Medium for the Message

As a very visual individual, I am constantly helping colleagues and clients simplify communication. It should be a category on this blog, I focus so much of my work on this kind of service — by design.

The reason: when you make it harder for people to access your thinking at a time when so many feel pulled in too many directions, they will not abosorb information, just pass it along (if you are lucky), without a second thought. And that makes for poor connection all around, and a waste of resources.

Spreading ideas by getting attention is one component of content success. Getting the ideas done by keeping attention over them long enough to digest implications and experiment uses is the winning proposition.

Design of connection

We spend most of our days communicating ideas to colleagues, clients, and industry peers. How can we make it a good investment?

You are competing with scarce attention and time, plenty of snackable content (some with dubious nutritional value), and a healthy dose of online fatigue and personal bandwidth issues.

Nancy Duarte walks the talk. As her new playbook, Slidedocs, shows, it takes more work up front; and it's all worth it. Once you know where you are going, helping others come along is by design.

This means that from a content strategy standpoint, your medium IS the message, as McLuhan learned. Design your communications as experience to show (and tell) people how it works, give them ideas on how to use something, inspire them to do things differently and stand out and your brand becomes interesting.

Connection starts with designing to the way things are.

Medium for the Message

Walking the talk on the message of why visual stories resonate, Duarte has produced a toolkit for the modern communication age.

Part presentation, part document and borrowing from the useful characteristics of both, Duarte set out to help the business community get its ideas shared, and done, through the power of good design/editorial discipline.

The main point for a message to penetrate the wall of indifference (as in not differentiated) and become meaningful is to make both the content and presentation appropriate to the purpose it serves. One execution of learning by example.

In their outreach communication about the playbook (more a cookbook, actually), the Duarte team included many of the reasons I have found to be useful since using the format.

Slidedocs work because:

  • The uniform format encourages clear, succinct articulation and visualization of concepts on one page.
  • The editable nature allows a slidedoc to be a living document that can evolve over time.
  • An overarching view allows readers to see the whole, instead of only the parts. By working in outline or slide-sorter mode, you can see the entire message and structure in addition to individual pages.
  • Slidedocs can be easily shared through an organization. Great slidedocs get reused again and again.
  • Slidedocs are versatile and interactive, and can incorporate photos, illustrations, links and video.
  • They are tablet-ready and can be easily consumed via multiple mediums.
  • Slidedocs are embeddable and shareable on platforms like SlideShare or others.

And, most importantly (and strategically), they are ready to be iterated on, in the same way we iterate on ideas by writing to them. In the same way conversation is a technology to help us get to a new form of understanding and connection, good communication is a medium to get things done.

The playbook is available for download free of charge via SlideShare or on the Duarte website.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.