Not So Obvious
When I say, "Presentation matters", you might scoff, believing this to be so obvious, it doesn't bear mentioning. But, in fact, it does.
As design professionals we grow accustomed to developing ideas and reviewing work in progress. We “see” the comp or the rough idea in our mind’s eye for the finished work it will become. And at times we mistakenly project our comfort level onto others, assuming they can also see through the reality of work in progress to envision the finished product as we “see” it.
The truth is, no matter how carefully you position the work as “not finished”, “in-progress”, etc., people form opinions based on what you show them; not what you tell them it will be.
This is not to say that everything we share must be work complete or for that matter that good design and elaborate presentations will elevate bad ideas. Neither are true. I am suggesting, however, that we must consider the sophistication of the audience and that a hasty or ill-prepared presentation can absolutely hurt a good idea, obscure real talent and undermine credibility.
A Case In Point
One of the most vivid examples of this principle came about while I was leading a team designing a set-top box application. The lead developer had just completed some core functionality and was pretty excited to share it with the rest of the team. He called us all together for an ad hoc demo at his workstation. The application interface consisted of what we affectionately refer to as “programmer art”, a euphemism for stand-in graphics which rarely resemble “art”.
The demo went smoothly and it definitely represented technical progress, but it was clear to me the developer was disappointed with the understated response he received. After the team dispersed, I asked the developer if we could drop in the UI assets the graphics team had been designing. He shared that he thought it was a bit early, so but could easily do so if I insisted. I did.
The next morning, we all gathered around the developer's workstation once again and he walked us through the same demo from the day before, but this time with the ready-for-prime-time user interface assets.
After the demo the team was literally squealing with delight. “Awesome, dude! You rock!” High fives all around. When everyone got back to work, my lead developer seemed even more befuddled than he was the day before.
When I enquired, he said, “I don’t get it. This is the exact same demo I shared yesterday to a lukewarm response.” I smiled and said, “Actually, it’s not.”
Challenged by my comment, he raised his voice a bit, saying, "Yes, it is. All I changed were the graphics.”
To which I responded. "And, that’s why it was a different demo."
In other words, presentation matters.
For more articles by Steve Lomas, visit Digital Bits at blog.stevelomas.me.