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



Four ways to engage an audience


We all know that a presentation will have the greatest impact if the audience is engaged.  Typically there are four ways a presenter can connect with and engage the audience.

  1. Aurally: what they hear

How an audience hears a presenter can be as important as what they hear.  How does the presenter sound – excited or neutral? How is the message phrased? Do you use acronyms and jargon that the audience doesn’t know? These are just three aural examples which affect the audience connection.

  1. Visually: what they see

We humans are sensitive to what we see.  A presenter’s visuals should be simple, attractive and appropriate to the topic AND also appropriate for the audience. Traditional bullet lists on slides almost never meet these criteria, in fact they can disengage the audience from a presenter.

  1. Emotionally: arousing/transferring emotion

People are emotionally driven; we make decisions emotionally, we communicate emotionally.  A presenter must transfer their own excitement, concern, and passion to the audience.  One of the most powerful way to do this is through stories – share appropriate stories.  Have a conversation with the audience, as many great presenter do, talk with them not at them.

  1. Intellectually: rational logical information

While people are emotional they also need facts, figures, and logic to make sense of the world. Only use facts and arguments that will resonate with the specific audience, and avoid anything that isn’t directly related.

Paying attention to what/how the audience hears, what they see, how they feel, and what they think will provide for an optimal presentation experience with maximum impact.

Joe Pops




Removing the bricks in the wall: Connecting with your audience.

The wall


Connecting with an audience, having a conversation with them, is not easy – especially if it is a large audience. One thing you can do is to remove the barriers, “the bricks in the wall”, which stand between you and them. Much like a tall center piece makes it difficult to have a conversation with a person across the dining table, physical elements in a meeting room can act like center pieces, like walls, and make it hard to connect with your audience.  Examples of these physical barriers include podiums, tables and distance from the audience.

A while ago I did a presentation in a room that had some “bricks” between the speaker and the audience. My routine pre-presentation check of my slides, videos, and audio went well, but the physical setup of the room was challenging. Anywhere I stood on the stage there was a physical barrier between myself and part of the audience.

Podiums (see the picture above) are particular bad for most speakers, including me; they create a wall. If you are very tall perhaps you may get away with it, but the vast majority of speakers get lost to the audience when they are behind a podium. When I asked the hotel about changing the set up of the room their response was “no”, they really couldn’t. The podium and cables were secured to the stage and they couldn’t move the tables.

They did however provide me with a wireless microphone. This enabled me to stand in the best place I could think of – the floor in front of the stage, which is where I presented from. You need to be seen to be truly “heard” and figuring this out should be part of your preparation. Sometimes you have few options, but as presenters we need to consider how to ensure a connection with the audience.

There can be physical “bricks” that create a wall between you and your audience, make the effort to get rid of as many of them as you can.

Joe Pops



My wife and editor decided to buy this center piece because it was decorative, low and unobtrusive.

centre piece