From Picasso to Presentations

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 by Simon Morton

It’s a little while now since I dabbled in art but today the ever informative internet has thrown up another instance where art can help us to understand presentations better.

Scientists have confirmed that Picasso’s The Blue Room is actually painted over an earlier image of a man with a moustache. This is not an unusual phenomenon, many artist did this as part of the creative process and to reuse expensive materials, indeed Picasso’s own Woman Ironing also hides a moustachioed gent (but Picasso’s penchant for hirsute men is not what we’re here for).

While it’s easy to assume that the original image was painted over with something better and was therefore inferior and not worth investigating, it’s important to remember that newer and better are not the same thing.

Fashions change in art as in everything. Anyone who’s ever bought an old house will know that peeling back layers of wallpaper can be a real journey through tastes that time forgot (and then remembered – and then forgot again). Sometimes things are replaced for nothing more than whimsy and in the case of a struggling artist I suspect that hunger or impending homelessness could also be great motivators to produce something more marketable.

Presentations are subject to the same kind of trends and pressures, often with similar results.

First there were the text heavy slides that included every minutia of the information that we wanted to share in painstaking detail. Then bullet points came along, allowing us to dispense with the standard rules for forming coherent sentences without a second thought.

It’s not that long ago that we all got very excited by clipart and merrily inserted images hither and thither, thus making the whole thing prettier.

Then there were transitions, animations, imbedded videos, motion paths – the list goes on and on. As each new thing arrives it is greedily incorporated into presentations and as its star wanes it is replaced.

But somewhere in amongst all this ‘improvement’ is every presentations ‘moustache man’.

He’s been painted over a hundred times but he’s still important because he’s the reason you have a presentation in the first place.

The problem is that as presentations become more and more advanced they can become more and more removed from their purpose. We’ve seen many variations on this over the years and the results vary from the plain ugly (Presentationstein) to the gravely misguided.

While art conservators employ the latest high tech to find out what’s behind the old masters getting to the heart of your presentation will be much easier, all you need to do is look at it through your audiences’ eyes and ask a few simple questions:

Does my presentation have a natural flow or story?
Is all the content relevant and necessary?
Do the visuals support that content effectively?
Is there a clear call to action?

If any one of these things is missing, obscured, or unclear it might well be that it’s been painted over and the result of this can also be demonstrated by art.

Whilst cleaning a 17th century painting of a coastal scene, restorers found a beached whale that had been painted over. While it’s easy to understand that a painting without a dead animal as its focus would be eminently more market friendly, restoring it did explain the ‘hitherto slightly baffling presence of groups of people on the beach, and atop the cliffs, on what appears to be a blustery winter’s day’.

Whether removing, enhancing or replacing content is for the best aesthetically is always going to be a matter of opinion, but when that process interferes with the integrity of your presentation, and prevents it from making sense, you’ve got real problems.

If you’re worried that your presentation message might have got lost along the way, we’ll be more than happy to help you, simply get in touch to find out how.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply