Kiri's Reviews > The Cognitive Style of Power Point

The Cognitive Style of Power Point by Edward R. Tufte
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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 clear that PowerPoint is not suited to conveying deep technical data and analysis with appropriate nuance and caveats, it's also NOT well suited for the complete sentences that he loves. In most of the talks I give, the setting is one in which the audience does not want to (and will not) read long texts off the screen. Tufte's suggestion is to eschew PowerPoint in favor of handouts, which indeed can convey much more information more compactly. I like this too, but it doesn't necessarily work for seminars or conference talks. His analysis made me reflect on why. I think most of the talks I give are more about conveying ideas. I *do* minimize text content on my slides, but that doesn't make the talk itself information-poor; I rely on my words to convey the ideas. I maintain that this is more engaging and effective than giving the audience something to read. I also rely more and more on images in my talks, because that's what a screen is really great for!

I don't think PowerPoint was ever meant to be a standalone product - he's absolutely right that it is information-poor. The practice of printing out slides and distributing them is a horrible waste of space and paper. If you're going to print something out, an outline or short list of key points (or paragraphs, if you're Tufte) seems a far better choice.

I appreciate this book for inspiring reflection and critique!
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Reading Progress

October 24, 2018 – Started Reading
October 24, 2018 – Shelved
October 25, 2018 – Finished Reading

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