preservationcuration2Presentations are delicate and fleeting things. Their existence is often a balancing act of function and form. Their designers explore fringe techniques in an attempt to transcend the medium while retaining a degree of editability and modularity. Therefore, presentations tend to be impermanent, as they can be vulnerable to software and system updates. Many a designer has tried to show an old presentation to a friend and discovered that their fonts are all wrong or that an animation no longer works like it used to. While frustrating, this also lends a certain zen-like attribute to the whole business of presentation design. One must learn to let go.

Presentations are unique in that they are one of the only formats for design that is fully editable by the client. It is common to be surprised by changes made to your work by an anxious presenter, the night before the conference. For this reason, many designers will save a copy for their portfolio “before the client gets to it.” They are attempting to freeze a moment in time when their work was a cohesive whole. Before the entropy of the digital world compromises it’s integrity.

For posterity, we sometimes try to export the presentation as a video, but only certain video players will let you click from one slide to the next. Often, designers will notice that complex animations or video elements look incorrect after a video conversion. Sometimes the FPS is undesirably low. Friends of these designers will call them perfectionists and tell them “those details are only visible to you.” And they may have a point. Record enthusiasts will claim that no media sounds better than vinyl, but untrained ears everywhere remain oblivious to the difference. Flawless preservation is a challenge for any type of media.

The error may be in trying to preserve it at all. Instead, maybe we should think about presentations as a zen garden. We are not just designers of these things, we are also curators. In this way, preservation and maintenance become interchangeable concepts. I like the notion that my work could have meditative benefits too. I dunno. I guess we still need something for our portfolios.