Here are some of my favorite presentation design resources – books, magazines, podcasts, websites and tools. Check them out and let me know what you think! (Note: I don’t receive any affiliate income for my recommendations, they’re just resources for your education!)
There are a lot of presentation design resources out there…make sure you read the Amazon reviews before you go purchase happy…there are a lot of bad design books or ones that don’t really expand your horizons. I’m going to stick to the principle of “if you can’t say anything nice” and refrain from specifically calling out a few that I think are a waste of money but just do your diligence before you waste your money and time! Also remember that even great design can age poorly and go out of style. So I advise against buying any ‘actionable’ design books that are more than 5 years old as a rule of thumb.
by Don Norman
If you’re at all interested in design you’ve probably heard about this book (or the numerous podcasts, videos, TED talks or articles that have revisited its pages). Don Norman’s classic on design really stands the test of time (largely because he doesn’t delve into the specifics of modern technology to make his points).
This book will help you understand how design plays an integral role in how we interact with the everyday world around us – from doors to phone systems. By stopping to think about the impact of design in these ordinary objects you’ll gain a greater appreciation for applying design techniques to your data and presentations for the highest impact.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
by Eric Ries
If you haven’t already read Ries’s tome on startups and the iterative process, do it now! A lot of the advice contained within his pages seems like common sense now but was really ground-breaking stuff when he wrote the book.
Take to heart the lessons of 1) realizing you don’t know everything (even if you have design training) 2) that you should listen to your customers/users and 3) that you really do need to live in a cycle of continuous iteration and improvement.
Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug
Just like Lean Startup, Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” offered such solid advice when it was first introduced in 2000 that we now regard much of it as “common sense” that we take for granted when it comes to design and web usability.
From user testing to cognitive load, his concepts seem so basic now but were really revolutionary when he put pen to paper. The book was last updated in 2014 to modernize examples but its lessons are the same – and it’s worth the read. Even if you find yourself saying “duh,” reading through his lessons will help you articulate concepts and reasoning to help justify design decisions to your clients.
by Ed Swires-Hennessy
Published in Oct 2014, this book is a very nuts and bolts approach to cleaning up table designs. Swires meticulously walks you through best practices that he’s accumulated over a long career as a government statistician in the UK. If table design isn’t your thing this will be a little bit of a dry read, but it’s a great reference tome on tables.
I recommend using it as a reference as you’re working with actual tables so that you can immediately apply his principles. This hands-on approach will allow you to see the effect of his recommendations.
Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences
by Nancy Duarte
Nancy Duarte has been in the presentation space for over 20 years. Her firm, Duarte has created over a quarter of a million presentations for some pretty impressive clients.
Resonate is almost workbook-like in its approach to developing a presentation. It’s largely focused on the onstage presentations (think TED-style) but it’s a great basis for crafting your story and engaging your audience. Again, be prepared for a deep dive into some topics that might not be essential to getting your presentation done – feel free to skim those pages. Overall, this book will help you understand how to position yourself as an authority and engage your audience to action.
slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
by Nancy Duarte
Slide:ology is a great book to have in your design library. Published in 2008 getting a little dated at this point (as would any book on practical design) but still offers some good fundamentals on design basics like color diagrams, data, etc.
by Stephanie Evergreen
Focused specifically on data presentation, this book will help you understand the most impactful ways to present your data. Pie chart? Bar graph? Line graph?
This is a great book for beginners or non-designers to get a feel for the most effective ways to portray data. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything ground-breaking here but it’s a quick enough read that will flesh out some of the reasoning behind your instincts for data presentation.
I am an admitted web tool junkie. I love anything that makes life easier – and if it’s in the cloud, even better. I’m a sucker for slick interfaces and refined usability. Here are some of my favorite online tools for both handling my internal operations and working with clients.
Google Drive – Sharing Documents
So this isn’t exactly a hidden gem…lots of people know about and use Google Docs and I’m one of them! I know there are G-doc haters, but I have to say, as far as project collaboration goes it’s by far the easiest to use tool for sharing and editing documents and spreadsheets…especially for tracking version history.
Trello – Visual Project Management
I love, love, love Trello. There are a lot of project management tools out there (Redbooth, Asana, Basecamp, Podio, Huddle, etc.) and at one point or another, I’ve had to use each of them.
By far, the easiest to learn and manage is Trello. Why? Because it’s visual, list-based and intuitive. It’s a designer’s project management tool that’s easy for anyone to learn quickly. It has everything I need to do anything I want. Last summer in Mountain View I ran into a random Trello employee at a Starbucks…you would have thought I just met a rockstar!
All of my projects (including household chores) live on my Trello boards. I highly recommend it!
There really is something to be said for not reinventing the wheel. Good templates abound and are really quite inexpensive these days. I love Graphic River (and the Envato market in general) as a source for quality materials. You know exactly what you get and often get to see live, full-sized demos of the product.
A word of caution – I encourage you to use templates as a jumping off point…just because a slide design is included in a template package doesn’t mean it’s great, and doesn’t mean you have to use it.