Cliché of the week: The Water Ripple

Doug Neff

Written by

Doug Neff

water rippleThe presenter clicks, the water ripple fills the screen, and you wake up five minutes later to his “In Summary” slide.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen this on a slide. Yeah, we’ve seen it, too. This is another one of those visual metaphors so overused that it has gone over and joined the dark side of presentation visuals. Its clarity and simplicity, though once a breath of fresh air from the dreaded bullet slide, have now become the enemy of clear and effective communication.

Every member of your audience, their eyes reflecting back the blue light of ripple-slide goodness, will know that your visuals are not the result of countless hours of preparation, but rather the sad and hurried product of a “good enough” mentality, someone who grabbed the first image that came to mind.

And the fact is, you can do better. Lots better. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a brainstorm with your friends on the words “impact” or “influence”.
  • Spend some quality time with a thesaurus.
  • Play with keywords when you’re searching for images.
  • If ripples are the key, do they have to be water ripples?
  • Does it have to be a photo? Maybe your kid can draw you something in Crayolas. (Crayola slides can be very effective.)

Got a better idea? Leave it in the comments. That way, we can all benefit from your creativity.

Remember, our point isn’t that clichés are bad. In fact, they never would have been overused if they weren’t good in the first place. But we have a responsibility as designers (yes, that means you!) to stretch ourselves, innovate, and come up with the next right answer.

Happy hunting.