Referral fees (I don't pay them)

Referral fees (I don't pay them)

Referral fees. People in the HR business complain about this: a headhunter makes a connection between a candidate and a recruiting officer without asking them both first, and, when the introduction ends up in a match, sends an invoice for a referral fee. The same starts happening to me for custom design projects: an introduction, an anticipating client, and the request by the introducer to get paid in a separate email.

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Sankey diagrams in PowerPoint

Sankey diagrams in PowerPoint

Sankey diagrams in PowerPoint. Sankey diagrams are tricky to make in PowerPoint, in the absence of a standard tool, you have to DIY the diagram from individual components. See below the approach I took to recreate a Sankey diagram in PowerPoint

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Free templates (just for one day)

Free templates (just for one day)

Free templates (just for one day). I am experimenting with pricing on the SlideMagic template store, and trying to understand what sort of slide templates are most useful for you. So you can participate in another experiment: tomorrow you can download any template you want from the store by using discount code "Magic" (link). It is valid for 24 hours on November 17 Tel Aviv time (Black Friday came early).

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Popping out of the box

Popping out of the box

Popping out of the box. Unlike many designers, I actually like framing my slides, leaving white space around the edges. Stretching your picture all the way to the slide boundary looks nice on one page, but creates inconsistencies with more traditional data slides, and reduces the readability of slide titles.

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How to present the competition

How to present the competition

How to present the competition. The best slide to talk about competition of your product or company depends on your specific market. I will take you through a number of common slide layouts.

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Windows is at par

Windows is at par

Windows is at par. Every couple of years I am installing a Windows machine on my Mac, either to check how SlideMagic looks on corporate computers, and now, because I need access to Microsoft Office development features that are not available on a Mac. I went through Windows 8, then Windows 7, and now Windows 10.

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App demo slides

App demo slides

App demo slides. Doing a live app demo in a 20 minute pitch meeting is risky, the technology might go wrong, and probably more than half the time you spent in a 2 minute app demo could be things that are not really interesting: logging in etc. Instead, I usually prepare a series of screen shots with big explanation bubbles in my presentations.

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Spacing objects on a circle

Spacing objects on a circle

Spacing objects on a circle. It can be tricky to distribute text bubbles evenly on a circle. To make it easier, you can put a temporary shape inside the circle like in the example below. Delete it after your bubble chart is complete.

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How to create a waterfall chart

How to create a waterfall chart

How to create a waterfall chart. Waterfall charts are the secret weapon of McKinsey and other strategy consultants. They are great to explain the source of change between two values (last year, this year for example). In Excel they are tricky to make, especially if values zoom up and down the zero axis.

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SlideMagic versus the competition

SlideMagic versus the competition

SlideMagic versus the competition. Today, I added a slide to the SlideMagic template store that shows how I usually visualise some sort of competitive comparison or product differentiation. I took SlideMagic itself as an example

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Juggling URLs

Juggling URLs

Juggling URLs. All the SlideMagic businesses and web sites run on different platforms. Through design, I have tried to keep a consistent look and feel as you click from one environment to the other. Yesterday, I made some drastic changes to URLs, and consolidated the facebook pages into one.

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Cliche ads

Cliche ads

Cliche ads. Business speak is full of cliches, and when you take a cliche headline, and use a cliche image composition to visualise it, you get a cliche ad.

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P&L as a column chart

P&L as a column chart

When you want to show a P&L with very few lines, consider using a column chart instead of the more traditional data table. In the chart below you can see how to go about it. Use a bold color for the profit series, a light color for the COGS, and manually add the gross profit as bubbles.

Things get a bit trickier for years where there is a loss. You create a separate data series in the same color as the last cost category (opex in this example), and calculate how much of the opex goes under the line and how much above. Tweak data labels manually. For these types of charts it is best to sketch them completely on a piece of paper, and then fiddle with PowerPoint/Excel to get it right.

The column chart works well, it shows a number of trends in 1 slide: sales growth, profit growth, and how fixed/variable certain cost types are.

Below is the data I used to create this chart.

You can recreate your own chart with the description above, or download the example from the SlideMagic template bank.

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Slide make-over: polarising brands

Slide make-over: polarising brands

I am across this chart recently:

Infographic: America's Most Polarizing Brands | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

This chart can be improved in a number of ways:

  • Actually, take down the brand images, or make the smaller. The different colours and sizes make the chart cluttered
  • It is hard to read what the percentages actually mean
  • The biggest problem is the confusing line up of the data bars
  • The data could be sorted, to create additional structure for the viewer

I replaced the chart with the one below in PowerPoint, using a line graph with big markers instead of the bars.

Screenshot 2017-10-31 09.48.58.png

Ideally, I would have like to flip the chart 90 degrees, but this would require quite a lot of PowerPoint surgery (you can probably do it with a scatter chart somehow). The other option is to construct a highly complicated "waterfall" chart.

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My own clean PowerPoint template

My own clean PowerPoint template

PowerPoint templates get corrupted over time. It usually starts with a template that was designed by a print graphics designer as an after thought after designing the logo and the business cards: creating slide layouts without paying much attention to the technical issues of programming a template that can be (ab)used by thousands of employees. Then over, slowly but gradually, "foreign" templates infect the original until nothing is left of the original.

I go back to zero every time I design a new presentation. The file that I put up in the SlideMagic template store is pretty much the one I start every new presentation design project with. It is really simple. You can customise it with your own colours and you are good to go.

When creating a new slide, go to the "Layout" button in the top left of the menu to create a select a new slide layout.

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Focal point chart

Focal point chart

A while ago, I discussed how to create a "focal point" slide, where a series of triangles can create the illusion of text boxes all disappearing in one big point. You can read the instructions how to create it in this blog post, but now you can also find them in the template store.

I am spending part of my daily time that I used to invest in blog posts, and increasing the library of my template store, I have an infinite amount of template ideas in my head, so there is still a lot of work for me cut out. Ultimately, the value of this store will be some sort of subscription, as a sign of support for me, in return for which you get unlimited access to all the designs. The combination of a powerful search engine and the largest library of useful charts on the net, I think the proposition of 1 second downloads will beat the alternative of manually copying my designs. Let's see how it goes.

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The drone perspective

The drone perspective

Drones enable a new type of photograph by amateur photographers. A lower camera position than areal photos taken by planes, a higher camera position than what is typically possible from a rooftop, pictures that look down outside of big mountain ranges or dense high rise cityscapes. So you get that sense of perspective, but are still close enough to get very rich detail.

But most importantly: the lens can look 180 degrees down, which is very hard to do from a building or plane. The photos that are starting to emerge are beautiful and I assume we will see them a lot in presentations and other marketing materials.

paul-303766 beach drone looking down.jpg

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Mixed cluster and stack charts

Mixed cluster and stack charts

On a few occasions, I had to use a combination of a cluster and a stack chart. This chart is not available as a standard option in PowerPoint. Here is how to make it:

  • Create a regular stacked column chart
  • Set the gap width to 0
  • Blank out the data where you want the gap between the years to be
  • Manually add labels for each of the years

You can create one yourself using the above ingredients, or you can download the one I made in the SlideMagic template store:

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Soft launch of the SlideMagic template store

Soft launch of the SlideMagic template store

Many users of the SlideMagic presentation app ask for the slides that the app generates in PowerPoint format. In response, I have built a SlideMagic presentation slide template store. The basic store infrastructure is finished, but the amount of slides available is still small.

It was quite interesting to see how in 2017 it is possible for a designer to pull of a full-fledged digital content eCommerce store with downloads and payment processing in a matter of days. (OK, my computer science engineering degree came in handy a few times when I had to go deep into HTML to customise the store template in a few places). A few years ago I was toying with the same idea, but the required investment in technology would have been a lot higher.

The main shortcoming of PowerPoint templates vs my presentation design app also applies to my own template store: templates are hard to customise. Adding a row of boxes to an existing design and getting everything to line up properly requires a bit of design skill. It is a trade off you have to make. The app is free to use, and makes these adjustments really easy. Where possible I will add slide variants to accommodate the layman designer where possible.

There are thousands of presentation template stores on the Internet and I tried to make mine different. All stores try to hard: designs are too sophisticated, full supporting graphical clutter that makes slides hard to customise and hard to fit in to corporate templates. My slides are incredibly simple and should blend in nicely when pasted into another corporate colour scheme.

The other missing item in template stores is search, how to find a decent template that fits your specific business concept you want to visualise. In my template store, I will start with paying close attention to tags and search terms. For future releases, I am working an "AI engine" that can guide you through a process to match your visualisation challenge with an actual slide suggestion (this is the biggest source of value, a library with thousands of suggested layouts is not).

I will build up the slides in the stores gradually. My first challenge is the complete the basic library of the store, then I should be able to add a few slides per day. Maybe changing the scope of my blog a little bit, discussing a possible visualisation of a business concept, and then putting the final result up in the store. With 250 blog posts a year, this will get us to a nice library over time.

I am using the gradual approach as well to get feedback. The most important one is customers voting with their money. Which slides will sell, which ones not? I have no idea yet. Secondly, I am encouraging users (you) to post requests for slide designs. If I can can accommodate them, I will add the relevant slides to the store.

The business model for the site is not yet finished. Once the library gets bigger, an "all you can eat" subscription model seems the most sensible. This is especially valuable for users as I keep on adding slides and concepts from blog posts and user requests.

Some of my clients have already noticed that I have a bit bandwidth for bespoke projects at the moment. I might drop a daily blog post here and there as I am trying to focus to get the slide library to a decent size over the coming weeks.

As I make changes to the store, the site might go "black" now and then, apologies in advance. I would invite you to look around and send any feedback to jan at slidemagic dot com. Let me know what you think!

 

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