Monday, January 30, 2012

Comparing Obama's State of the Union address slides 2011 and 2012

Yesterday I watched this year's President Obama State of the Union address. Obama is a great public speaker and many books have been written about this, but that's not what I want to write about today. What stroke me this time was, that the visuals of the enhanced presentation, where not as good of the visuals from last year. So I went to slideshare.net to compare them, and I was right. The visuals from 2011 are superb! In 2012 the slides couldn't hold one concept, and because Unity is perhaps the tenet of graphical design, I wanted to share them here.  You can draw your own conclusions. The moral of this tale for me is that even pros have bad days. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Visual examples: Creating title slide using a portrait photo

After yesterday's post, this morning I played with the red wolf's image a little bit more. For some time I found it challenging to use an image that fills the height but not the width of the screen I call this a portrait photo. But recently, going through Before & After Magazine's Master Collection,  I found a trick to leverage a slide that contains this portrait mode images. So this morning I applied the trick to the wolf's image, and I was so impressed by the result, that I decided to share it. I'll be doing a full tutorial on this in the coming weeks.

The trick is to copy a 20 pixel wide stripe from top to bottom of the image's left, right side (or both) border, stretch the strip or strips to fill the space, and then strongly blur it.

With this trick, you can create a nice looking title slide. As I said, I was pretty satisfy with mine.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Getting the right colors out of an image the pragmatic way

One big and difficult question designing visuals is which colors to use. Using images makes this question easier to answer. In this post I show three pragmatic ways to do this including using Adobe's free tool kuler. 

Source: Flickr
Most visual decks need a aesthetics improvement, and getting the slide's colors right when it contains a photograph. This is not an easy task, so how to approach this pragmatically? Right off the hat, one fast solution is to  randomly select the colors from the photograph using the color picker (also called the eyedropper) tool. The eyedropper tool is found in every slideware, e.g. PowerPoint, and also in gimp and Photoshop.  Another solution is to pixelize the image. In gimp open the image and in the image menu go to filters → blur → pixelise. The bigger the pixel block, the less colors you get to choose from, but the more homogeneous they get. As an example I'll use an image of a red wolf from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service digital library, which has amazing collection images with public domain rights.

Original and its pixelized version with a pixel block of 20×20
A much better way to get the colors right is to use Adobe's free internet service kuler. Kuler allows you to create your own color scheme based on color theory, but perhaps even better is feature that generates an color scheme based on a image.  Applying kuler this image I got this color scheme:


In a nutshell: less colors, better colors, less and better decisions. Here is an example of a slide using the color scheme:


Three things about this slide: first, the wolf's eye serve as an horizontal imaginary line and text is aligned with it. It looks if as he was looking at the text! The color of the text is white, this is to get the largest possible contrast with the beige background. Finally, in case you are wondering the font is called Rockwell.