Yep, more political PowerPoint.*
First, go watch this presentation by Hans Rosling at the TED 2006 conference. It’s long, but it’s worth it.
Now, go see Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Leaving aside the messages of these two pieces — and both are very powerful messages — what impresses me most as a designer is the careful use of information visualization in each. There’s some tricks (Mr. Gore’s "stretching" of one chart beyond the bounds of the screen) and some innovation (Hans’s moving play-by-play and live-action graph splitting), but some of the sharpest moments in each are pure old-school charting. Maybe a little more tarted up than Tufte would approve of, but beautifully done.
Good content + good speaking style + good visualizations = powerful messages.
*Really this is about the use of design in formal presentations — and the power of those presentations to change the world. Entertainingly, I’m pretty sure that neither Al Gore nor Hans Rosling used PowerPoint to create their presentations — Rosling helps make his own presentation software, and Mr. Gore’s pretty clearly a Keynote guy.