Presentation CRAP

My Lean Thinking framework is comprised of two strong columns: Kaizen & Respect for People. The groups I work with don’t seem to have a problem adopting a kaizen mindset, but I am continually amazed at the disdain for groups outside the one I’m working with. I hear sarcasm about how the business units (internal customers) don’t understand the IT process, and others taking shots at other groups in the value stream, (‘developers make too many mistakes’ or, ‘architects wait until the last minute to start their work’). This lack of respect even shows up in the presentations given to leadership. A slide filled with 8 point type may make the person presenting feel like they have accomplished something, but it does not respect the people who may be trying to glean important information from the slide.

For those who are interested in improving their ability to communicate and increase their respect for their audiences, I recommend you look into author Robin Williams work on design, especially her CRAP mantra. The repost below does a great job of explaining how to respect people and how to improve your communications.

Business Information Systems: Design an App for That

by Raymond Frost, Jacqueline Pike, Lauren Kenyo, Sarah Pels – Adapted by: Brad Felix

C.R.A.P. Principles of Graphic Design


  1. Compare and contrast artwork using graphic design principles—contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity (C.R.A.P.)
  2. Compare and contrast artwork using ad design principles (picture, headline, text, logo)
  3. Compare and contrast artwork using type design principles (font, size, weight, color, form, direction)
  4. Distinguish between layouts that conflict versus layouts that go well together
  5. Categorize fonts based on visual inspection
  6. Manipulate images and text to re-create a best practice advertisement in PowerPoint
  7. Choose and successfully employ PowerPoint techniques to solve a complex task

How much graphic design do you need in business? Considering the heavy emphasis that is currently placed on “the look” of deliverables, the answer might be a lot. We don’t pretend that you will become a master of graphic design after just one chapter. However, there are some survivor principles of graphic design laid out by Robin Williams. Those principles are contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (C.R.A.P.).

You will learn to see the world in a new way. For years, you have looked at magazine layouts, ads, banners, flyers, etc. Some have caught your eye and some have not. Unless you have been trained in graphic design, it would most likely be hard for you to vocalize what it is about a layout that appeals to you.

The principles of graphic design, ad design, and type design will be repeated throughout the text when designing the following deliverables:

  • Ads
  • Websites
  • Resumes
  • Term papers
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Spreadsheets
  • Graphs

Everything that you design in this course will have a professional feel to it. Our goal is to make your work indistinguishable from the work that appears in publications such as theNew York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Realizing that goal will also help make you a valuable contributor in the workforce. Others will value your work as professional, polished and communicative. You will also be able to give guidance to others on how to improve the look of their deliverables.

Robin Williams Robin Williams is the author of the Non-Designer’s Design Book. This is an essential reference used even in graphic design programs.

Many information systems projects are conceived of in a life cycle that progresses in stages from analysis to implementation. The diagram below shows the stages that we touch in the current chapter:


Contrast focuses our attention and should be used to highlight the most important points that the audience should take away. Designers should use colors, bold type, and size to distinguish parts of text or an image and create contrast. Contrast is used in all aspects of life. For example, jewelers usually display their diamond pieces on a background of black velvet to let the jewels stand out. The page you are reading uses headings to create contrast with the text.

Formatting, including the use of a blue shape, creates contrast, drawing attention to important data points in the Excel graph.

Formatting headings for the title and subtitles creates contrast..

Another way to create contrast is by using visual weight. You create a focal point and then lead the reader’s eye around the page. The main focal point is the picture. The next “heaviest” item on the page is the headline, followed by the date, followed by the logo, followed by the body text. The reader’s eye is led from one item to the next based on these “weights.” The greatest mistake that most students make in flyer design is to make all the text the same size as though it needed to be readable from 20 feet away. As long as the picture and headline capture interest, a reader will move in closer to read the rest of the flyer. Also, if every item is the same size then nothing stands out and it looks unprofessional. Variation of font sizes and weights is critical to focus attention.

Visual weight in action. Note how your eye travels around this flyer in the numbered sequence depicted.

When working with type, aim for a contrasting layout. Contrasting layouts create visual interest and energy. For example, when you wear clothes of contrasting colors, such as red on navy blue, the outfit can be quite eye catching. Our examples will follow the conventions Robin Williams sets out in her book.[2]

The opposite of contrast is affinity. Layouts demonstrating affinity show subtle variations in color or brightness. The overall effect is pleasing, though not particularly remarkable. For example, a person wearing a dark suit with a dark tie would be wearing an outfit that shows affinity.

In type design, a layout showing affinity is best for formal documents, such as wedding and graduation invitations. For most other documents, use a contrasting style to make your documents really pop. However, tailor the contrast to suit the audience and the occasion for the document. For example, a business plan prepared for a bank should have less contrast than the layout of this text book. When in doubt, be conservative.

The one type of layout that you must avoid is a conflicting layout. In a conflicting layout the type is very similar but different. For example, never use two different serif fonts on the same page. Think of wearing an outfit that has two different shades of red that are very similar but different. The combination looks like a mistake—as though part of the outfit had faded in the wash. In the same manner two serif fonts side by side will look like a mistake. Fonts should be identical or very different.

The text on the next page is taken from The United States Declaration of Independence and demonstrates some type contrasting techniques. By increasing the font size and changing the text color, you can highlight certain words or information that you want to stand out. The goal is to make “Creator” stand out as the most important word in the sentence. You can also boldface to dramatize the weight of the text or italicize to accent the text. Direction refers to adding space between letters to make text stand out. Structure, using serif or sans serif fonts, can also differentiate text and will be discussed in the next section.

The two main categories of font are serif and sans serif. Serifs are the ornamental strokes at the end of the letters, which all serif fonts have. Sans serif means without serifs, therefore sans serif fonts do not have these decorative additions.

Serif and sans serif fonts can be used together to create contrast within text. Typically sans serif fonts are used for headings while serif fonts are used for body text.

Note that you should avoid combining two fonts that are from the same category. For example, two serif fonts that look similar, such as Georgia and Garamond, should not be used together.

Serif fonts are best used in text heavy books because the serifs quickly guide the reader’s eye from letter to letter. Sans serif fonts are the best choice for online text because serifs can blur in the pixels on a screen. The resolution of most computer screens is not sufficient to precisely draw the serifs in a body of text. The result tends to look blurry. Therefore, most websites use a sans serif font. An exception is sometimes made for the page title, which because of its greater font size, can show serifs much more clearly. To allow for serifs online, Microsoft developed a series of ClearType fonts designed to accurately reproduce serifs.

Though font options are limited online, other techniques such as size, weight, color, form, and direction can be used to create contrast within online material. Color is especially powerful on a website as most viewers have a color monitor.

Please see the Appendix for additional font categories. These include slab serif, modern, script, and decorative.

A fill is the color, gradient, or pattern the occupies the inside of a drawn object. An outline is the color, gradient, or pattern that borders the drawn object. PowerPoint has extensive fill and outline options.

Different fills, same outline

Same fill, Different outlines

Repetition ties objects or images together. For instance, we know which football players are on a team because of the repetition of their uniforms. This text uses repetition of fonts, styles, and sizes to unify the design. On the facing page, repetition of graphic elements draws an image together.

The repetition of formatting in the text headings creates a unified professional look.

This ad uses repetition with the colors in the text, arrow, stain, and background to reflect the colors in the logo and nachos. Notice how this ad looks more cohesive and professional.[3]

Adobe has a wonderful free web-based application called Kuler, which helps you choose a color palette. One of its most spectacular features is the ability to upload an image and have Kuler automatically generate a color palette from that image. You then use that palette for fonts, fills, and so forth in your composition, and you are virtually guaranteed that the colors will all work well together.

To use the more interesting features of Kuler you must first create an account Now you can save your color palettes. Once saved, you can reveal the numerical values that correspond to your color palette. These numeric values may be imported into PowerPoint (under custom color).

Kuler helps create a color palette. You can create a color palette by uploading a picture. After saving your palette, Kuler will allow you see the RGB values associated with each color. You can then type these values into PowerPoint. Adobe product screenshot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Alignment indicates organization, polish, and strength. Text on a page is easier to read and understand if it is properly aligned to the margin. Alignment should be applied to every design or page layout to show order. Alignment on this page is created by left aligning all of the text and graphics.

The alignment of text organizes the categories on the resume.

The alignment of text and images in this ad creates a polished and professional look.

Proximity creates relationships within objects in an image. Placing objects close together shows their connectedness and focuses the audience’s attention. For example, captions placed near photos on a page layout show that they describe the photos they are near. The page you are reading places headings next to the text they introduce to signify their relationship.

Proximity helps to organize this spreadsheet in Excel. The title and subtitle are separated from the rest of the spreadsheet.

Proximity is used to group the links on the navigation bar. Similarly the image, title, and price of each bottle are grouped together.

Graphic design is perhaps the most creative aspect of information design. Though design leaves room for originality, there are clearly articulated principles every designer should follow to create clear and effective images. We will adopt four basic principles outlined by Robin Williams. These principles that have been introduced in the previous pages are: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (C.R.A.P.).

Mastering these principles will allow you to produce clear documents and make presentations look more professional. The business cards on the next page demonstrate good and bad examples of each design principle. Please study these principles as they will appear again and again throughout this text.


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