I have been seeing and reading several posts/articles that give me a sense that there may be a difference of opinion among designers. It seems to me that some think a great presentation is better than a great idea/solution, while some think the opposite is true.
I tend to think that as designers we can use our skills to identify problems and come up with valid solutions, but if we cannot communicate those ideas successfully to others through our presentations than our ideas may not matter .
So I am wondering what do people think? What value should we put on each aspect of design? In the long run is it better to have a great idea and show it with a bad or mediocre presentation or have bad or mediocre idea with a great presentation? In an ideal situation you would of course have both a great idea and presentation, but when its crunch time where do you focus your efforts in order to get the thumbs up from the teacher/boss/client?
I will tell you in advance I have a strong bias against rockstar designers. (see Coretoons Rockstar and Cog)
I will say that I might have good, smart product design but if the presention is not complete or looks quickly thrown together it doesn’t matter how good the product is. I think it depends on who is looking at the work. I think a lot of designer can see past the presentation good or bad and see the real meat of the work. But a normal business person,( you know the people who buy the product) can be swayed by a pretty, shiny presentation. The bottom line is without both you won’t last very long.
I’ve got to agree with that - one of the troubles I’ve had in life is easily communicating my thoughts. If you have an idea, advice, suggestions, etc, and you can’t clearly portray them to other people, you aren’t much better off than having nothing. My weakness is coming up with explanations/concepts on-the-spot, given preparation time I know I can do a decent job.
Of course, the hardest questions are the ones you don’t expect, and the people asking hope you have answers.
And what if all you can come up with is crap? I like to think everything I come up with will be great, but there’s going to be times in everyone’s career (no matter what your job is) where nothing has quite gone right. I think in that case I’d just do the best I can with the idea, put in extra on the presentation, and hopefully there’s enough traction to get back in focus.
In my opinion, presentation/communication and the idea are not comparable to each other.
This goes for ID/Product design. In concept art or entertainment design, this is might be different as well as in graphic work and packaging/pop.
The product idea is what will survive, not the presentation that helped get it on the road. Without a doubt, if the presentation is sloppy a great idea will be handicapped before it even leaves the gate and wont get the chance to make it out of concept stage.
I blame many bad and inappropriate designs that flood the market on the fact that clients have been charmed by great presentations of mediocre product ideas. Pepsi Re-brand by Arnell Group come to mind.
Sounds like the bottom line is without a strong presentation your product may never make it out of the developmental stages, and a weak product won’t last long once it’s produced and will be a black mark on your design record. This is why we work late nights and weekends, to make sure everything is just as we want it. And even with the extra effort sometimes it’s still a flop. I don’t expect to hit home runs every time I present, but I try to.
IMHO focus energy on ideas as they are the foundation of a project, but remember presentations are not always about spending 10 hours making some photo realistic rendering. You can also paint pictures with words, sell ideas with scribbles on the backs of napkins etc. The key is to carefully involve your teacher/boss/client early on, way before you get to the presentation of the final piece, so they’re not seeing it for the first time, they’ve already bought into it a little, feel like they’ve had an input and are on board.
Skyarrow pretty much nailed it, always know your audience.
By that meaning understanding what their backgrounds are and what they care most about. You can present a group of sketches to a group of designers and have meaningful dialogue because they understand this communication medium. Do the same thing (and i have) with marketing/sales people and generally the impression is that you aren’t finished working on your design to a point to be taken seriously, or, they view it as early stages and start to interject all kinds of changes. Marketing/sales understand marketing/sales so change your style/format accordingly, present some polish, stick to the key points, and use lots of positive adjectives.
As a side note quite a few people have been following Steve Jobs presentation style as though he’s some kind of presentation genius. It doesn’t hurt that he has a huge fan base and most of the people he presents to have already bought into Apple, but he does have a talent to simply and positively convey ideas and concepts.
I think that as a professional you will see the the presentation has to be great in that it neither adds to or detracts from your concept which has to be great. To elaborate, let’s theorize that great concepts don’t necessarily need to be game changing or overly innovative, they just need to be strong in concept and expertly and professionally executed in the context of your company. Then your presentation, much like your portfolio case, needs to be good enough to be forgotten immediately.
Steve Jobs isn’t a designer, he is a figurehead, so part of his job is to make presentations, so I think his great presentation may be on a different plane of reference than your great presentation. For you, and most of us here a great presentation probably entails delivering all pertinent information in a compelling and concise manner.
But you do need good presentation-skills to sell your idea. So If you don’t know how to draw/sketch = communicating your idea you are nowhere. I do hate that many designers/students think the presentation is the goal. It is not. It is a tool for communicating/selling your ideas. I’d much rather see some dirty mock-ups and fast ideations/explorations on paper than a 2days digital drawing or rendering of a mediocre or bad idea. Which is often the case. A nice drawing of a bad idea doesn’t uplift the idea, it is still a bad idea. A bad drawing of a good idea is still a good idea.
My ideal workflow would be:
day 1: 1st brainstorming and exploring > about 100 (post-it) sketches
day2: 2nd brainstorming and exploring > about 100 (post-it) sketches
These sketches are communicated to the client for feedback and guidance.
day3: building fast mock-ups and researching/exploring the chosen ideas further
day5: clustering of ideas and combining them into 5+ concepts
day6: Creating the presentations/persuasive drawings
day7: Creating the presentations/persuasive drawings
So my ideal workflow would be 70% idea-generation/exploring/testing/ and 30% getting the ideas presentable/sellable
Off course this is (mostly) not always the case due to time-constraints.
Some are able to turn the rules on their head - my ex-ex boss had an ability to sell an idea with nothing but charm and a Jedi-like ability to influence. He could present a napkin sketch and have universal stakeholder approval and complements on the innovative napkin approach.
I think that besides having a dynamic style, where he basically never stopped physically moving, he also stayed totally focussed on the desired outcome of whatever he was doing - he would not for instance fine tune a presentation because some text was in slightly the wrong place - he was focussed on what was the minimum needed to sell an idea. As atohms said, the presentation is a tool for selling the idea only.
So he had a great idea AND a great presentation. To me that sounds like an awesome presentation. However you do it, if you can shock and awe a group of typically more business minded types into green lighting a multi million dollar investment for tooling, production, distribution, and marketing costs… you probably made a GREAT presentation. If your prop was a napkin sketch or a laser sintered model, doesn’t matter… we just got a couple of laser sintering machines… so cool.