Title slide for "A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun"
presentation design

Breaking the rules with Lucy Braun

I recently had the pleasure of working with Meg Hanrahan, a Cincinnati-based video producer and documentary maker on collateral materials for the documentary “A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun.”

Title slide for "A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun"
Title slide for “A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun”

Lucy Braun led an exciting and inspiring life, a pioneer in the field of ecology. She and her sister Annette grew up in Cincinnati and were among the first women to get a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. Both sisters studied biology and botany at a time when most women either raised children or worked as secretaries and nurses. Lucy was an ecologist who traveled the country and worked tirelessly to save local forests. She cataloged and photographed hundreds of plants, hiking all around the United States and preserving specimens of all sorts.

As part of the documentary, Meg worked with the Cincinnati History Library and Archives at the Cincinnati Museum Center to acquire some of the images. The Museum Center is home not only to a treasure trove of photos by and of the sisters, but also holds their specimen collections. Meg and the documentary team were able to get a grant to conserve and digitize the photography collection, and she used the images in the presentation that we worked on.

Generally, there are rules for visual presentations in PowerPoint, Keynote and the like. Really, they are more like guidelines, and the presentation on Lucy Braun was the time to break them, especially the rule of 6. The rule of 6, or the rule of 6×6 or 6x6x6, suggests that a presentation be limited to 6 slides, each with no more than 6 bullets per slide, each bullet with no more than 6 words.

I’d just been to a presentation by the Cincinnati Preservation Association, and one of the presenters had bunches of before and after images with minimal type on them. With the abundance of imagery for the Lucy Braun presentation, it made perfect sense for Meg to have a large number of images that she could move through quickly, very similar to the CPA presentation.

Image from the Powerpoint presentation for the documentary "A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun"
The bulk of the presentation featured historical images like this.
Section opener from the PowerPoint presentation for the documentary "A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun"
Section openers featured botanical imagery

In designing the deck, I incorporated imagery from Lucy’s profession for the section heads, and used greens, browns and beiges to evoke not just the forest but also the historical nature of the topic. For the historical images, I used a beige border to evoke the look of older photographs. The bulk of the show is photos, presented with minimal to no cropping and with minimal type. The content is nicely broken up with section heads and slides with quotes from Lucy’s journals and letters. Meg relied on the notes in PowerPoint as well as practice ahead of time to get her timing and presentation down. That’s a good guideline to hold onto. The presentation went off without a hitch, which is what every designer wants to hear.

Quote slide from the PowerPoint presentation for the documentary "A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun"
Slide with quote from Lucy’s writings

Tentative plans are for “A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun” to air on Ohio and Kentucky public television in March of 2018, as part of Women’s History Month. For more information, visit “A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun” at Voyageur Media.