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I’m currently thinking about the use of digitally-captured hand-drawn images in PowerPoint. Is this approriate in a business presentation? The catalysts for this thinking are Dan Roam‘s book (almost finished reading it) and Garr Reynolds‘ series of posts on simple, hand-drawn images (here, here and here).

I’m not quite sure where Dan Roam stands on this. Here are the references I can find in his book. On page 25 of his book, Dan Roam says: “People like seeing other people’s pictures. In most presentation situations, audiences respond better to hand-drawn images (however crudely drawn) than to polished graphics.” And on page 269 in Appendix B Dan recommends using a digital camera or flatbed scanner to digitally capture drawings and then present them. However, on page 151 he says: “…computers make the composition and finishing of the more advanced pictures infinitely easier than anything we can do by hand, are essential for creating accurate quantitative images, and are irreplaceable presentation and communication tools.”

Dave Paradi has a blog post on this issue- he advocates against hand-drawn sketches. He believes that your squares should be square and that your lines should be straight and using PowerPoint or other software is the way to achieve this.

I believe there’s definitely a place for creating hand-drawn images on the flipchart and whiteboard (I wrote about this in an earlier post). There’s energy in creating an image in front of an audience and it invites interaction. However, these arguments don’t apply if we digitally capture static hand-drawn images and project them onto a screen. I think that a photo of a hand-drawn sketch has lost much of the power of the original. Why do people travel far and wide to see originals of paintings when they could see them reproduced in a book with much less time and effort. The original has power the reproductions can only approximate. Are photos of hand-drawn sketches still more powerful than ‘polished graphics’?

And will such an approach work in a professional business situation? Here’s my current take on when you might try this:

  • You can imagine a great visual that will help clarify what you’re saying in your presentation, but you don’t have the PowerPoint skills and/or the time to create it in PowerPoint. And the size of your audience or other physical constraints mean that you can’t use a whiteboard or flipchart.
  • The look and feel of projecting hand-drawn images works for your presentation topic. For example, you’re making an internal presentation at the start of a brand-new and exciting project for your company. The hand-drawn feel matches the newness and excitement of the project. Another example comes from a comment on Dave Paradi’s blogpost from Ian Stronge:

“But don’t overlook the power of ‘sketched’ visuals. Sometimes a rough look works for your message. For example, I was doing a presentation on the theme ‘reduce, recycle, reuse’. I could have used the computer to draw neat straight-line diagrams, but it dawned on me that freehand sketches delivered the message more powerfully. The diagrams were straightforward and easy to read, and the freehand style said ‘anyone can do this, easily.”

  • The hand-drawn look and feel matches your brand. The Common Craft videos are a good example of this – the hand-drawn images are an integral part of their brand.

If you’re going to try the digital projection of hand-drawn images, I would recommend sticking to that approach all the way through your presentation. Norman Wei has a slide presentation on his blog which starts with photos and then segues into hand-drawn sketches with typed headlines. The mix doesn’t work for me. In particular, the headings for the sketches would be better hand-written or using a digital font which mimics hand-writing.

More resources

This blog post from Eirik Solheim shows how he draws his own pictues and then adds colour and a professional finish in Photoshop.

The Centre for Graphic facilitation has a post on how to clean up your digital photos in Photoshop.

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