Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report for Kleiner Perkins is a comprehensive and provocative collection of data about technology change. It’s also the most cluttered, visually jumbled 213-slide pileup in the history of PowerPoint. Reading this deck is like walking through a construction site in which the Hell’s Angels are putting on three simultaneous Cirque de Soleil shows during a Green Day concert. In a snowstorm.
While it’s arguable whether there is a unifying intellectual concept here, one thing is completely clear: there is no unifying design concept (unless you count the wordy, telegraphic headings on each slide).
Just as you can learn from Meeker’s trend insights, you can also learn from her design disasters. As you look at these slides, ask yourself two questions:
- In a quick glance, what main idea jumps out from the slide?
- If I study the slide further, does it reveal more information?
In too many cases here, the answer to the first question is “Gee, I dunno,” and the answer to the second is “Ouch, I am getting a headache.”
What the heck is going on?
The dreamcatcher on the left is pretty. Especially with five shades of blue matching the crammed text boxes plotted against four undefined metrics with obscure icons.
That “0%” pointing to nothing on the pie on the right . . . that’s deep, man.
The number of words on a slide should be about 15. This is in the hundreds. It’s a document, not a slide.
It’s not how big the slice is, it’s how you color it
Remember spin art? I think the rule here is, so long as you use bright, saturated colors, you can make the slices as skinny as you want. “Just a sliver, please, QQ Reading, I’m on a diet.”
I think this is a photo of a tragic and bloody accident at a ski area. Why use colored slivers when you can use shades of grey with red outlines?
When the starting point is arbitrary, the conclusion is, too
This “broken umbrella”-style slide reveals data that is complete bullshit. First, once you use “Select Internet Retailers” without telling us how you selected them, you’ve skewed the sample. Second, starting points are arbitrary — what if the retailer was in stealth mode for two years before it “launched”? And finally, what can you learn from a whole bunch of lines, some of which are incomplete?
Clearer presentation, but same problem — a media channel can take years after invention to “launch,” so the arbitrary starting points completely queer the data conclusions.
She comes in colors everywhere
These ovals are reminding me of something in my youth . . . that’s it, Trivial Pursuit! Except here, the green ovals are household debt, the blue are corporate debt . . . except for that +70T and the ones at the bottom, which aren’t corporate debt, they’re something else, and . . . well, anyway, they’re all debt except the yellow ones, which are GDP, because yellow is the sunny color of global growth. Got it.
So in this slide, yellow means private companies, because yellow is hard to read and so are private company valuations. Red means Red China, but in the third column it also means declining market values for public companies because red is like a stop light. Purple means I needed another color because the slide wasn’t colorful enough.
Plaid data? That’s stylin’!
The Chinese Zodiac was right . . . I can tell your fortune based on when you were born
Since I’m a Baby Boomer, that means family time is not first on my list. Don’t tell my wife or kids, please. And Millennials are globally minded, except the poor ones working in McDonald’s and the trust fund babies, but we won’t count them.
How about a rest from all those words. Let’s create clutter just with pictures. We’ll put a flat abstract cloud icon, flat app buttons, and realistic photos together in one slide, and then add some dotted lines that mean “data.” Got it.
And I’ll leave you with this
The only slide in the whole deck that made me say “Wow, that’s actually beautiful.”