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Design and Deliverables – my lecture at NCN, by Chris Bailey, JH Designer

What was the brief?

Well, it was amazingly loose – to come and chat to students studying for a Foundation Degree in Digital Design & Foundation Degree in Game Art at NCN (New College Nottingham) for around an hour. Really, I could talk about pretty much anything design-related.

Immediately I thought about the processes and deliverables we create and present to our clients. Sharing this knowledge, and making the students aware of this process, I hoped would provide a practical insight into how the industry works. By talking about this subject I know there could be possible follow-up workshops I could help with, to practise some of the ideas I would talk about, and they could potentially produce some of the deliverables I would explain.

How to start?

So, time to plan. Firstly I brainstormed a list of words, phrases and ideas. I got my thoughts organised and devised an order, then it was time to think of what this lecture would be called. I  came up with a working title  – ‘Design Process & Deliverables’ – knowing having this in place should keep the talk on track. I went for it then – producing a rough draft in Google Docs and started to produce my slides in Keynote.

Now, if I’m honest, this isn’t exactly something I’ve done much of. I’m not usually someone who’s presenting the whole time either, so at first, I’ll admit, I felt a little daunted. Breaking the talk down into sections though really helped.When I’d got the outline and structure, it was then a case of filling in the details, based on my notes, being mindful to keep it balanced, concise and visually consistent.

So, what was the plan?

In brief, it was this:

  • Title screen
  • Welcome
  • Outlining of what I would talk about
  • Main content
  • Summary/conclusions
  • Questions

I’m not feeling like a seasoned speaker yet, but I do feel I’ve learnt a fair amount about the process of tackling this challenge. If you’re going to speak publicly for the first time, this is what I’d say:

Attend talks – during the time I was writing and planning the talk, I took a trip up to London to go to design conference DiBi. Attending talks and conferences is something I do regularly – I’m usually down at DXN at Antenna for instance. But going to DiBi so close to doing my own talk was particularly poignant. It made me pay particular attention to talk and slide styles, making a mental note of what works best, wanting to get tips for what might work for me.

Simple and snappy slides — at DiBi, I found the talks with plenty of slides with small amounts of content worked best. Intricate content-heavy slides ones are just  overwhelming and hard to take on board.

One word, a few bullets or an image worked well. But much more and it looks fussy. Think bold powerful and memorable. These slides are great for taking photos of to capture the day and the points that resonated with me the best. One look at Twitter handles from events will show you, these simply worded slides get the most engagement by far.

Strong typography — the actual typeface choices themselves have an impact on me, as you’d probably expect from a designer. The strong authoritative fonts gave the clear message, and seemed to (almost literally) give the talks that had adopted them more weight.  

Mixtures of words and visual elements — imagery would be a must. Seeing visual examples is so important and can save large amounts of unnecessary and wordy explanation.

It’s important to attend talks and see the approach and style other speakers take. You need to ask yourself, what would I feel most engaged in? After attending DiBi I refined the talk based on these key takeaways above. I found experiencing a talk as a viewer about to give one myself invaluable.

D-Day

I made sure I arrived early to set up with plenty of time to spar and then Design lecturer Dwayne introduced me to the class of 20 students.. I used Keynote and the iOS  Keynote app to produce the slides you see below. I’d practised the talk already, and so I knew the duration of the talk was about right. I tried to keep the talk friendly in tone and inspirational in content – occasionally breaking out into a story or situation I’d encountered, so as to make it relevant and personally. This was also something I’d noted during the last few talks I’d been to – anecdotes work.

So, what did I learn?

  • More slides, less content on each
  • Practise, practise, practise
  • Write speaker notes as a safety net
  • Arrive early for setup
  • Use familiar techkit
  • Take cables and connections
  • Document your experience with photos *ask the organiser
  • Share your slides on SpeakerDeck
  • Enjoy the experience… even the nerves, it means you’re pushing yourself

And my final thoughts?

Thankfully, due to my prep, care and consideration, my talk was received well which I was incredibly pleased about. The students were engaged and feedback from Dwayne was extremely positive. I presented my talk firstly to the students of Digital Design then was invited back again the following month to give the same talk again to Game Design. I felt much more relaxed the second time. The content was kept the same, but the delivery felt easier and much more natural, as I was more comfortable with the environment.

What we do in terms of processes can become second nature, and when we want to explain why we do what we do can be a challenge to keep it concise. This in itself this in turn helps shift your perspective, and makes you question what you think you know – I found it such a useful experience professionally.

On a more personal note over the years I have read, been mentored by and shadowed many people in my career and this opportunity of giving back and sharing a bit of what I know to help others in their journey has been definitely as rewarding as it has been challenging. . I’m already planning a workshop with Dwayne, to expand on what I’ve been talking about and the lessons learned so far I will develop further during my next visit.

“An area of personal growth that we sometimes forget: helping another person grow.” — John Maxwell

View the slides from the NCN talk here