In the last decade, the emergence of Presentation / PowerPoint Designer roles has skyrocketed from the darkened corner of Desktop Publishing (DTP) to the heights of keynote speeches and world-viewed presentations as well as touched on practically every design discipline in-between. The niche lovechild of DTP and Presentation Design are predicted to become the newest specialisation in Graphic Design.
The Uprising of Graphic Design
The history of graphic design features the development of three major disciplines each of which have various levels of overlap. Of the three key disciplines print-based design was the first and oldest. The next development was motion design with the earliest examples being the Phenakistoscope and then the animated flipbook in the early-to-mid 1800s. As the century drew to an end there was an explosion of interest in motion and animation design. Animation became increasingly popular over the next 100 years and now we see it every day!
The third discipline, Interactive Design, evolved broadly with the advent of computing. The user not only watched motion or looked at print, but also interacted with it by giving commands or prompts. The first broad use of interactive design was in the mid-to-late 1900s with early computer systems. Visual design was focused on after computers became more sophisticated and operating systems were improved.
This was the first boom in interactive design, with early operating systems leading the way. As the World Wide Web developed, this form of design branched out and exploded across the world. Every website is an interactive design and every program on your computer is an example of this design discipline. If you’re reading this on a phone or computer then you’re engaging in at least 3 levels of interactive design.
Where Presentation Design Fits into It
The development and emergence of these disciplines of design have been largely chronological. However, the big question that is most relevant to us today is; where does Presentation Design sit? People from these discipline think that Presentation Design sits outside the scope of Graphic Design altogether.
I’ve met many professional and highly skilled Graphic Designers across all these disciplines who will simply not touch Presentations. Why? Because there is a significant stigma associated with working within the programs available to create presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc). Some blame lack of features, some blame inexperience and some blame operability. It ultimately stems from the elitism of specialist Graphic Design software and the ‘commonness’ of Presentation Design software.
I see PowerPoint a little differently. I see it as a tool that can encompass all of these design aspects. There are pros and cons of using PowerPoint as a tool to produce designs. However, you don’t often come across a program that allows you to seamlessly integrates animation into the design all the while allowing the end user to navigate themselves. It also allows you to navigate an audience through a non-linear presentation based on the need of the audience.
Nearly everyone with a computer has PowerPoint. Anyone can open the program, create some slides, some bullet points and press ‘Start Slide-show’. This does not make them a Presentation Designer. The hurdle we need to overcome is not introducing Presentation Design to the world, the hurdle is to show the world what Presentation Design SHOULD be.
The good news is that a Presentation Designer is always in relatively high demand. Industry demand will only ever grow for this service as pitches and inter-business presentations become more competitive. Many companies are moving from ‘getting whoever knows how to use PowerPoint in the office’ to ‘getting a professional with knowledge of audience communication and best practice in designing for these circumstances’.
In conclusion, do you think that the Graphic Design industry eventually accept Presentation Design (and by extension, PowerPoint) as a new specialisation?