It’s no secret that design matters. By now–thanks to companies like Pixar, Google and Apple–consumers have realized that the devil is in the details, and small tweaks to the look and feel of products can make a big difference. But many people don’t realize that design affects every aspect of our lives—everything from your workplace to your Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. In the same way you notice when stairs feel too far apart, everyone (even non-designer types) notices when sentences are too long and words start to blur together.
You may think you can leave all of the nice formatting (and font obsession) to the designers on your team, but how your work looks matters. Even if the word “design” appears nowhere in your job description, media and technology have made our attention spans too short for poorly designed projects and products. Bad user interface on your website? Delete. Word doc that’s too long or a presentation with pixelated images? Time for some cat videos. Good design is more important than ever.
So if you don’t consider yourself a “creative” type, how do you make your work feel nicely designed?
Well, let’s ask the experts.
IDEO is a design firm with a cult-like following. They’ve worked on projects as tricky as helping kids make better choices around food, and as iconic as the computer mouse. But while their products and services are well designed from a visual standpoint, their more interesting contribution is a concept they call “design thinking.”
According to their website, this has been defined as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
People. Technology. Business.
IDEO knows that the best result comes from a combination of these things, and this mindset can be applied to nearly everything. Empathy for people is at the core of what they do.
So how do you treat presentations, Word docs, and all of your other exciting work projects like a design problem?
Here are three things to ask yourself the next time you're getting ready to present your work:
Step 1 - People
Start by asking questions about what you’re trying to do:
- What's the main point you’re trying to convey?
- What do you want your audience to learn or understand?
Make that point the focus of your work, and select an image or images accordingly. Build prototypes and test them on guinea pigs (not real ones). Do research. Observe. Record. Kind of like… an anthropologist. Hey, nice!
Step 2 - Technology
- How can technology help me achieve step one?
- Would a slide show with progressing photos help me to present my work, or just distract from it?
- Could I use Excel creatively for a nice-looking table?
- Or maybe I want something physical?
Brainstorm at least three different options for tools.
Step 3 - Business
Finally, business. While most companies think first about their bottom line, if you think about people first, business will follow. Nice design conveys top quality, and if you can build a reputation for yourself and your business as being high quality, your bottom line may just wiggle its way up the ladder.
Psst! A big hint from us: Use images! We’re biased, but there’s a lot that can be said using photos, clipart and presentation images that'll help you communicate clearly and get your point across faster.
Innovation and creativity are, unfortunately, nothing like riding a bike; every time you go around the block, the journey is a little different. Instead, a better analogy might be cooking. You can get it down to a science, but a true chef is going to throw in unexpected ingredients, experimenting until she knows what works together and what doesn’t. Too much salt. Too few images. Too many words. Learning on the job may involve some risks, but it’ll surely make you a better coworker (and will probably make your job a lot more fun). Trust us on this one.
Get free clipart and images to illustrate your work using the Pickit Free Images app.
Who wrote this?
This was posted by Anneli L. Tostar, a Harvard-trained anthropologist and artist, originally from Portland, Oregon. She now lives in Stockholm and is studying urban planning and design. Anneli speaks five languages and understands none of them.