Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to edit shapes in Keynote 7

Keynote offers very good tools to do complex shapes, and just no rectangles, circles, triangles and so on:
Complex shapes are not only done using the "Draw With Pen" tool, but also by reshaping basic shapes and combining them using boolean operations. Note I'll be using Keynote 7.1.1.

Boolean Operations

The boolean operations offer by Keynote are Unite, Subtract, Intersect, and Exclude:

First things first, the boolean operations are found in Keynote on the Format panel, under the Arrange tab. The operations are only shown when two or more shapes are selected, like shown in the figure above. With the first three operations one can quickly make a shape like this:

With the fourth operation one can punch a hole in a figure:

Editing Shapes

In this tutorial, we are going to go for this diagram

1. Add a square and make it editable. Right Click on the selected shape and Left Click  on Make Editable.
2. Add a new vertex by placing the mouse pointer on edge. Keynote will automatically offer to add a vertex in the middle of the segment. Left click on the new shown vertex to add it. The new vertex will have a red fill meaning it is selected.
 3. Convert the new vertex to a sharp vertex. Right Click on the selected edge (point) and click on "Make Sharp Point"

4. Repeat on the opposite side and select both new edges (points). Repeat step 3 on the left side and then holding the Shift key click on the both new points.
5. Move the selected vertex (points) to the right. Holding the Shift Key press the Right Arrow once. The combination of the arrow and the Shift Key  moves the points 10 pixels.

6. Duplicate the shape twice. Press the Escape Key to exit the "edit" mode and duplicate the shape twice by press the Command Key+D.

7. Lets speed up! In two the of the shapes, remove one of the newly added edges on opposite sides. To remove a edge go into Edit Mode (Step 1), select the vertex, and either press the Delete Key of Right Click and click on Delete. The result should look like this:

8. Resize the shapes. This is an import point, The usual resizing tool will deform the shape and since we want matching triangles, usual resizing is evil. This illustrates the issue:
To do the resize right, you need to select the nodes and move them.

After aligning and resizing this is the result:
Let's go and do the bottom part.
9. Add a rectangle and three triangles...something like this:
so that it fitting in the shape we just did:
Here you see why the  boolean operations are necessary. If we were to use a filling placing the rectangle and the triangles would be enough, but if you work only using the outline, we need to unite all four shapes.

10. Combine the shapes with the unite operation. So let's do that by selecting all four shapes and going to the Arrange Tab in the Form Panel and click on Unite.

After doing this, the result should look like this:

11. Align the triangles with the guidelines (yellow lines).  Similar as in Step 8 select the nodes and move them until they fit:

So that's that! The upper should be easy now.  

Friday, June 2, 2017

Why scientific posters suck and what to do about it. Part 2

So you are brave and/or foolish and have set out into the adventure of designing and producing a scientific poster. Here are my thought and advice.
  • Fuck it, hire a graphic designer! Seriously, you are a researcher, not an artist, not a designer. Instead focus on the storytelling of your poster.

    Why does your research matter?

    Are your methods innovative, and could other people benefit from knowing about them?

    What are your results?

    Where does it go from here? In order words, what are the open questions?

    In these times of cinematographic universes, think of the last question as a sequel (Note to self: idea for the  open question slide "Iron Man 2"). Moreover, if you think about "related research" as other heroes in your research field.
  • Make a very high quality, high resolution CV-like photograph of you in Black and White. Say what,  Juan? In case you must add a picture of you in a poster be prepared by having a professional image that you are not ashamed of. Black and White is your best bet as it could be tuned to fit in the color palette of your poster. 
  • Find out the requirements for the poster, namely minimum and maximum size and the orientation. Not only will a graphic designer ask you for this information, but also if a landscape poster is allowed, pick that orientation. It makes the experience more immersive. 
It is not worth it doing a scientific poster by yourself if you don't have the graphic design skills and experience.  Don't let your content be buried by your design. Your research is worth a worthy design.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Why scientific posters suck and what to do about it. Part 1

If young scientists struggle with good visuals on their presentations, imagine the horror show call poster sessions. The reason why scientific poster suck is simple: (most) scientists don't have the graphic design skills that it takes to make a poster. Let's face it. When it comes to conceptualize, design, and produce a scientific poster, there is a culture of mediocrity, bad taste and incompetence.

Be aware that producing good presentation visuals is a different business than producing good posters. True, both have some things in common,  but they are not the same.  Chances to learn and type of media are just two of those differences.  Compare how often researchers produce posters to how often they prepare slides. There are more chances to fail and learn on the latter. And if science is about learning you can see the difficulty. And here is the first and best way to stop making scientific posters: Work together with a graphic designer. Here are some guidelines on how to choice an appropriate graphic designer:

  • Check out their portfolio of work. Does it include infographics? Infographics are to scientific posters what billboards are to slides. So it is a good sign, if a portfolio contains infographics. If it doesn't, that is alright but remember to ask him or her about their experience on infographics.

    Does the portfolio include printed work? Probability as important as their experience with infographics, is their experience on producing printed material. When producing a poster the type and quality of paper matters, the color palette matters, and the printing service matters. In my view, no or few experience on printed media is worse than no or few experience on infographics.

    Do you like the style? It is worthless if you hire a graphic designer, but you hate the poster.
  • Talk to them. Even if the portfolio includes infographics, printed media, and you like the style, ask them again! The portfolio might not reflect all the skills and experience a graphic designer might have. After all a portfolio is put together to get hired by a specific client-niche, and you are not part of that niche.

    Do they have experience on scientific or technical content?
    That is definitely a double plus, and trumps experience on infographics.

    How close do they work with clients? Because your content is king, you might want to be checking in every once in a while for the process.  Would they feel comfortable with this?

    What does the price include and how many weeks will be take until delivery? These are standard questions, but keep in mind that a poster session date cannot be moved. Ideally, the price should include the printed poster and not just simply a pdf and a recommendation where to print. Yes, this might lower the price, but the peril that the finally result is not what you thought is big.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A word on visuals: An alternative to the bullseye diagram

A particular type of diagram that I often have problem with is the bullseye diagram.
Bullseye diagram

The problem is text placement. Some people, including me, opt to place the text outside the diagram and connect to it using lines or arrows. A bullseye diagram conveys the idea of a core and its subsequent layers. It is a hierarchy diagram with the center been the most important part, the core if you will.

A slide that I didn't show in the last post was a simplification of diagram I would called a Earth's Layers diagram:
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In essence, it is the bullseye diagram in 3D. I wanted to visualise the following layered hierarchy 1. Principles 2. Methodologies 3. Tools. At the core are the principles, followed by the methodologies, and tools as the final layer. My plan was to place the text on x-y plane.

I ended up not using the earth's layers diagram because I couldn't modified the above diagram to have only three layers. So  instead I came up with this:

Simplification of a earth's layers diagram
The  advantage with this kind of diagram is that the size and shape of the layers can be changed arbitrarily to meet the requirements of the text to be place inside the diagram itself. No lines, no text sacrifices  The depth effect is cause by the shadow effects, which are blurred gray copies of the white surfaces.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Visual Examples: Principles and Smells

Yeah, I'm back.  These are sample visuals for a coming presentation on some basics of software development target for a none technical audience.


The background is a linear gradient from #DFDFDF to #FFFFFF with no transparency, and except for the images, the only colors are orange (#EB9D3F) and blue (#3B85A7). The font is Open Sans, which I like more and more. As with as Roboto it is was commissioned by Google and is free.


The images are from Wikimedia Commons, some of them are either Feature Images of Quality Images. I had to desaturate them in order to gain control back of the overall aesthetics.

#1 Principles

Principles slide with layout number 1

#2 Smells

Smells refer to problems caused when one doesn't follow the principles.  I purposely changed the layout to reflect this.
Smells slide with layout number 2
As an exercise I did the smells slide with the principles layout number 1…
Smells slide redone with layout number 1
but it doesn't have the punch layout number 2 has. I'm actually lying. The difference in the layouts is due to the number of items in each slide: 5  in Principles and 4 in Smells. The change in the layout does show the juxtaposition between principles and smells. For sake of completeness, here is the version of the principles slide with layout number 2:
Principles slide with layout number 2

Not cool. I think the problem is the quality of the inkrementell and Modularitaet images. Although the word Verallgemeinerung is very long and doesn't fix in the available space, I think one could get away with it. Note how layout number 1 is more benevolent in this regard. The Abstraktion and Veraenderung thumbnails look great on the layout number 2. But I decided to stick to the first one. I get the contrast between Principles and Smells for free with two different layouts.

#3 SPA

Single Page Applications, or SPA for short, are websites that don't require a whole reload of a page. SPAs mimic the behavior of a traditional Desktop application. That why I contrast a Windows logo with a web browser.
You might be wondering why I rotate the title. After all it de-emphasises it and increments the cognitive load. Precisely because the title are just three words and only the last one has more than three syllables, it engages the viewer.

#4 Process

One difficulty in these slides was to find an icon for testing that wasn't icons of magnifying glasses or insects.  This test icon is inspired on the Test Corps for the Google Tech Talks and pushing the idea of Corps in the military. If you look at the Insignias of the U.S. Army, you'll find the resemble.

A 7 Step process won't fix in a slide, that's why I broke it down into two slides with a fancy transition. Watch the video below!

Part 1

Part 2

Here is the process with the push from right to left transition.