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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
  Now Entering the Post-Template PowerPoint Design Era...

If you are still using PowerPoint templates as a presentation design aid, it's time to stop. Why?

Stop Using PowerPoint Templates!Because we've officially entered the Post-Template PowerPoint Design Era.

Why the Post-Template PowerPoint Design Era? With so many options available for great images, you don't need to rely on a PowerPoint template anymore. As fellow presentation blogger Ellen Finkelstein puts it in her excellent post at Slideshare, "White is definitely the new blue in presentation backgrounds..."

Why did PowerPoint background fashion change? Back in the early 1990's, very few people had easy access to compelling digital photography to insert in their PowerPoint presentations. Today, just about everybody who gives presentations has a digital camera. Use it to capture unique and fresh images for your next PowerPoint presentation. Don't have the talent for taking a great photo? You might be surprised at just how good you are! Don't be intimidated -- if you have a digital camera, at least give it a shot! At the very least, it's sure to be an original.

Can't get the shot you want? Again, you have access to a plethora of great photography online -- something you probably didn't have 10 years ago. Consider Flickr, the social photo sharing site. Many photos are available for use in your presentations through the Creative Commons attribution. If you can't find a unique photo at Flickr, try Morguefile or StockExchange. Both of these sites offer totally free photos. Just be sure to check the licensing requirements on each image before you use it in your next presentation.

Pay a little. If you still can't find the photograph you want, you may have to pay for a stock image -- but just a little. I like iStockphoto -- the prices are usually a buck or three -- and the selection is decent and updates regularly. But be careful! With stock photography, you run the risk of picking a photo that many people have seen before -- so it's not unique. Many times, you risk boring your audience with stock photography. Fortunately, iStockphoto shows you which photos are the most frequently downloaded, so you can avoid photos that everyone has already seen. With a little diligence, you can find something newer, fresher, and hipper.

The days of slapping clip art on a blue background are definitely over. That's just so 1990's! And when the audience has seen a background or image before -- the presenter becomes part of a landscape of visual cliches. The eyes of the audience glaze over. The presentation seem hackneyed. The presenter seems trite. The message gets hazy. Lost.

Use unique imagery. Use your creativity. Your audience with appreciate your effort!

PS -- Need help learning to manipulate photos and other graphics? Ellen Finkelstein also writes to remind me that her ebook, 7 Steps to Great Images, is on sale at her site. The book is easy-to-read, and filled with practical instructions for manipulating images in PowerPoint. Perfect for the Post-Template PowerPoint design era! You can also sign up for Ellen's free tips newsletter. Enjoy!

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Friday, May 09, 2008
  Imagine a Bershon PowerPoint Presentation...

What's Bershon? Oh, you know that look. It's the look you have on your eighth-grade picture.

Sullen. Bored. Ennui.

It's a look that says, "I'm a little too cool to have my picture taken, but I must suffer the indignity for the sake of my parents."

Bershon photo
This uniquely adolescent pose exasperates mothers of teenagers everywhere.

"Why couldn't you just smile?" they implore.

Until recently, I did not know there was a name for this expression.

Now I do.

It's called Bershon. I discovered the term when I read Design blogger Michael Bierut's post about Bershon, and witnessed the lovely picture of his wife in a classic Bershon-y (Bershonic?) grimace. I grinned in instant recognition of the classic teen and pre-teen posturing, which heretofore had been nameless to me.

You will recognize Bershon instantly when you see it. And I am much pleased to note that the topic has its own Flickr group, appropriately titled, "I'm so Bershon". It's a joy to flick through these images. So much so, I'm considering using them for the break slides in my next PowerPoint presentation, no matter what the topic.

Note to teenagers and pre-teens everywhere: for your next class photo, suck it up.

Make your mom happy.

Just smile. :)

And 32 years from now, you won't find your grimacing mug on Flickr.

PS to Moms everywhere: how can you use your new found appreciation for Bershon to generate even more Bershon photos from your young? ;0

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007
  Kitsch and Camp: The PowerPoint Twins

PowerPoint KitschWhat's Kitsch? Kitsch is a black velvet painting. Garden gnomes, lava lamps, troll dolls, flamingo lawn ornaments, dogs playing poker -- all are classic kitsch. Often of poor quality, kitsch is an object that appeals to lowbrow, popular, or tacky tastes.

What's Camp? Camp is the presentation of kitsch. Jon Waters, Cyndi Lauper, and Kiss are deliberately campy. Tom Cruise, Judy Garland, and Betty Davis are (probably) unintentionally campy. A campy presentation is so outrageously dramatic, inappropriate, gaudy, affected, or out-of-date it's ironic and funny.

What's contemporary kitsch & camp? When you watch VH1 "I Love the [insert decade here]" - you are watching a top 100 kitsch & camp report. In 3 years, what will be considered kitsch and camp for the '00 decade?

Will PowerPoint presentations make the kitschy cut? After all, there's a certain black velvet quality to many PowerPoint presentations...

...as well as to most Keynote presentations.

Oh, let's face it. Everything Apple is deliciously kitschy-campy. The Apple "Zen Aesthetic" is contemporary kitsch. By combining this spare design style with:Steve Jobs Cliched Buddha Pose
  • the Jobs priestly-black dress code
  • the gratuitous and cliched body language of Buddha-pose-faux-humility,
  • PlaySkool-ish, Web 2.0-y graphics,
  • the promotion of i-Everything,
  • dancing iPod silhouettes --
-- Apple is a contemporary kitsch+camp juggernaut!

Kitsch and camp are iconic, ironic fun. When you're deliberately kitschy or campy, you can come across as witty and self-deprecating. However, if you're unintentionally Tom Cruise-y or Apple-campy, you risk appearing self-important or buffoonish.

Try jumping on a couch these days without appearing ironic.

Commit to your camp. If you have a kitschy style, make sure you affect a campy mannerism. This can help you more fully engage your audience. There's no sense having a clipart-y, cluttered, bullet point-y, totally 1990's Microsoft-kitsch PowerPoint presentation if you don't drive it home by, say, swaggering like Johnny Depp in Pirate of the Caribbean. Cringing like the evil Mr. Burns from the Simpsons while presenting with a very 90's slide design is also an excellent kitsch-camp combo.

If you're going to be design-kitschy, you'll want to commit to being presentation-campy.

What's on your kitsch list? What is contemporary kitsch that is currently not commonly recognized as such? What contemporary '00 kitsch & camp will become classic kitsch and camp in the '10 decade?

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Thursday, April 05, 2007
  The Secret to Great Photography?

For the past three years in March, my friend (and client) Nancy Sweatt of Dolphin Journeys sends me breathtaking pictures from Hawaii. She runs a dolphin and whale touring business in Kona -- and posts some remarkable client photos at her website.

Her clients often take wonderful pictures from her boat. And they often get some terrific underwater shots, as well. (You can see the whale, underwater, and dolphin photos here.)

Nancy emailed me the picture you see in this post of two dolphins that swam up to her boat. They exhaled simultaneously -- and Nancy somehow got the shot.

dolphin photo

Now, when I went on a whale tour in Hawaii, I saw dozens of humpbacks. And I snapped pictures like a crazy woman. But when I got the pictures developed, all I had to show for my three-hour tour were dozens of pictures of endless ocean. Not a whale in the lot.

Here are the sound effects for my three-step, failing process:

Nancy laughed when I told her of my plight. She insists that for every great photo she takes, there are 1,000 stinkers. Same thing for her customers -- lots of pictures of ocean.

So I guess I shouldn't feel so bad. Especially when I can look at Nancy's photos online, and dream that I am swimming among the dolphins, instead of looking at the powdery results of a freak April snowstorm outside my office window!

Might the secret to great action photography be: take a thousand pictures? One of 'em might actually turn out to be worthwhile?

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