Analyzing RealSimple

Bryce Li
4 min readSep 9, 2021

What makes a good Keynote?

I was inspired by the example keynote that Vicki showed us in class: the less, the better: twenty seconds per slide and twenty slides seemed like an amazing balance of simplicity. Even more interesting was the fact that this presenter hardly had any words at all in her slides! It really went to show the power of a compelling delivery and preparation.

As Kelly Johnson said, “KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid!” This applies to slide layout as well. Especially one about a magazine that is literally called RealSimple.

Visual System and Content
The creation of this keynote was a familiar process in some ways. When I was preparing for job interviews, I was thinking in a similar method. In high school, my instinct was to fill some sentences in a presentation and read off the slides. But what would be the point of making a presentation like that which could be easily substituted by a PDF?

Instead, I found when making both the keynote for this project and my portfolio that visual content and the delivered content are complementary components of a good presentation. By a complementary component, I mean that these components should work together while avoiding occupying the functions (and audience attention) of another presentation. I ended up following this very far into the presentation: we intentionally limited what was on the screen graphically. This was tested a lot: for example, it was a hard choice to make the title of the slide to be very small. However, we made this choice because we felt that the audience should be focused on the main visual evidence that we would give.

When I was preparing for interviews, I also had to practice a lot to work with both a visual system and my physical presentation. Even after running through an arduous thirty minute presentation several times over, there was still space to go: that’s when I realized that there was so much more to the art of presenting something.

Finding Main Characteristics

One of the biggest things that helped us understand RealSimple as a magazine was to take a close look at the people reading it.

We focused on some big characteristics of RealSimple that we found.

  • RealSimple is dedicated to modern moms in upper-middle class households.
    We initially settled on this because we were intrigued by the graphics, which reminded us of sites like Pinterest and wellness/health influencers on Instagram.
  • RealSimple is there to simplify and solve for a super busy and stressful life.
    Vicki helped us think about this, especially in the context of how the magazine gets to a reader’s hands. RealSimple is the type of magazine that one might find in the checkout aisle– a typically stressful environment. Oftentimes, being a parent, especially one juggling the precarious tasks of child-rearing and the pursuit of a career, can be stressful in general. RealSimple offers to destress it’s readers in this context.
    By thinking more about the user, we can also infer what people in that demographic think about a lot of visual elements in the magazine. For example, what is evoked by certain renditions of type?
Life is hard when you’re a parent. Let’s make it Real Simple.

Examining the differences between web and print

Our team discussed different use cases/contexts between the web and print versions of RealSimple. RealSimple has quite a unique readership statistic: although there are slightly more unique web visitors than there are magazine readers, this ratio is still much lower than other publications. That being said, RealSimple’s online presence is still strong and is designed for a different demographic and context.

Some things that we should’ve done in hindsight

Getting a closer look at the readership

I think that a lot of our readership could have been explored more authentically– a lot of our conclusions were based on connecting stories of people in demographics of RealSimple and making some assumptions. I don’t think it was as authentic as I’d like it to be, and I think it could really drive home the main points of the presentation if we could even highlight a typical reader and what they would say.

To address this, I kept my portrayal of RealSimple’s readership less assuming. Additionally, I portrayed RealSimple’s readership to be more gender-neutral, by using pronouns such as “they” and terms like “spouse”– especially when RealSimple’s readership still has a significant male-identifying population.

Cohesive Presentations

Looking at the feedback for our team, I totally agreed with the fact that our presentation felt a bit disjointed at times– not in the main narrative, but more of the nuanced delivery and connection. I think this was a product of two things that I should have adjusted for: firstly, we had informally delegated slides to each other and never touched each other’s slides. Secondly, we should have practiced more.