Look Good and Be Beautiful

Why We Love Beautiful Things has a catchy title, and before you get into reading it, you probably can scratch your head and figure out the answer: because they’re beautiful. Before we get to what this means, and the gist of the article, I want to throw another idea in the spotlight first.

For one of my classes I am taking, the assigned textbook was Presentation Zen. I have followed Garr Reynolds’ website for years, and was a bit taken back to have to buy his book. After all, I do a lot of presentations and got the gist of cleaner slides without a lot of text.

This book surprised me however, with a rationale behind his style and his recommendations. Presentations should be beautiful. They can, and should, have an aesthetic quality. And then I began to think about this in the context of a teacher presenting notes to a class.

We probably never think about making those presentations beautiful. “Just the facts, ma’am. That’s all we need…” you can imagine a boy telling his teacher in a black and white TV show set in the 1950s. (He later becomes a cop in a trench coat for sure.)

So, the first article talks about beautiful things actually moving us. Studies in color, geometry, and the golden triangle are interesting. But more so was Garr’s inspiration for slides: a Japanese bento box meal. That’s where, I suspect, the simplicity comes from in the Zen reference. Nothing over-done, a nice presentation, and concentrated bits. In each smaller box is a little morsel for us to focus upon.

Casio XJ-A240 Green Slim DLP LCD Projector

I won’t spoil it by saying there’s a simple formula to choose in Keynote or PowerPoint to make all you have to say beautiful. The benefit, of course, is a listener’s attention span. By amping-up your presentations with beautiful things, you’re more likely to hold attention.

And that’s not a bad thing.

But here’s the bad news: Presentation Zen isn’t about putting notes on slides for kids to copy down into notebooks. It’s about amplifying the speaker’s presentation. Which underscores, in the end, that presenting content to be copied down from slide ware is a questionable pedagogy in our schools. It may be efficient, and simply necessary from time to time, but as a mainstay, it’s showing kids how to bore others.

I no doubt will pick up on this topic in the future. Thanks for reading.