The Three-Second Test

Doug Neff

Written by

Doug Neff

TimebconceptThe Magazine Publishers of America have released their finalists for best magazine cover of the year. [link via Kottke]

In our information-rich, attention-deficit society, Nancy’s concept of “glance media” applies to an increasing amount of our daily experience. And it puts us in the role of “design judge” every time we choose one magazine over another at the checkout, or choose one product over another based on package design.

So we can never again claim ignorance when it comes to the design of our slides. We already know what looks good!

Let’s try an experiment. Click on the link above to go to the website of magazine covers. Give yourself about three seconds to scroll through the list, then close your eyes.

Which cover was your favorite?

What caught your eye about it?

Okay, now open up your latest presentation. Take about three seconds to scroll through all of your slides. Close your eyes.

You see what I’m getting at?

Yup. The same test works for both magazine covers and slides.

Let’s look a little deeper. The TIME cover pictured here uses such an iconic image (one might even call it a cliché!) that your mind recognizes it instantly. But it’s combined with something new and interesting that makes you want to stick around and find out more. The title (How to Win The War On Global Warming) ties everything together.

Now, let’s mentally crop out everything above the tree.

Do you see it? It looks suspiciously like a PowerPoint slide (and a pretty good one, too.)

As you look through the selection of magazine cover finalists, let your inner design judge have a crack at ’em. Pick your favorite cover from each category. Share the list with a colleague, then discuss your opinions. It’s okay to disagree. In fact, it’s a good thing! It’s only by exercising our inner critic that our own work gets better.

And check back here on October 6th to find out the winners. (I hope you’ll disagree with them.)