How you can kick the CRAP out of (or is that into?) your presentation visuals.


Robin Williams (the designer and Shakespeare aficionado – not the comedian) has written two books on graphic design. The books are full of tips and insights that will take your presentation visuals to the next level. She created The Non-Designer’s Presentation Book for people who create their own presentation visuals (slides).   It walks you through creating slides using professional design concepts.  I highly recommend it.
Her other book is the Non Designer Design Book.  This book is for people who need to design professional looking documents. It’s targeted at people who have no background or formal training in graphic design. People who from time to time need to put together things like newsletters and pamphlets. It’s for anyone who understands that an attractive document gets more attention.
In this book she introduces the basic design concepts that spell the rather interesting acronym CRAP. The acronym stands for contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity.  I believe that your slides need to have CRAP. These design concepts generally used in documents also work for slides.
Check out either or both of her books. The tips and knowledge will help you create much more impactful presentation visuals.

Joe Pops


Confessions of a closet graphic designer

confessions of

I really enjoy graphic design projects, however I only discovered this a few years ago.  It’s become one of my favorite creative outlets, for example I created the posters above. I have no formal training, anything I know comes from what I have read in books, by trial and error and by studying the work of professional graphic designers. The tool I use is PowerPoint, which I am sure isn’t the norm for the “pros”.  Actually it works well for a amateur like me since it is designed to put words and images together on a page/slide and is relatively easy to use.  I guess PowerPoint was the natural tool for me since I do a lot of work in presentation design/delivery (my other creative outlet) making slides.

I  mainly do projects for cat rescue/activist groups.  The group I do the most work for is the Tuxedo Party of Canada. You may have heard of us because we have run cats for political office, probably our most famous campaign was Tuxedo Stan for Mayor. I  also do work for a small business, Inner Space Concerts.  Inner Space sets up house concerts that gives professional classical musicians an opportunity to get out into the community to play, and get paid for it!  Classical musicians do so much pro bono work in their communities, it’s nice to be able to support them in an income making endeavor. These very intimate concerts are amazing experiences, it’s cool to play a small part in their promotion.

Over the last few years I have created a lot of different things: logos, posters, Facebook banners, greeting cards, certificates and faux magazine covers. All of them have been challenging in one way or another. As a amateur I am sure I take 10 times the amount of time a professional would take, but that’s OK, for me it’s a great opportunity to be creative.

The main reason for this post is that some of my friends and colleagues (from my day job) don’t know about my “hobby”.  So today I’m “coming out of the closest”, here is where I keep what I think is my best stuff.  I hope you like it. I think everyone has a creative streak, some people never seem to find an outlet for theirs. I am happy I found mine.

I would love to hear what you do to exercise your creativity.

Joe Pops


Jan 29 2016



Are you using “shiny happy people” in your slides?

shiny happy peopleA couple months ago I was asked to help some colleagues design and deliver a major presentation for a project at a children’s hospital.  We didn’t have much time to plan our strategy. To get started I did a short email survey asking everyone what they thought the main message/theme of the presentation should be, and I chatted with my colleagues who knew the audience best.   In the end we chose a simple but meaningful theme “It’s about the kids”.

We wanted the presentation visuals to amplify our message.  This turned out to be a challenge. All we could find in our marketing database were images of “shiny happy children”, positioned to show off the healthcare technologies.  Even the most professional stock images are composed versions of reality and (typically) look like stock images. In reality, children are rarely happy in the healthcare environment; health professionals make considerable effort to reduce children’s’ fear and anxiety.

I was pretty sure our audience at the children’s hospital would have seen enough stock images from the groups who presented before us.  We decided to take a different path, and use images of children we knew.  The team was great about volunteering pictures of their own children or grandchildren.  Some of the children of the local team had even been patients at the hospital in which we were presenting.  It was a case of ‘let the medium be the message’ … we had more than just a professional interest in their project.

At the end of the presentation we disclosed who the children were and each team member told a brief story about their picture.  The presentation ended with all of us in the same place: a bunch of people (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles) talking about – and connecting over – our kids.  (Note:  for reasons of privacy our handouts did not include the pictures.)

Presentations are about people communicating with people, not marketing departments communicating with procurement departments.  Try using pictures of ‘real’ people in your next presentation (with their permission of course). The advantage is that your audience will know that they are speaking with real human beings.

Joe P


R.E.M. – Shiny happy people 1991