1) Colin Wheildon’s Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes
2) Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
Wheildon’s book is a frontal assault on the lame-o typography mistakes that continue to occur today (especially in the amateur design Web arena). His findings are backed up by in-depth research about comprehension and reader retention.
Reynolds’ book is a more elegant assault on similar miscues in the world of PowerPoint and Keynote… or just presentations in general.
My simple recommendation?
Buy these books. Dog-ear these books. Keep them near Strunk and White. Savor them, review them, revere them, spoon them.
They’re gold and will help you win projects and the hearts of your clients.
Here’s a taste from Presentation Zen that talks about the “picture superiority effect”:
“When information recall is measured just after exposure to a series of pictures or a series of words, the recall for pictures and words is about equal. However, the picture superiority effect applies when the time after exposure is more than 30 seconds, according to research cited in Universal Principles of Design (Rockport Publishers). ‘Use the picture superiority effect to improve the recognition and recall of key information. Use pictures and words together, and ensure that they reinforce the same information for optimal effect,’ say the authors… The effect is strongest when the pictures represent common, concrete things.”
And from Wheildon’s masterpiece:
“.. the average advertisement is read by only four percent of the people on their way through the publication it appears in. Most of the time this is the fault of the so-called “art director” who designs advertisements. If he is an aesthete at heart – and most of them are – he doesn’t care a damn if anybody reads the words. He regards them as mere elements in his pretty design. In many cases he blows away half the readers by choosing the wrong type. But he doesn’t care. He should be boiled in oil.” [my emphasis]
These two guys think deeply about design, and they offer lots of undeniable proof for their theses.
If you’re a copywriter, art director, Web designer, SEO monger, marketing director (or VP or CMO), or a layout/design guru, please pick these up and study them. Your job is not finished when you complete your piece of the creative puzzle. You need to understand the other disciplines to make sure you’ve created something that’s usable, appreciated, and understood by your consuming audiences.