There are plenty of reasons to be discomforted the recent NSA PRISM scandal, chief among them the total obliteration of any remaining notion of privacy. But there’s another — less pressing, but still confidence-shattering — concern that has echoed around our internet’s hallowed halls this past week: the fact that this massive, top-secret, data-mining government enterprise allowed a drunk eight-year-old to design their PowerPoint slides.
It was the aberrant bolds and italics. The pixelated clip art. The cluttered, nearly unreadable charts. And the lack of any attention whatsoever paid to things like “white space” and “how something looks”. Fortunately, at least three designers have already taken it upon themselves to right at least one of the NSA’s wrongs, by reformatting their slides into something that doesn’t offend our most base senses. Some efforts are a bit more noble than others, as you might expect. For example, take a look at their respective reinterpretations of the NSA’s most infamous slide, below:
The NSA’s original slide.
Designed by Victoria Nece.
Designed by Slate.
Designed by Emiland De Cubber.
Slate’s version stays most true to the original. And while it’s certainly an improvement, the boxed logos maintain the sense of clutter while the busy header, large text, and overlapping chart all compete for the eye’s attention. Mere improvements do not a good secret privacy invasion presentation make.
The first and third designs — from American animator Victoria Nece and Parisian designer Emiland De Cubber, respectively — do a far better job of relaying the information in a clear, effective, and thankfully legible manner. Both designers have taken a minimalist approach with simple, effective colour schemes, but Nece’s traditional timeline is ultimately trumped by the creativity of De Cubber’s pared down graphics.
De Cubber has managed to instill a sense of uniformity while still incorporating the companies’ specific logos in an eye-catching, approachable way. Rather than laying the dates out laterally, he uses a nonconventional, vertical denotation by year. This allows him to better utilise the space available to him without sacrificing readability. As you can see in the rest of De Cubber’s reinterpreted slides, the NSA would have been wise to take a few pages out of his book.
So NSA, if you’re listening (you are), we beg you: call Emiland De Cubber before you start clawing together your next PowerPoint presentation. Also, stop using PowerPoint presentations. This isn’t just about style — even the Army is eschewing PowerPoint because, in their words, it “makes us stupid”. And to the other designers thanks for playing and better luck next time. [Animal New York, The Verge, Slate]