Designer = Master or Jack?

In reading slide:ology by Nancy Duarte, a book all about presentation design, I begin to wonder whether a great designer is a master in one area or a jack of all trades. There are general design principles that everyone must know and  use regardless of their medium (composition, color, content, flow), but what about the technical knowledge? In this book Duarte suggests that to design great slides you should learn/be skilled in:

  • Photography – So you don’t have to rely on stock images to have a picture that gets your message across best.
  • Illustration – Not necessarily with software, but she suggests several times to draw something by hand and scan it so you can use it in your presentation.
  • Photo Manipulation – At least be knowledgeable enough to edit your scanned drawings to remove the background and adjust the color.
  • Animation – (At least what you can do in presentation software) So you can control the use of space and the flow of your content.
  • Typesetting – So you can fix problems (kerning, line spacing, etc.) in the typeface you’re using.
  • Print Layouts – Because your presentation should use minimal text, you might want to provide a handout to your meeting attendees that they can take with them and refer to later.

If I were only worried about making presentations for myself then I could just focus on the style that fits my voice and not worry about the other tools. But what do you do if you’re the designer creating presentations for your clients? Do you need to be highly proficient at all of these skills or is it better to be part of a team where each person excels at one thing?

Maybe the answer lies in whether you’re trying to make it as a freelancer or part or a firm. What do you think? Where do your strengths lie?


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