“Death by Powerpoint” is a piece by Erik Heiss on an incredibly challenging and complicated subject: information design and communication in the military (and similarly complex and resource-strapped operations). It’s thought-provoking and full of empathy.
The central lesson is this: The illusion of clarity offered by bulleted-lists can be misleading at best, and deadly at worst.
It’s easy to sit back on our design high-horse and laugh at the weaknesses in these presentations. The painful reality is that these are just normal people, without any design training, trying to do their jobs the best they can. They don’t have experts advising them, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t have the time to listen.
These officers are doing about as good a job at design as most designers would do at the controls of a modern warplane. I say that not to excuse anything, but to place these very different skill sets in perspective.