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S L Forsburg nospamforsburg at salk.edu
Wed Feb 17 11:23:35 EST 1999

> Sabine Dippel (S.Dippel at pfh.research.philips.com) writes

> I have recently moved from a scientific area where it was perfectly
> acceptable to use hand-written overhead transparencies for talks to
> one where quite often slides are used. So in fact, my question relates
> less to the questions of how to structure a talk (I have given enough
> to know), but is rather the perfectly technical question of how to
> estimate the size of text etc., what colours (dark on bright background,
> or rather the typical yellow on dark blue) to use, what technical
> problems in handling the slides "on site" I should expect, etc.
> In the particular talk I am preparing right now, I know nothing of
> the size of the room, i.e. how far the projector will be from the
> screen. Are there any rules what the smallest "safe" (i.e. readable)
> size is?

General rules of thumb:  You should be able to read the slide 
without projecting it.  I find it useful to reduce the size of
 the slide on the computer screen to the size it would appear
 if I were sitting at the back of the room and make sure I 
can read everything.  I use sans-serif fonts (Helvetica)

Lots of people use dark slides (I do myself), although if 
you are not sure where you are going to be using them, light
 or white backgrounds are safer--they work better in rooms 
that can't be darkened well.

Use few colors and be consistent in color usage.  If you are making a 
series of slides, stick with one basic design for background and 
title color etc of all.  THis gives the talk consistency and 
looks more polished.

Remember that the colors on the computer monitor are often not
exactly the same as the colors on the film.  In general, colors 
look lighter and brighter on the screen then they will look in the
finished slide.  For example, what's called royal blue, or a nice
red, will not be easily distinguished from black or dark blue backgrounds.

If you need to distinguish two items from one another, make sure that
the hues contrast.  For example, bright green and bright blue may look
very similar. Also, rememember that red-green color blindness affects a 
number of people, mostly men.  

Keep it simple.  Nothing is worse than a slide with many bits of
data that are small and impossible to read. Break it up to 
multiple slides.  One trick that can work is to start with 
the simple diagram and then in successive slides add to it.  
This can go fairly quickly, because with each new slide the 
viewer is only looking at one new thing, and you can build 
them up to the complicated final model that way.

 Give the slides titles,
so that your viewer can get a takehome message.  Don't go crazy
using fancy effects--3D bar graphs, fancy gradients--as these can
be more distracting than anything, no matter how "pretty" they look.

There are useful books and sites about slide and poster design;  
some of them are listed on the women in biology internet launch 
page at

Good luck!

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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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