Design

Redesigning Mary Meeker's Ugly Internet Slideshow


Each year Mary Meeker delivers a signature State of the Internet speech with deep and comprehensive insights into the emerging shape of the digital world. It’s fascinating, penetrating, brilliant—and a crime against good design. If it weren’t for Meeker’s sharp analysis, eyes would glaze at the PowerPoint-style visual dross.

So we asked the presentation designer Emiland De Cubber—who famously redesigned the NSA’s confoundingly ugly PRISM PowerPoint that was leaked by Edward Snowden last year—to rework Meeker’s slides and make them easier on the eyes.

The Paris-based designer kept the “serious look and feel” and stuck with the shade of grayish green favored by Meeker, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. But De Cubber introduced a dark background—white, he says, is harder to read on a big conference-room screen—and reduced the number of different colors to create visual consistency. Finally, he got rid of an unnecessary color block at the top and the firm’s logo at the bottom to eliminate clutter and create some breathing space.

Here are the original (left) and redesigned slides (right), demonstrating how a few design lessons can make complex information easier to understand. If you don’t have the time, confidence or inclination to apply them to your next presentation, perhaps you should hire someone who can—that means you, Mary Meeker.

Using green and red on the same slide, De Cubber says, creates a good/bad dichotomy, so he replaced them with colors in the same qualitative range while highlighting the more important category—in this case, mobile app revenue.

De Cubber used icons and simplified labels, rather than long descriptions on the y axis.

“Instead of a bar chart,” De Cubber says, “a bubble chart seems more appropriate and visually convincing. It’s easy to compare, and the conclusion in yellow is very clear.”

A symbol for each keyword makes the standard bullet-point list more visual and easier to remember.

De Cubber introduced visual hierarchy to give the information more structure.

“Photography often introduces noise in a slide,” De Cubber says. And here, the images are too small to be useful, so he replaced them with company logos.

Two diagrams illustrate the past/present change in message, from a few messages to many people to more messages to a smaller circle of contacts.

To make the two viewing styles easier to compare, De Cubber created a pair of pie charts to show that TV once held a monopoly that is now shared among a variety of gadgets. Note that he situated the biggest slice of the right-hand pie at 12 o’clock, with the remaining slices organized counterclockwise.

Lanks is the design editor of Businessweek.com.

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