Visual Analytical Design, Mr. Tufte & Power Point Creating Morons (part one)


Best Experienced With:      DJ Dangermouse & Jay Z; Part 1 of Grey Album

(Please right click on the link below to cue up the suggested background music for this evening’s treatise in a new browser window.  The Beatles and Jay Z, wrapped with a bow by DJ Dangermouse is a tastier treat than peanut butter and chocolate. )





As documented throughout history, the three most terrifying activities to the general public are as follows:

          Hunting velociraptors with a can of Silly String and a plastic spork

          Public speaking

          Dating Mel Gibson


Since we have covered the first and third fears ad nauseum over the past four years, this evening’s MLOG will deal with public speaking.  More precisely, this MLOG deals with the crutch and IQ reducing tool named Power Point.  When you are going to address a group of people in any situation, please keep in mind that it is not about the slides.   It is about you doing the proper research to speak knowledgably about the subject.  It is about you gathering the key points from the research into 5,000 foot categories that will engage and teach your audience. 

Most important, it is about those individuals that chose to show up and sit in those chairs while you astound and amaze.

You do not owe your audience slides and fancy animation.  You owe them novel thought, pedagogical wizardry, and depth.   Animation does not add depth, nor does a slide deck.  Your brain and what you choose to feed your brain through research adds depth.

A few months back, in their “Weekend Journal”, the New York Times had a fantastic compilation of articles thrown into a stew called “Does the Internet Make You Smarter or Dumber”?    Great question.

Not sure how they do things these days in the secondary schools:  they let me out years ago, despite the warnings and admonishments from the juvenile court system.   Used to be that you would pick a topic, submit that topic, submit an abstract on your paper, then complete the paper.   A student would research the topic from multiple sources, make copious notes from these multiple sources, make an outline, and then begin writing.  On ten page papers, the best teachers allowed double spacing and we all counted the cover page as Page 1.

We did not have the internet when I was a kid, nor did have presentation software like Harvard Graphics and Power Point.   You did your research at the library or at a friend’s house if their parents had chosen to purchase the Encyclopedia Britannica.   My parents purchased the full set of Encyclopedia Britannica for the four of us when we were young.  Encyclopedia Britannica was my introduction to plagiarism.  “Cut and paste” back then meant have the book propped up next to the typewriter, copy the paragraph……mindfully changing the trisyllabic adjectives.

MTV was a corner turner in the dumbing down of America.   A few short years after launch, we had a news program encapsulating the days tops stories into three minutes and we had life and stories condensed into three minute intervals.  Soon thereafter, we had sound and light tossed at our minds in fashion sure to make an epileptic gesticulate madly for the mouth dam to avoid biting off their tongue during an MTV generated fit.  Minds that had historically been wired for deep, intellectual learning began evolving into a different animal.  An animal rapidly distracted by the next shiny thing appearing faster than Chuck Woolery could get back from a “two and two” break.

One of the New York Times articles explained the average time a person spends on a web page is fifty-six seconds.  You cannot learn anything in fifty-six seconds.  Heck, even Stephen Hawking cannot learn anything in fifty-six seconds.  We have not only transformed from a society that used to spend days researching a single topic through reading multiple source books to a society that spends an average of fifty-six seconds per web page, our sources have weakened more than Lance Armstrong in that sissy French bike race.   

Each book in the libraries we all used to visit was edited and fact checked, as are all periodicals.  Very little, if anything, on the WWW is fact checked or properly edited.   At least when we plagiarized the Encyclopedia Britannica back in the day, we were stealing ideas and sentences from intelligent folks who received a paycheck to research and write what we stole.   That’s not going to happen on the WWW where you may be cutting and pasting something written by my seven year old nephew Gavin without knowing it.   Gavin writes 43% of the stuff you see daily on Fox News.   There is little to no editorial oversight on the WWW.


A few weeks back, a MLOG featured various cartoons about killing kittens through the sin of Onan.  Some noticed the sixth kitten cartoon down and asked who Edward Tufte was and why was that single cartoon featured in a kitten killing MLOG.  They also may have said to themselves: “Self……..who is this Mr. Edward Tufte and why would Mr. Tufte pop a cap in a kitten because of Power Point?”

Another excellent question.

Edward Tufte has dozens of letters after his name and is currently a professor of statistics, graphic design, and political economics at Yale.   Mr. Tufte had himself one of those Guggenheim Foundation fellowships and another fellowship from the Center for Advanced Studies and Behavioral Studies. 

Favorite Edward Tufte quote:  “Clutter is the failure of design, not an attribute of information”

Runner up Edward Tufte quote:  “The worst thing Microsoft has ever done is to replace the fundamental unit of analysis, the sentence, with the bullet, the grunt.”

The first night we all climbed up here, made reference to animation in Power Point and how Power Point slides (especially those with animation) are for morons.  Two questions in business make me want to stick knitting needles in both eyes.   The first question is “do you think we are going to get caught embezzling?”   The second question is “have we prepared the presentation slide deck?”

The correct form of the first question is:  “How can we make absolutely certain that no one will catch us embezzling?”

The correct form of the second is:   “Have we done all the research we can on this customer and the topic and do we know their goals, people, and unmet needs?

Those who choose to put together a slide deck at the last minute filled with bullet points are reminiscent of Christian Laetner’s buzzer beater versus Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA end of year hoop-it-up tournament.  Most who choose to do this follow this offense:

  1. Choose Power Point template style (5 minutes)
  2. Make up bullets to fill in spots on Power Point template (60 minutes)
  3. Chose pretty pictures (120 minutes)
  4. Make slides look pretty (60 minutes)
  5. Practice saying these slides (30 minutes)


The solution takes us back to middle school; blocking and tackling we learned there.  If you are going to use a slide deck, finish the slide deck last:  the slide deck should mirror your outline.   When you use animation or choose to write Tolstoyesque paragraphs up on the big screen, no one is going to look at you.  They will pay attention to the screen and read the words instead of paying attention to you, your intonation, and your non verbal clues.   You are the message.  Your Power Point slide deck is not the message. 

Presentations and/or the opportunity to speak in public seldom sneak up on us.   Next time you have the chance to engage an interested audience, try this offense:

  1. Make outline (1 hour)
  2. Research audience and their interests (6-8 hours)
  3. Research topic (12 hours)
  4. Choose Power Point template style (1 minute)
  5. Fill in Power Point using outline (60 minutes)
  6. Chose pretty pictures (3 minutes)
  7. Make slides look pretty (10 minutes)
  8. Practice saying these slides (2 hours)


When you choose to do the proper amount of research on your customer and/or topic, you will be as dangerous as Mohammed Ali was against Jerry Quarry in 1970.   Tangent Alert:  How much do you miss the endless parade of “great white hopes” we used to have in the 1970’s and 1980’s?   Am so, so glad I did not fall for Don King’s promises and winks when I took up boxing in 1998.   Would have ended up tossed aside on the “great white hope” scrap heap, bitter and angry.  Like Glenn Beck or Vanilla Ice.

Back on track.   We spent a great deal of time in grade school, high school, and college learning to research and write for many reasons.   First, we learned to go deep on topics in analytical and pragmatic fashion.   Only by going deep on a topic can you actually learn that topic.   Second, we learned to write so that we could convey these thoughts to others in the business world in a well thought out and easily understood fashion.    Finally, and most important, our papers allowed our teachers to torment and punish those they truly despised.

A good way to buy yourself an insurance policy against business failure is to get back to researching and outlining basics.  It all starts with a good outline so here is a good general outline you can use.  You are welcome.


I.    Topic One

A.    Sub topic 1

B.    Subtopic 2

C.    Etc

II    Topic Two

A.    Subtopic 1

B.    Subtopic 2

C.    Etc

III  Topic Three……..yadda, yadda, yadda

Another way you can set it up is as follows, especially if you are collecting data for a Marketing plan, an R&D project, or a sales territory analysis and plan.

1.    Introduction

2.    Literature review

3.    Methodology

4.    Data

5.    Analysis

6.    Results

7.    Conclusion

Here is a final example of a research paper outline, with The Land of Cleve as the broad reaching topic.  Again, you are welcome.

  1. Introduction
  2. Background Information
    1. Location of Cleveland
    2. Geography of the Surrounding Area
    3. Facts about Cleveland
      • Rise and fall of The Flats as a place to drink beer
      • How it was named
        1. The Land (English name)
        2. Of Cleve  (Indian name)
        3. Cleveland (Merged name)
      • Detailed information on how bad Dennis Kucinich was as mayor
  3. Major Sports Challenges Covered in this Paper
    1. The Drive
      • Denver Broncos have always been an arm of Satan
      • Satan helped John Elway with “The Drive”
    2. The Fumble
      • Denver Broncos have always been an arm of Satan
      • Satan reached his arm in and knocked the ball from Byner’s arms
    3. The Indians (as the farm team for Boston, Philly, Chicago, ad nauseum)
      • 1970 to 1990
      • 1990 to Present
      • Pennants won by other teams with Indian trades
  4. The Impact  Cleveland on the World
    1. Ecological Effects
      • 1200 to 1400:  Cleveland plants all trees in Amazonian Basin
      • Piles of trash exported to Detroit and Youngstown allowed for hills
    2. Economic Effects
      • At one time, Cleveland rivaled Great Britain for control of the high seas
      • All life on the globe, as well as all trade routes began and ended in Cleveland from 900 BC through 1974
    3. Cultural Effects
      • Introduction of fire
      • Introduction of the wheel
      • Introduction of gravity
      • Introduction of motor vehicles
      • Introduction of electricity
  5. Conclusion


Once you have done your outline, you nail down your research.  We then move on to what Mr. Tufte calls the analytical design portion of presenting.    “Good displays of data help to reveal knowledge relevant to understanding mechanism, process and dynamics, cause and effect.”        “Clear and precise seeing becomes as one with clear and precise thinking.”

Choosing to skip the research and depth of knowledge would be as silly as turning the Jay-Z/Dangermouse tunes you cued up when you right clicked the link up top into a single Power Point Slide like this.   Good job following the Rule of Sixes, though.   No more than six lines with no more than six words per line on any slide.   Well done.

Once the clear and precise thinking has been done through research, the helping others to see will become Zen.  We will go deeper into Mr. Tufte and the Power Point silliness at a later date as part two of this two part series.  Until then, thanks for visiting this evening and here is a bunny with a pancake on its head.


The Mind of Mully

What the h*ll

Are you waiting for?

After me

There will be no more….





If you feel like going deep on Edward Tufte before we visit with him again, feel free to click on the link below:


This kid here (click below) sold 1,000,000 pixels for $1.00 each to put himself through school.   Has absolutely nothing to do with anything above; however, I love this kid and the idea.  Plus it never fit anywhere else.   He thought of a hole, dug the hole, and filled in the hole.    That’s marketing.  Bravo Alex Tew….bravo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s