Notes from Duarte Design Visual Storytelling Workshop

We expect facts to speak for themselves. They rarely do, and even when they do, they need to be storytold with emotion to be brought to life, so that they mean something. Otherwise, they are just facts. Accurate, but lifeless. Full of unrealized potential.

Like the frog at the bottom of a well. Set the frog free and watch it leap.

Duarte Design’s Visual Storytelling workshop helped me understand some of the basic principles behind doing exactly this.

Here are some notes that I took.

Never present anything that you wouldn’t sit through
Quantity/ not quality during ideation

The Audience is the hero. Not you.

Use their language. “We”. Emotion. Names. Call out.

Do not pontificate opinions. Attention span is 5 min
If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. Take a risk, lose the fear.

Peace, Love and Set the Data Free



  • MLK (“I have a dream”)
  • Nehru (“Tryst with destiny”)
  • Steve Jobs (iPhone)
  • Sir Ken Robinson
  • Hans Rosling
  • Richard Feynman


Companies that think about and prioritize design (IDEO, Apple, …) outperformed the others in the NASDAQ by 228% in the last 10 years.


PoV                 +              Stakes                     = The Big Idea

What’s our unique PoV       + What happens if we don’t do/adopt XYZ                      = If _________, then _______will happen

E.g. Our Software does…..+ ….,which gives you…..,…….                                     …..and ……will happen


Call them to adventure

Move them to Believing and Behaving in your message > Get them unstuck

For diverse audiences, think broadly. Prioritize -> understand culture -> write stories



Generating ideas

Past > Present > Future Need Vs. Fulfilment Your PoV Vs. Alternate PoV Resistance Vs. Acceptance Sacrifice Vs. Gain



The hero’s journey: the tension between the beginning, the middle and the end

Likeable hero

> Encounters roadblocks

> Emerges transformed

The structure of a great presentation:

Start with (executive presentations):

  • A New Bliss
  • The Call to Action to get to the new bliss
  • and then…..                                                                             
What is
(The world without your idea)
What could be

(The world with your idea)

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – What is What could be


  • Data, information, facts, your plan…are all the What is
  • The new world, the change you will bring…are the What will be
  • The Big Idea should be in the middle….around the 30% mark
  • With senior executives running short on time, The New Bliss needs to come first, followed by Call to Action…tell them what this about and they will get it


Slides are:

  • Documents (use SlideDocs format to communicate complex ideas- for send ahead purposes- visually effective as handouts)
  • Teleprompter material (bullet points….the worst kind…never present if possible)
  • Presentations…these get the big messages across.

    One Idea Per Slide.


Get the message across in 2 seconds.

Most people start by looking at your image before they read the text. People retain information best with Visual and Narration (UCSB study)



Turn words into images, but No Clip Art please!

Throw out your first thought. Likely a cliché’. (E.g. Security could be a lock, but that is very clichéd. How about a blanket or even a police shield (dynamism>superior)

Draw word trees to get there



People read in Z patterns

OK to not have titles. Titles as messages are better than titles as phrases

More slides is better. More slides with less content

One slide every 2 minutes is 1980 and for people who like to hear themselves too much

Look into push and build transitions in PowerPoint



Pick the right tools for the job (Tableau , Animations with Gap Minder,…)

When you put up data, always explain why (“Why did that blip happen on that chart?”)

Read Tufte and Stephen Few

Highlight what’s important and tell the truth- no 3D graphs please

Remove grids from charts. Use grids for images



Exercise and get 10000 steps while working from home. Presentations improve.

Consistency. Do not split up slides between people.

Get access to a creative designer.



~ by aratnam on December 20, 2015.

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