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Illustration vs stock photography

Interesting article that looks at the benefits of illustration over stock photography.

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writersblock1.jpgA few tips to help you when you are struggling for ideas. Based on a designer’s experience.

1. Be prepared for some procrastination

When I’m thinking about a new design for an interface I invariably find my mind wandering to other thoughts – it may be another project or it may be how to re-organise the spare room at home. These ideas arrive as my mind struggles to find the answers that aren’t quite there yet. These aren’t meaningless thoughts; they are things that I’d actually like to do, just not now. Rather than trying to ignore these thoughts which only seems to make them more pressing, try writing them down so you can come back to them later.

2. Take your time

Plan out what you are going to do. Planning can seem like a waste of time. Sometimes it’s tempting to skip over this stage because your developing / writing / designing something for the 18th time that year and you can ‘do it standing on your head’. Well you’re right, you can do it without planning, but then the client will get something that looks like it was created by someone dropped on their head. We’re not talking Gant charts and critical path analysis here, just what you are going to do and when.

Planning is the most important step for each project – the clients paid for it just like the previous 17 did and they’ll spot the difference!

3. Start in the Middle

When designing an interface it’s very easy to start visualising the top of the page and then working your way down. 9 times out of 10 this will make your life harder and you’ll spend much of your time re-working stuff. How many times have you written content, starting with the title only to finish it and realise the title doesn’t actually describe it very well. Start at the important bit! If you’re building a website that showcases video or photographs, get an image onscreen that represents this content. By doing this you can start working around it from the beginning. In the end, you’ll find you have something that is much more usable and well thought out.

4. Start low-tech

A bit of an obvious one, but I find stepping back from the computer and sitting down with a piece of paper to get rough ideas down very useful. It’s quicker to get the ideas down and easier to change them.

5. Put your hand up

Ask for help when you need it. Nobody can be good at everything so we all need help now and then. Try to ask people who will provide constructive criticism rather that people that hate or love everything. A fresh pair of eyes from someone who doesn’t even do the same job as you can result in some great ideas.

6. If your absolutely stuck, go and do something else

If you’re absolutely stuck on something, get up and do something completely different. Have an early lunch and read a newspaper or do a bit of shopping. The problem will still be there but it won’t be as urgent. Your mind works best when it’s relaxed and you may find the answer as you ficus on something else.

Hands up if you’ve ever had to sit through a bad PowerPoint presentation? By bad I mean:

  • It didn’t engage you
  • The purpose of it confused you
  • You read the slides rather than listened to the speaker
  • The speaker sounded like he was reading the slides
  • You couldn’t describe what the presentation was about in 2 or 3 sentences

These poor attempts at presentations are usually the result of trying to cram too much content in because your scared of missing something out and you haven’t learnt the notes.

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint helps address this problem by simplifying things.

The rules are:

  • Ten slides
  • Twenty minutes
  • No font smaller than thirty points.

 

Ten slides
Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because the majority of people won’t take in more than ten new concepts in a one sitting.

Your ten topics should mirror the top ten things that your audience care’s about. To give you an example, here are ten example topics that a venture capitalist might care about.

  1. Problem
  2. Your solution
  3. Business model
  4. Underlying magic/technology
  5. Marketing and sales
  6. Competition
  7. Team
  8. Projections and milestones
  9. Status and timeline
  10. Summary and next steps

Twenty minutes
You should deliver your ten slides in twenty minutes. Try and give yourself at least an hour timeslot for the whole pitch. That should give you time to set up the laptop, 20 minutes for the presentation and time at the end for questions.

Thirty points
A lot of PowerPoint presentations contain too much text in a small font size and the presenter just reads it out. As soon as the audience figures this out, they start to read it themselves because they can read it faster than you can speak it.

The result? You and your audience are on different pages, you’re out of sync and you might as well not be there.

Use a font size of no less than 30pts. If you think you need to reduce this then you have too much text. What do you do with this text? You learn it and practice delivering it confidently and concisely. The rest you store in memory for the questions at the end. If there are no questions at the end, chances are your audience has given up trying to register all that new info and just want to get out of there.

Sticking to this rule will be difficult to start with because it means reducing the amount of text on screen and puts the pressure on you to deliver only the salient points. By doing this you should stir enough interest in the audience that some will use the question time at the end to drill down to the nitty gritty details.

Remember, you are the star of the show, not the PowerPoint so practise practise practise!

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