[caption id="attachment_423" align="alignright" width="231" caption="Kashi designed a beautiful document, but confusingly presented it as a slideshow"][/caption] I received a monthly e-mail newsletter from SlideRocket, an online presentation service. Featured under their Presentation Showcase was a SlideRocket presentation created by Kashi, the San Diego based whole foods company. I clicked on the link and was taken to a beautifully designed, visually appealing presentation... I mean document. No, they were definitely slides... but, they're in portrait orientation... wait a minute!! (You can view the presentation here.)
I was greatly confused. I liked what I was seeing, but felt weird clicking through slides that looked like 8.5x11" pages. I quickly realized that I was looking at the ultimate incarnation of what Presentation Zen's Garr Reynolds calls a "slideument." As Garr explains,
"Slides are slides. Documents are documents. They aren't the same thing. Attempts to merge them result in what I call the 'slideument' (slide + document = slideument)."
Slideuments are a symptom of ignorance and, to a degree, laziness. Conference organizers tend to require their speakers to submit their presentation slides to be used as handouts or to otherwise be distributed to attendees. More and more, college professors distribute their lecture slides to their students as a form of notes – all but obliterating the need for students to pay attention in class and take notes. This creates a design dilemma, because well designed slides do not function well as a document. What these organizers and professors don't understand is that the purpose of slides is completely different from the purpose of a document. Paraphrasing from Edward Tufte, slides have a low density of information while documents have a high density of information. In other words, slides are a visual supplement to the main medium of information (the lecturer) while documents are the main medium of information. Instead of combining the two into a slideument, they should be creating two separate versions of the document – one for reading, the other for presenting.
Kashi's Yearbook celebrating their "25 Years of Passion for Positive Eating" was an incredibly well designed document full of great information divided into 7 sections. It was information dense. Presenting it page by page in a slideshow, however, added no functionality. If anything, it lessened the effectiveness of the document by constraining the viewable size of the document and forcing the reader to move in a linear fashion. If the document had also been redesigned specifically to be presented as slides, it would have been much more effective.
In an upcoming post, I will present some solutions to the slideument conundrum. I will share examples of how to fill the needs of conference organizers and teachers by utilizing notes and/or creating two documents.
Update: After some more consideration, and comments from readers, I've written a follow up post clarifying the problems with this presentation and suggesting a new term for the Kashi dilemma – docuslides.