in this text, but I found his insights valuable, especially with regard to the way presentations are altered by the use of powerpoint (due to evidence becoming less prominent). Plus, he writes in an engaging and entertaining way (the Gettysburg address on PP slides is AMAZING!).
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work
THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. I am not being sarcastic. This will change the way you present. Favorite part #1: Gettysburg Address if it were in PowerPoint. Favorite part #2 (as an example of presentations gone wrong): NASA slide that shows the Challenger disaster risk circled as the fourth thing under a sub-sub-bullet.
Alexander Fontana
How PowerPoint by its very design produces poor misleading or ineffective communications. In part, this paper distinctly makes a case of how a routine systematic form of standardized communication contributed to the Space Ship Columbia disaster by not properly or clearly describing and displaying issues and concerns of potential damage to the shuttle, which was known 12 days before the crash!
Harald Groven
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are ever going to hold a presentation with slideshow software (like PP or Keynote), you must read this essay!
Its the best analysis of what this kind of software acutally do with the massage ever written.
Apr 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional
This essay put words to the gut dislike I've always had for Powerpoint presentations. I'd have liked to see proposed solutions for the problems Tufte pointed out - perhaps you have to buy one of his books for that.
Tufte is always terrific. The problem here is that he's blaming a hammer for being a hammer, and it's a poor workman who blames his tools. That being said, I did shift my handouts from slides to a one-page "takeaways" handout after I read this, so obviously it had some influence.
David Kellogg
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A excellent, needed evisceration of PowerPoint. When this first came out it expressed what many of us felt but better and with analytical power. The discussion of what to do instead of PP is useful.
Alicia C
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-goal
This book reinforced all of my personal beliefs about PowerPoint and its general misuse in the workplace. I love it. Great resource for information showing why PowerPoint is not always the best tool for a presentation.
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who give presentations in any setting where PowerPoint is typically used
I got inspired to read this broadside after attending a conference with some fantastic presentations. Wouldn't you know, they followed his advice. I'd rate it five starts except for the rhetoric, which is over the top at times.
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Edward Rolf Tufte (born 1942 in Kansas City, Missouri to Virginia and Edward E. Tufte), a professor emeritus of statistics, graphic design, and political economy at Yale University has been described by The New York Times as "the Leonardo da Vinci of Data". He is an expert in the presentation of informational graphics such as charts and diagrams, and is a fellow of the American Statistical Associa ...more
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