Lecture Slides… and how to NOT present them

Well, presently I’m reading through the semester’s lecture slides to familiarise myself with the content I’m going to be examined on shortly.

And I’m noticing there are some bad habits that lecturers seem to be keen on repeating… again, and again.  Here’s some of my pet hates, as a student.  These relate to the presentation of the material we’re given, the actual format they’re provided in is another matter.

Many of these were provided in PDF, which is good.  My first niggle however, is when they do their “print to PDF”… in black-and-white… but don’t adapt their slides to suit this monochrome medium.Pick a shade, any shade!

The above image is from a real presentation.  Those studying “Professional Studies II” (EEB781) at QUT might recognise it.  It was shown to us in colour during the lecture… but now when we review our notes, we only have it in shades of grey.  Thankfully we’re not being examined on that chart!  Then there’s this little gem…

This is a small section of a slide… Must I say, that black looks great on dark grey.  Mind you, the same criticism could be levelled at consumer electronics designers, who think it’s great to microprint 2mm high light-grey text on a dark grey panel!  But I digress…  Colour doesn’t necessarily improve things either… as shown by this example:

If it isn’t masking much needed information by discarding the colour information… the other trap they fall into, is scaling bitmap images up in size, and/or deforming their aspect ratios.  I’ve got loads of examples of this, dating back over 5 years of studies… Here’s a brilliant example of the former.

Uh huh… you honestly are going to tell me you can read every word of that?  Well yes, if you look closely, you can make things out… but why should we?  That slide is so blurred and pixellated, it’s hard to see what is being said.

Here’s the lesson… Vector graphics are your friend.  You can scale a vector to any size you like, and it won’t pixellate.  SVG is great for this… EPS isn’t too bad too.  Or WMF.  They all allow for graphics that can be scaled to any size.

Some things of course, are inherently bitmaps, such as photographs and scanned images.  If you must use a bitmap… make sure it’s a decent resolution to begin with. Making a bitmap smaller (by resampling) is fine… but don’t try to make it bigger… it’ll look like utter shite.

And of course, if you do try to resize a bitmap (or any graphic really, vector or bitmap)… at least preserve the aspect ratio.  Nothing looks worse than a stretched and distorted photo…

If you look closely, you can see the top-left photo has been stretched (made bigger!) horizontally slightly (not too bad, but still).  The worst is the bottom-right photo, which has been compressed vertically.  It’d be okay had the image been compressed horizontally in proportion… but instead, it looks squashed.

Just about every presentation package I have used, provides the means to scale images while preserving their aspect ratio.  Some do it by default… some require you to hold down Shift or Control whilst dragging it out.  In either case… it’s trivial to do.  If something doesn’t fit the hole in your slide… consider cropping the bits that aren’t needed so that it matches the aspect ratio of the hole.  But don’t squash it!

Anyway… that’s enough ranting from me… about time I got back to my studies.