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Cliché of the Week: Clip Art

By Doug Neff

Cartoon detective in a greensuit looks around for a clue with a magnifying glass in hand and a smoke pipe in his mouthTrue story: I was working with a client, reviewing his existing slides with him, and making notes as to what needed work. We came across a data slide containing a large piece of clip art, similar to the fellow you see here.

It was the only graphic in the entire presentation.

I impulsively reached for the delete key, even though we were just reviewing the deck. He stopped me and said, “What’s wrong with it?”


Let me say first that I have nothing but the deepest respect for this client. And because I’ve known him for years, I felt I could say to him,

“Dude, it’s horrible.”

He suggested we come back to it later, and when he noticed that I started gagging every time we passed this particular slide, he relented. I clicked on the offending image and brought my finger down hard on the delete key. (Very satisfying.)

I’m afraid there’s no single rule I can give you with regards to choosing illustrations for your presentation. I can tell you that this particular one is probably not a good choice. And I can tell you that if you click “Insert clip art” in PowerPoint, you’re probably not going to get a very good one.

Remember how stores used to sell CDs full of “15,000 pieces of clip art”? Well, there was a reason it only cost you twenty bucks.

More importantly, clip art has gone far beyond the realm of “tired cliché”. Clip art achieved cliché status during the Clinton Administration. And most of your colleagues gave it up years ago.

You can, too. Let the clip art library rest in peace.

Topics Covered

Design, story, Visuals

Written by

Doug Neff

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