Scientific Doesn’t Mean Boring: Slide Design for a Storytelling Grandmaster

3 min readJul 5, 2021


We badly wanted to add Mr. Kendall Haven to our Present to Succeed conference lineup. Then we ended up creating the design for his whole presentation on neuroscience in storytelling.

Kendall Haven is one of the most prolific researchers on the topic of storytelling. His books have revolutionized human understanding of how stories control our brains. As we wanted to bring the absolute best to our conference — Present to Succeed, we reached out to him to deliver both a masterclass and a session at the event. After multiple calls and discussions, we won him over. And then he said something that surprised us pleasantly, to put it quite mildly:

“I have seen what you are doing for your customers in terms of presentation design. I cannot do that on this level, and I would appreciate any help from you because I don’t want to put your reputation on the line.”

Well, that’s a nice way to start working on a project.

Working on a presentation by the storytelling grandmaster himself, we focused on the design only. Kendal sent us his slides that were very simple, even spartan — using only black and red Comic Sans font (maybe as a subtle tease towards our design team) on white background. Since Kendall didn’t have a brand or visual direction set, we decided to develop a stylescape — a short document, which presents three different overall design directions with some sample slides included. We knew the presentation needed to be as clean as possible, as the subject matter is already complex.

The direction we ended up going with is inspired by old-style medical textbooks and manuals. That was appropriate since the subject matter is highly scientific. We chose a beautiful serif font named Playfair Display that was very fitting to the textbook feel we were going for. Its pronounced and elegant serifs made all text easy to follow, which is crucial, especially in online presentations. We kept the palette minimal by using one bright color only. That way, we made sure the essential parts stood out, especially in the slides containing mental and memory exercises. What you are seeing here is part of 187 carefully designed slides, which ensure the story and its contents are not overpowered but reinforced.

It was crucial for the animations in this deck to fulfil two key goals: help the audience to assimilate the presented information and work well in an online setting. That’s why we kept the animations simple and bite-sized. They follow the presenter’s logic, showing one piece at a time, helping the audience focus. On top of that, short and simple is the best animation recipe for online presentations. So, win-win.

From simple and basic to alluring and sophisticated, we wrapped Mr. Kendall Haven’s finely crafted storytelling into the corresponding visual communication it truly deserves. In the end both his masterclass and his session were among the top 5 of the whole conference based on our audience’s feedback. On top of that, we won his trust to work on designing his future presentations.

View the entire project here.




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