Bleeding your Presentation

It’s time to talk about bleeding. Bleeding is a technique used by graphic designers in which the image extends all the way to (or even beyond)  the edges of a page or slide.

In the slide below, the image is not bleeding. The picture of the tractor is smaller than the entire slide, leaving a white border around the image that is essentially wasted, unusable space.

Slide with picture that doesn't fill screen

In this version, we have the same elements as the slide above, but now the image bleeds. The picture was expanded to fill the slide. Compare the two. What do you think about the differences? Research in graphic design says that a bleeding picture has a larger impact on the audience and communicates that the topic at hand extends out into the real world.

Slide with picture that fills screen

To bleed an image, click on it and drag a corner handle so that the picture increases in size. See the picture below – notice the circles that activate around the edges of the picture when I clicked on it? Those are the handles I’m referring to here. It’s super important to drag a corner handle, as this keeps the image’s height and width proportionate. Otherwise, the image becomes distorted and makes the speaker look like an amateur. If, for some reason, corner-handle-dragging isn’t keeping the proportion in check, right-click on the image and choose Size and Position. In the dialogue box that opens, make sure Lock aspect ratio is checked (I’m working in PowerPoint 2010 here, folks).

Expand picture by dragging corner handle

As my friend Ann Emery pointed out, sometimes the picture isn’t proportioned the same as a slide and thus can’t fill it up in a full bleed. What then? Use a partial bleed. The slides below show two possible options. In these cases, the picture still touches three of the slide edges. The bottom line is that touching an edge almost always looks more professional and makes a stronger impact than not touching an edge, even if the picture can only touch one. In other words, bleed at least a little, somewhere.

Picture fills top two-thirds of slide

Picture fills right half of slide

What Bad Grouping Looks Like

Toy designers beware. Do not put your products into my little dude’s hands because I am an ex-teacher AND now I’m a professional evaluator AND I care about design. Look, just LOOK, at this deck of cards my son came home with. Notice the problem (aside from the fact they are shaped like snowmen)?

The issue, you noticed, is that the category markers (symbol and number) are too close and too similar to the actual counting symbols placed in the middle of the card.

Here’s the corresponding lesson for evaluation report authors: when we use headers to signal an organization to a report, make the header really really really clearly different from the narrative text. When working with headers, we can use font, color, and other emphasis techniques to make the headers clearly distinguished from the text.

Now, with these playing cards, they may not be able to change the color – but there are other options. The category markers could be much smaller. Or much larger.  Or positioned further away from the counting symbols in the middle. The counting symbols in the middle could also be squished closer together. In other words, there could be better grouping of elements (graphic designer Timothy Samara calls this technique “squish and separate” in his awesome book Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual).

PS. The blogging schedule will cut in half to twice per month – I’ve got a book to put out! Sage has contracted with me to write a book on evaluation reporting, scheduled to be released in Spring 2014.

Releasing the Evaluation Report Layout Checklist

So I made this lovely checklist of graphic design best practices as a product of my dissertation (Standing Rule: If you want to know the details of my dissertation, you’ll have to buy me a drink). It included input from a panel of graphic designers including Peter Brakeman, Christy Kloote, Chris Metzner, and Kevin Brady.

I’ve been having such a great time travelling around the country, giving workshops on the checklist and using graphic design to improve the way we communicate in evaluation. But I’ve gotten overwhelmed with requests for the checklist, so I’ve decided to make it freely available:

Enjoy! And do post comments on your use of the checklist. (Well, your nice comments anyway.)