Do You Know C.R.A.P.? – Contrast

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Ooooo, she said a bad word!”, this is something my 10 year old would say.  But, in this case C.R.A.P. isn’t what you think it is, it’s simply an acronym for 4 principles of graphic design coined by Robin Williams (no not the actor), author of several design books.  It is stands for:


When you know C.R.A.P, you can be assured that your presentations (be it marketing materials, presentations, websites, etc)  will have the  framework it needs to be a killer presentation.  Sorry to tell you that this alone “does not a killer presentation make“, if you’re content sucks so will your presentation (but that’s topic can take a whole book to address).  I’m not going to be talking about how to make great content, rather how to organize your content in a visually appearing manner.  Over the next few posts I will cover each of the concepts one by one.

Today’s topic is “Contrast

Contrast adds visual appeal to your presentation or design.  The result can be so visually appealing that you are able to achieve a higher impact than you anticipated. Contrast is about conflict – you know like black and white, night and day, oil and water.  I’ve created contrast in my sub-heading by using a different color for the word Contrast.  It makes it jump out at you and forces you to focus on that one word.

Contrast can be created using different methods, it’s not only about color it can be created by using a different font for two terms, adding texture that is contrary to what you are displaying, using items that may represent the same idea very differently, by using lines, images, etc. You really need to let your imagination flow.

Just to give you an example of contrast, here is one slide from a PowerPoint presentation I was asked to doctor up. This is the original slide, there is too much going and it fails to use contrast effectively:

This could be one possible fix for this slide.

By using contrast correctly and not overdoing it the slide begins to look a bit more professional.  There are other ways Contrast could be used in this slide but if you struggle with design, this is a simple way to make it work for you.

My first challenge for you it to create 1 slide in PowerPoint and apply the principle of contrast.  In my next post we’ll talk about “Repetition”.



Jennifer Jackson of posted sent me a comment asking whether or not contrast could be achieved with the use of an image.  My reply to this is absolutely, you just have to decide first the purpose of your slide because different purposes would warrant a different design.  I used the black and white example on top just to contrast the “oh so busy” original slide.  The one major thing I’m against is the use of extraneous elements, such as text in the footer, images used just to take up space, and images that really aren’t as relevant as you think.

So as I promised Jennifer, here is sample where I used an image to create contrast.  This particular slide is for a presentation made by a presenter.

This particular slide puts into use all 4 C.R.A.P. principles – you have contrast created by the shadings in the image that flow from dark to light, you have repetition through the repeating towers, alignment in the towers and text, and proximity in the text.  So you can achieve a clearer message and still use the principles without being tacky.

5 Replies to “Do You Know C.R.A.P.? – Contrast”

  1. Myra,

    I am a current Instructional Design and Technology student and have found your blog to be a useful resource for my studies and eventually a future job.

    We are currently studying learning theories and instruction and your post on CRAP has many relevant ideas. Using the CRAP model, students will encode information more effectively and be able to retrieve it when needed.

    The simplified slide with more contrast is backed by the idea of how we encode ideas into memory. We encode information to memory by organizing, elaborating, and assembling information into a larger schema.

    By simplifying the slide, the information is more concise and focused which in turn makes it easier to organize logically. The background pictures did not add any relevancy for the learner to encode the information properly. The original slide was chaotic, even though the title was “Taking Control”. These differing elements would not be conducive to understanding the concept.

    Thank you for your style and humor in instruction,

    1. Hi Eric;

      First thanks for following my blog, I’m humbled. Second, YOU GO IT! Yay! I’ve seen a lot of bad presentations, elearning designs, web designs, just bad, bad, bad. In my office I have a poster that a student made for me because I use the same tag line each and every time: “Bullets Kill and Slides are Free!”

      My motto is “just give me the facts and keep it relevant”. Graphics are a great way to enhance learning – Rosetta Stone and My Baby Can Read capitalize on this but the graphics (photos) must be relevant to the topic that is being presented.

      Thanks so much for your comment and good luck!


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