Amongst the media frenzy and concern for personal privacy caused by the recent NSA PRISM scandal, another revelation shocked us all – the ghastly design of PRISM’s PowerPoint slides. It had The Colbert Report wondering why “the organization gathers up massive amounts of information on everything, but graphic design”, and The Huffington Post deliberating if the NSA’s PRISM presentation slides are the worst ever made.

Elimand De Cubber, a visual communication designer, was so offended by the slides he updated nearly every aspect of the presentation, including PRISM’s “dark side of the moon” logo. The reimagined slides economize information and offer clean, uncluttered visuals. “People are afraid of an empty slide… (They) occupy 30% of their slides with stuff that doesn’t convey any information. That’s why I tried to draw a lot of contrast by keeping my slides as minimalistic as possible. Each element must earn its space on the slide,” De Cubber explained.

While the design of the presentation slides is the least important aspect of this scandal, it does draw our attention the importance of visual language. Visual language is one of our oldest forms of communication – think art, dance and hieroglyphs. When we look at the ripples caused by Apple design, we understand the impact that simple design can have on our understanding and how it affects our ease of use. As they say, “A picture paints a thousand words.”

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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