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Scan yourself a library of images

I love to scanPictures form the basis of storytelling and as presentation designers visual content drives our presentations. I can spend hours trawling through photographs, textures and backgrounds in stock libraries searching for the perfect image to enhance or illustrate my slides. There are occasions where I will take my own photographs, but I often get frustrated by my lack of technical expertise and equipment. You may not realise that you have a valuable tool at your fingertips in the form of a simple home office scanner. Scanners are relatively inexpensive machines that allow you to create your own unique images with items that are readily available to you. You can set your scanner to scan at high resolution, allowing you to zoom in and create interesting effects. You can fill PowerPoint auto shapes with scanned fabrics or textures and use crumpled paper and cardboard boxes for unique templates and backgrounds. Here is an autumn leaf I scanned alongside an autumn leaf from a stock library that costs close to $10. Autumn Leaf ComparisonMy motto is, if it’s flat, it can be scanned.

For more scanning inspiration, including a list of my top 20 items to scan, please check out my latest offering to Slideshare below:

The Art of Visual Communication

When was the last time you had a close look at the safety instruction card on an aircraft? Or went shopping at Ikea? Or even constructed a Lego kit? You may have noticed that the instructions are completely visual. Despite the absence of text, the meaning of the instructions is abundantly clear and easy to follow. Let’s take a look:Qantas Safety CardIkea instructionsLego InstructionsOften the most important information we need to communicate in life is done through imagery. Pictures transcend language, race and age and can be understood by people from all walks of life. Studies have proven that people think in terms of images and vision trumps almost every other sense. Here is a collection of signs I photographed today on a short walk during my lunch break. You can see that important information is communicated clearly without the use of words.Signs around the neighbourhoodImages attract attention and help us quickly comprehend and absorb information that might otherwise be lost in printed text. If a picture really is worth a thousand words, we should be challenging ourselves to present information in the most visual way possible.

PowerPoint…it’s not you it’s me

Graphic DesignYou may have noticed things have been fairly quiet in these parts. I have been completing a Certificate IV in Graphic Design and it’s been a huge commitment in addition to parenting and work. However it has been wonderful learning new skills and being around other creative like-minded people. I love being in a place where we can have in depth discussions about the finer points of printing on gloss v semi gloss paper!

I wanted to do formal graphic design training because I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the limits of PowerPoint. After completing 6-months intensive training in Adobe Creative Suite, typography and graphic design elements and principles, I feel much more equipped to create dynamic presentations. Perhaps the most exciting skill I’ve learned is the ability to make my own vector graphics. I’m no longer limited by the options available in stock libraries or the auto shapes in PowerPoint…the sky’s the limit.

Design by Committee

Working in a team can be great because you get the benefit of other people’s perspectives and creative input. Sometimes working in a team sucks…you have the burden of other people’s perspectives and creative input!

One of my favourite sayings is A camel is a horse designed by a committee, which originated with automotive designer Alex Issigianis in 1958. The term refers to projects that have too many designers with no single unifying vision. When you compromise between all the views of the project members you can end up with something that doesn’t meet anbody’s expectations. Depending on your work environment or the situation, it may be difficult to avoid being in a situation where you have lots of personalities and perspectives working on a creative project. My advice is to develop a strong vision, pitch it persuasively and involve others at strategic points.

If you have the committee blues, check out his great video by the team at Vooza:


The anatomy of a slide

Make Great Tip for PowerPoint DesignToday I want to share a PowerPoint design tip with you. There are only three components to a great slide: shapes, images and text. It’s what you do with these components that can either make or break your slide.


Autoshapes appear a standard default blue when you insert them onto a slide, but they can be changed to suit your needs. You can adjust the shape’s size, line, fill, placement or transparency. Shapes are useful for ‘anchoring’ text to a slide or making text more visible if it is becoming lost on an image. Shapes are also useful for creating charts, diagrams or other interesting visual effects.


Images are the key ingredient for bringing your slides to life. They might be photographs, illustration/vectors or diagrams. Choose relevant, high resolution images that accentuate your message and fill the entire slide. There are many free images available to you under a creative commons licence, which means you can use the image if you abide by the terms of the licence and properly acknowledge the creator. I tend to take a lot of my own photographs and source others through commercial photo stock libraries, which allows me to get exactly what I am looking for.


Text should be used in moderation, it should be visible and the selected font should work well with the overall look of the slides. Most importantly your text should encapsulate the key message and sum up what you’re saying in as few words as possible. You can create interesting effects by varying the size and colour of the text, adding drop shadows or manipulating the text in PowerPoint’s Word Art feature. Although you can insert text directly into a shape, my preference is to place text into a separate text box as this give you much greater control over its placement and look.

The more you practice using these three elements, the more proficient you will become. I’ve included some examples below depicting the anatomy of these three elements at work.

And remember, it’s as simple as S.I.T.

Creating a Visual Resume

Have you considered that many of the skills we use to convey information in a professional setting can be used in other areas of our lives e.g. designing birthday invitations, creating a map to show directions to a venue etc. Recently I set myself the challenge of updating my resume so that it would be more of a visual display of my achievements and skills. I wanted to keep the document to one page only (reducing it from 3 pages) and distill larger amounts of information into key essential messages.

I created this visual resume in PowerPoint using auto shapes, text boxes and by inserting icons. To create a consistent effect, I used the colour picker tool to select a colour from my photograph to use in the rest of the document. I then saved the final product as a PDF document. I think this version is a much better reflection of who I am and the skills I have and I’m not sure that I could go back to the humble Word document again.

Make Great Tip

If you would like to create the effect of ‘dummy’ or latin text in PowerPoint 2010 when creating a document such as the one above, place your cursor in the text box and type in the following:


Then press enter and you will find your text converted to latin.

Wild Slides

I’m pleased to launch this blog by sharing my ideas on great slide design on Slideshare. This is the first time I’ve displayed my work publicly and I’d love you to check it out.

In addition to tips on slide design, my blog will feature posts on making great speeches, training materials, icebreakers, handouts and lots more. If you subscribe, you won’t miss a post.

Thanks for visiting and happy viewing.