Beauty, Like the Night

IlluminateShe walks in beauty, like the night; Of cloudless climbs and starry skies… 

Lord Byron’s stunning verse evokes the glowing beauty of a woman’s eyes, comparing them to the loveliness of night. It is a sweet poem about illumination and the soft glow of tender light. It poses the wonders of night against the shine of “gaudy day”.

This is how I feel about clip-art.

In far too many presentations, I’m being forced to look at cheesy clip-art images, their gaudiness burning my eyes like I’m staring directly at the sun. I mean that literally, because sometimes I’m actually looking at the image of a sun — a sun with a freaking smile on its face. Why does the sun have a smile on its face? Because somebody chose to put the damn thing in their PowerPoint. For shame.

Beauty, like the night, is subtler and more refined than a smiling sun, or a thumbs-up emoji, or hands shaking in front of a globe. The images you choose to put in your slides project much about your efforts. When crassly done, they tell the audience that you rushed your presentation, don’t care about it, or are not invested in communicating your ideas. When done with care, they can have great power. They illuminate your points, give them life, and resonate.

This is not to say that clip-art can’t work. It can. But only when images have been thoughtfully chosen to fit thematically with your work. Otherwise, more often than not, they are clichés, unoriginal, and likely to garner groans instead of your intended reaction.

Thankfully, this is an easy fix. You don’t need to be or hire a graphic designer to have great design. There are plenty of striking, beautiful images to be found from stock photo libraries like Shutterstock, iStock, or Adobe that will fit nicely into your work. Better yet, if you have a photographer in your network (or are one yourself), why not create original content? Not only will you see your points jump to life, but you’ll connect with an audience who longs for that personal touch.

When you look into the night sky, do you want to see a smiling emoji giving you thumbs up? Or would you rather see the Northern Lights, glowing, dancing against the darkness, illuminating…

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