Students of architecture and design often get to hear- “your idea is as good as you present it.” The underlying thought here is that your idea should be justified, and then that should also reflect in your presentation. A good presentation does not act as a substitute for the lack of thought in the concept, it just enhances the communication of its various aspects.
As students of architecture and design, and later in the field as well, those who understand the basics of graphic design and presentation tend to have better communication with the jury panel or clients. Design ideas and the methods to achieve a design output differ from person to person but follow certain principles and logic. Similarly, while presenting an idea you could follow certain key points that give you a better appeal. Following is a list of 10 tips for students of architecture and design to help them with a good architectural presentation.
Before starting off, know why you are presenting. A usual academic presentation has two aspects- the comparatively ‘static’, the one you have pre-prepared for the presentation, and the other is more fluid- your performance in front of the jury. Think what are you conveying with the presentation- the idea? the process? The final outcome? Are you initiating a discussion or presenting the findings of your research? Decide and then go ahead.
Also, take into consideration how you are going to present- is it going to be offline, or online? Is it going to be through digital media (projected, laptop/desktop screens, etc.) or manual (prints, panels, boards, booklets, etc.)? Work out the size of your presentation accordingly. Think about the orientation- landscape might work well in case of digital presentations as most of the digital viewing platforms are landscape-oriented, but majorly depends on the project you are presenting and your own preferences, because ultimately you have to get it done in time!
2. The Narrative
Think about the narrative of the presentation. How will you start? With an overview of your project, or with the concept, slowly building towards the final outcome? Do you want to focus on technicality, climate adaptability, or the cultural context? Accordingly, you can arrange the order of the different elements of your presentation. Do remember to emphasize that one idea or element that is unique to your idea and sets you apart from the others.
Once you have laid it out in your head, it’s time to lay it out on paper. Although we are in the post-orthographic age, the most standard medium of representation still remains in 2 dimensions- drawings, detailing, views. In the current education system (which is hopefully changing in India, with the NEP 2020) physical models and VR mediums are usually not considered under the primary means of deliverance.
Be it a hand-drafted sheet or a digital one, use grids and guidelines to create a basic layout of your presentation. Figure out where you would keep your final views, your orthographic drawings or your conceptual diagrams. You could also create a quick sketch and compare between different compositions.
4. Feel free to take inspiration
Pinterest, Instagram, Dribble…there are many online platforms where you can find references for various graphic and presentation styles. Don’t stop yourself from looking at references- you will slowly develop your own style. But after you have decided on a layout, take references- maybe you can’t decide how to represent a project so you look for similar projects or just certain elements. It might also be that you change the layout afterward, and that’s alright!
Consider the visual appeal of your project, and choose a color palette. Your color scheme could be something you simply like or something that you think matches the shades of your project or idea- but decide on it before you actually start working on your presentation. Or maybe you can take the first few elements of your presentation and try to work out a color-scheme through trial and error.
6. Less is better
Keep it simple. What needs to go through is your idea. If that can be conveyed simply, try keeping it that way. Extra elements might be distracting in some cases and might actually end up shifting the focus of your presentation.
7. It’s the small things that matter
Those text alignments, keeping the spacing between two elements accurate to the last decimal, checking for error in spelling and grammar- all of it matters. Try to pull through the stress of finishing the submission requirements so that you can polish on your presentation. After you are finished with a sheet/slide, view it from a distance and check for irregularities. These small things might not be the focus, but are enough as distractions.
Highlight the key points- this doesn’t limit to only text, neither does it mean actually taking a highlighter and marking the important points. Create a visual hierarchy to create a contrast, so the important elements ‘pop-out’. Not only does it have a better appeal to the jury, but also helps you in case you forget something important while presenting- just one look at your sheets and you know what to say next!
9. Know the overview
This is something most of the students skip, but it works. Before actually starting the presentation, give the jury an overview of what you are going to talk about in the upcoming few minutes. It sounds like the ‘Contents’ page, but it’s a little more than that. This way, you can quickly go through all that you are going to say and make last-minute mental notes. To the jury, you come through as a well-prepared designer, conscious of your design.
10. The Basic Courtesies
When you appear for your presentation, make sure you look neat. Take an extra pencil with you and place it in front of the jury to indicate that you are confident enough to answer all kinds of questions (even if you aren’t! That’s alright, you are still learning.). When you reach the end of the presentation, especially digital presentations, add a note of thanks or gratitude and a slide for “questions?” In case you are manually presenting, speak it out verbally. It would provide a sense of closure both to you and the audience.