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Five facts that prove great slide design makes audiences more receptive

Humans process 36,000 visual cues every hour. The same study also proved that 80% of information processed by the brain is visual.

From deciding what to wear and what to buy, we depend on visual cues to dictate our decisions. With so much depending on what we see, design has become a crucial element in communicating any kind of information.

In the world of business, companies that put an emphasis on design outperform those that don’t by 200%. 

A 2005 study also revealed design's positive effect on key performance indicators in business. Companies that increased their investment on design realized positive benefits from turnover and profit, to market share and competitiveness.

Common misconceptions about design defines it as a means to maintain aesthetics. 

However, design isn't just about “looking pretty.” Visual appeal is just a consequence of design, but it’s not the end goal. 

More than looks, design is a tool that helps us provide clarity in communicating information. It provides tangible real value such as ease-of-use or legibility.

In the world of presentations, this is doubly true.

I always say there are three elements to any great presentation:

1. What you say — the story and copy

2. How you say it — the delivery

3. What you show — the visuals

The visual component is something I have always personally placed a ton of emphasis on.

Great design can make your deck. Poor design can break your deck.

Don't think design is that important? Here are five data-backed reasons why slide design makes your audience more receptive.

Fact #1 - Humans are innately visual learners

According to Neil Fleming’s VAK (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic) Theory, 65% of people are visual learners. As opposed to verbal explanation, visual reference helps people understand ideas, concepts, and topics easily.

Fact #2 - Visuals increase comprehension

In e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer’s book revealed that the median of student performance increased by 89% when text-based instructions were accompanied by visuals. The study revealed that correct answers dwindled to less than 40% with text-based instructions alone.

Fact #3 - Color improves memory retention

A study conducted in 2013 revealed a correlation between memory retention and color. The research concluded that color helps the brain memorize certain information by increasing our attention level. Researchers Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifli and Muhammad Faiz Mustafar believed that “the more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage.”

Fact #4 - Good design captures attention

Dr. Gitte Lindgaard conducted a study to determine visual appeal in a matter of milliseconds. In the study, Dr. Lindgaard and colleagues from Carleton University in Ottawa showed websites to participants in a span of 50 milliseconds. The participants were then asked to determine which websites made a good impression in terms of visual appeal. After this, Dr. Lindgaard repeated the exercise but this time, with a longer viewing period. The researchers found the ratings to be consistent to their initial impression. The key takeaway? Good design can make a good impression even within 50 milliseconds.

Fact #5 - Humans think prettier things are more valuable

Steven Bradley, the author of Design Fundamentals: Elements, Attributes, & Principles claims that humans have a natural bias to attractive things. According to him, we perceive beautiful things as better regardless if they actually are. He also adds that we actually believe that beautiful things function better as function can follow form.

Putting it in to action

Science points to the fact that humans are highly-visual beings who depend on visual cues for their day-to-day decisions. As presentation authors, this emphasizes the importance of design in communicating your key message. 

So the next time you've just got some bullet points on a page, ask yourself “how can I tell this story visually?”

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