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Nathaniel Schutta and Neal Ford: Communicating Architecture


Neal Ford hosts Software Architecture Hour, a series of live conversations on O'Reilly. He spoke with Nathaniel Schutta on Communicating Architecture on 7/7/2022.


Is presentation patterns still relevant?


Ford described new patterns for Zoom:

  • Start with the punchline. You must immediately state what they're going to get out of it so they don't leave. In-person, people will let it ride for a bit before they get up.
  • Paired presentations work better because it's more like a conversation
  • Timing is more important. Make something change on the slide every 30 seconds so it's not static and creates a sense of motion.
  • Ford: quoting a professor's advice - you need to do something every 10 minutes to hook people back in.

What presentation software is best?

Keynote or Powerpoint both have good animations. "You want a rich way to manipulate time" .
Info decks have to be complete; presentations are only half complete because the presenter is the other half.

Favorite tools

Use a tool that has layers. Ford puts the boxes on the bottom layer, protocols on the next, transactional boundaries above that.

Favorite diagramming frameworks

C4, Archimate, boxes and arrows with a legend. Use the framework that works. Keep diagrams up-to-date.

Ford shared a story about a coworker who would draw diagrams by hand as he talked with people, over and over. "It was a fantastic stupid human trick." High impact on the audience. ... "You start to see how they got to [their design]"


Ask, what nugget or two do I want my audience to leave with?

Focus on narrative.

Quiz questions and "raise your hand if..." gets mixed results. Some people are into it, some online audiences are shy


Ford: "As an architect, I have two folders - Current and Archaeology". Ford updates the Current diagrams, ignores Archaeology.


With Zoom it's harder than ever to retain attention.

Use layers in diagrams to add another dimension. I'd like to explore this for breaking up layers as Ford described, especially as a way to start with a simple idea and build on it. Something in this and in the Presentation Patterns chapter on temporal patterns reminds me of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. McCloud shows a sequence of two illustrations, with a person wearing a hat, and in the next panel, raising it. Our brains fill in the space between to create a story. Could I tap into that and a sequence to make diagrams convey more?

See Also

Thinking Architecturally by Schutta

Presentation Patterns: Techniques for Crafting Better Presentations and companion site

McCloud on presentations in A Conversation with Scott McCloud