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The Cognitive Style of Power Point
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The Cognitive Style of Power Point

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  985 ratings  ·  72 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
Paperback, 32 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Graphics Pr (first published 2003)
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YES!

Q:
When Louis Gerstner became president of IBM, he encountered a big company caught up in ritualistic slideware-style presentations (c)
Q:
Slideware helps speakers to outline their talks, to retrieve and show diverse visual materials, and to communicate slides in talks, printed reports, and internet. And also to replace serious analysis with chartjunk, over-produced layouts, cheerleader logotypes and branding, and corny clip art. (c)
Q:
PP convenience for the speake
...more
David
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 opportunity to ...more
Chris Hanson
"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 -
...more
Trevor
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 lim
...more
Kiri
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short, quick read (more like an extended pamphlet) that rages against the PowerPoint machine. Tufte makes some good points about how blind use of a pre-set template or format can unfortunately constrain our ability to think about things, especially detailed technical issues. He shows some cringe-worthy examples and especially dives deep into a critique of the PowerPoint slides supplied during the investigation of the 2003 Columbia accident. Painful.

And yet - although it does seem cle
...more
Kathrina
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
Ben Appleby
Sep 29, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is trash.

Of course powerpoint has its place and some times people use it inappropriately or out of place, but people's poor use of it does not define the benefits of the software. Anything complex can be simplified, which is what ppt does. If the specific details are needed then an alternative form of communication should be used.

Poor examples are used to support points, communism banter is distracting, and pulling quotes out of context does not support any argument.
Em
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Hesam
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Joshua
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
...more
Margaret Heller
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 probab
...more
James
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Luís Ferreira
Unapologetic bashing on the extensive use of PowerPoint as a presentation support tool, and most specifically on the way it is used to, supposedly, summarize and support decision-making processes, where in fact downplays critical and statistical reasoning, and distorts content by abbreviating information in short, imprecise and misleading statements.

While I think there is an important argument to be made, the reductio ad absurdum could have been easily traded in favor of a straightforward and
...more
Lizzie
A concise, biting argument against the cognitive mold that is PowerPoint, into which serious people transmitting information needed to make decisions pour complex information- and get a misshapen lump at the end. Using examples, most powerfully from NASA, Tufte demonstrates that narrative writing interspersed with “high resolution” charts and graphics is more clear and informative than the PP alternative. Tufte also sneaks in a few caustic but highly pertinent observations on the authoritarian n ...more
Matthew
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 f
...more
Dave
Rough summary: Good content is the most important thing in a presentation. PowerPoint’s conventions and limitations cause presenters to oversimplify data and points, and make it easy to camouflage non-existent or poor content. Use PowerPoint only to show graphics which wouldn’t work well on a printout, and as a printout show the actual detailed reasoning and granular data.
Rohit Gupta
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish I could rant with such clarity. This is an amazing book on the problems of presentation style made possible by PP. If you present a lot, it could be helpful to think more about the presentations you are giving.
Dana Robinson
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent pamphlet on inappropriate slideware use. If you give PowerPoint presentations, you owe it to yourself to read it.
Mary Lauer
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous description of why Powerpoint is the WORST way to convey analytic results.
Selena
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 apparen
...more
Thorn
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

...more
Kimberly
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business-finance, own
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
Steve
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 inf
...more
Jmswtsn
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Anne
Jul 14, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. :)
Rebecca
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: http://www.norvig.com/Gettysburg/inde...
Sarah
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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).
John
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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