Blog > Rediscovering typography (and converted to slideshows)

December 13, 2008

I’m rediscovering typography.

Way back in the 1970s, when I got my first job, fresh out of agricultural college, I fell into a job that would shape me, influence my choices and provide me with knowledge and skills useful even now. Who would have thought?

I had a pretty lowly job, but it was working in the agricultural industry and it was my first step to realising my dream of becoming a journalist.

Harry Pobjoy was an editor. The old-fashioned type, using a blue pencil. He didn’t write much – he was such a good editor he was in huge demand. Not only did he edit my writing, he also patiently explained what he changed and why. 

Rod Patterson had been editor-in-chief at one of Melbourne’s daily newspapers. He was sick of the grind and took a job where he could indulge his passion for cattle and chooks – writing about them at least. 

Eustace Rulach had also been an editor-in-chief, in Ceylon, before it became Sri Lanka. He left with nothing and came to Australia with his skills and enthusiasm.

Frank Moore was a Vietnam vet, from a farm and a graphic artist. An unusual combination. He taught me about grids and layout and design. He was creative and passionate and great fun to be around.

Owen Foulkes was an artist. He drew exquisite drawings.

So here I was: 20-something, and surrounded by this enormous talent. I soaked up their talent, learning by simply being a part of the team. 

I owe a lot to Harry, Rod, Eustace, Frank and Owen.

Fast forward to the present and I’ve come full circle. I’ve become a convert to powerpoint. Well that’s not exactly true. I MUCH prefer Keynote (but you’ll already know about my Apple bias). While a few years ago I would have said slideshows (whether created with ppt or keynote) had no place in facilitation, today I think differently. My eyes have been opened by Garr Reynolds and his fabulous Presentation Zen site; I’ve found enormous talent on Slideshare; Geoff Brown’s enthusiasm for slideshows is inspiring – to the point where I’ve had to re-assess my previous ambivalence, nay dismissiveness, of slideshows.

What’s changed? Well, I’ve experimented with making some slideshows of my own (you can see examples over there on the left). And it’s fun! And it’s allowing me to use all those things I learnt about communication when I was a journalist and to indulge my passion for great design and typography.

Don’t get me wrong – I certainly don’t profess to be an expert in any of these areas. I’ve always searched out great graphic designers to do what they do best. It’s always a joy to work with people who are talented, enthusiastic and creative. Great graphic designers have these qualities in spades.

Facilitation is also about communication – providing the vehicle for people to communicate their messages and engage with others. I’ve now come to understand that great slideshows can help deliver the rational aim (purpose) and the experiential aim (the mood or experience) in an effective way. (Caveat: bad slideshows have NO place in a facilitated workshops – they distract, divert attention and make my job all the harder as I try and re-engage the participants.)

Which brings me back to typography. Great typography can also communicate much. I was inspired to write about this because of this post by Garr Reynolds. And this video, The Girl Effect, epitomises what’s possible with kinetic type. It’s an excellent use of kinetic type; an excellent way to deliver a powerful message in under three minutes; and a message I fully subscribe to.



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