Reducing Fluff: Killing Clip arts.

by Oliver Adria on 01/03/2009

Perfection is reached, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupery.I love simplicity whenever I see it. It just gives me a sense of relief and lightness when I see it. When buying anything it will be one of the criteria that I look for and that is why I love so many of the Apple Gadgets (especially the iPod Shuffle). When designing these electronic gadgets, Apple focuses on the core functions of the device and gets rid of the unnecessary extras that just decrease the usability; these extras make it even harder to use the things.

Which brings me to clip arts. Most presenters today try to add as many clip arts as possible on to their slides (clip arts are those tiny little graphics / cartoons) – ugh!! Whenever I see one (or more) clip arts on a presentation (especially on the first slide!) I’m already disappointed and think to myself: I hope at least the storytelling is good. And then if he/she starts reading off the slides… I’ll try to find the nearest exit.

Sometimes these clip arts are humorous, but rarely do they add to the core message that the presenter is trying to communicate, they are a distraction of what is to be communicate. With clip arts I mean those little cartoon graphics that you can usually buy in the hundreds at a time (a lot of them are also included in the MS Office packages); it’s a different thing if it’s a cleanly designed symbol or image that is carefully placed on a slide in order to accentuate what’s on the slide.


But if you’re just going to plaster your slides with numerous clip arts, rethink that thought. There’s no real good reason to use cheap clip arts. They might somehow seem relevant to the slides (e.g. two people shaking hands as a symbol for “cooperation”, or the globe as a symbol for “international”), but they are – in my opinion – really annoying. If you are going to use images, try to use well-resolutioned images/pictures (iStockphoto has loads of them at affordable prices and if you want a more extensive list, presentationzen shows some more options ).

If you use a well-designed graphic that fits the story, that’s fine. But don’t use those “cheap” clip arts. Ever!

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