Poster design: "If you have to explain it, it ain't workin' "

Currently I am in the process of reading book after book about graphics design and typography and it interesting to see see the similarities and differences between presentation slide design and poster design.
  • Similarity: both are meant to communicate a message instantly
  • Difference: designers think days/weeks about a single poster, slides are usually slapped together in 15 minutes.
This TED video of famous graphics designer Milton Glaser (you know the I heart NY campaign) popped up in my Twitter stream this week (Tweeted in 2011, recorded in 1998).

It sparks a few thoughts:
  • It always interesting to hear these very senior, experienced people speak in very abstract language: they can make a short point and their eyes show that they just shared an incredible insight with you.  The ultimate curse of knowledge: I need a few decades more of life experience to grasp it. A bit similar to me saying to my children: "really it does not matter how many toys you have, believe me". Response: blank stare.
  • Milton summarizes the essence of designing a poster: "If you have to explain it, it ain't working". I guess here is where the distinction between art and design comes in, an artist might be happy with an ambiguous interpretation of her work, the poster (and presentation) designer's job is it to get a specific message across.
  • It was very interesting for me to see/hear Milton describe the creative process he goes through when designing a poster. Maybe we should invest a similar amount of time into designing a slide for a presentation?
And here is the biggest idea that got me thinking. We simply do not have the time to create a deck of 25 posters, and we do not have to. The 5-year P&L forecast is a 5-year P&L forecast. But there are always a few key slides in the presentation that bring together your entire idea. Instead of a "stunning" stock image (sense the cynicism?), a boring 2x2, 5 bullet points, maybe create a page in which you experiment a bit with typography and sell your idea in one poster to the audience?