Importing Vector Graphics as Native Shapes into Keynote
If you are a presentation designer there is a good chance you might want to use custom shapes in place of images. Unlike images you can manipulate the fill and stroke of custom shapes, you can resize and edit them any way you want, you can mask images with shapes or you can create advanced animation builds like in this example with them. In short, with custom shapes you can use slideware to its full potential. How great would it be if you had your own library of custom shapes beyond the arrows, the speech bubbles and geometric shapes? If only the drawing capability with the bezier tool was not so troublesome and you could import elaborate shapes instead…
Well you can.
The seasoned presentation designer might covet the paste specialbetween Adobe Illustrator and Powerpoint, but let’s face it, if you are working on a Mac choosing a crippled Powerpoint version over Keynote does not hold much appeal (so much so that I’d advise to run windows on your mac if you need Powerpoint). Thankfully there are ways to translate your vector graphic goodness into an XML that Keynote understands.
For Illustrator there is a plugin by Christian Holz available to export your documents to Keynote files. But to be able to convert any vector graphic I recommend you give the vector drawing tool EazyDraw a try. They even offer a free trial version that does not impede its conversion functionality and who knows, perhaps you even come to like it enough to unlock the other features. Either way EazyDraw will solve your presentation design woes. Well, at least those where you wish you had advanced vector design capabilities.
You can easily vectorize photos or create your vector drawings from scratch, import those files into EazyDraw and export them as native Keynote files. Thus your very own library of custom shapes is merely a conversion away. Don’t take my word for it, have a look at the tutorial yourself:
Remember when I pondered about veracity in information graphics (it’s in the slideshow) as a metric for quality? Well there is a great debate involving some highly qualified folks (and me) around the very issue. The popularity of David McCandless’ visualizations need not reflect the quality in terms of communicating information, or so some people argue.
I think that this is another case of layers of meaning where on the one hand you can argue that yes, adding visually pleasing decoration to infographics can be detrimental to the uptake of their content. But then again, adding some culture specific decoration might draw an audience to that graphic who would not otherwise have taken an interest. So what’s a designer to do? Find out which design choice facilitates what kind of meaning and be aware of the tradeoff so you can design for specific communication situations rather than aiming for the perfect solution.
Think optimal, never perfect.
Writing about constraints that factor into design decisions (you know designers like to describe their trade as “problem solving” so a key aspect of their job is actually identifying the problems of communication) it just hit me that one of the fundamental constraints in optimality theory is the so called “faithfulness constraint.” You need not get familiar with this linguistic theory, let’s just say that it is an enormously powerful heuristic to manage decisions by ranking conflicts as hierarchical constraints.
Faithfulness. There might be more to this constraint than the theory originally proposed…
Anyway, do give those designers and their debate a spin. Trust me, you’ll be smarter for it.
Recently I came across a blog post by Noah Brier who pondered what McLuhan would think of media today. You see, I consider what I’m doing here very much concerned with media theory, so perhaps making reference to McLuhan is something I should do more often. If only to tell you that when McLuhan spoke of media, he most certainly did not use the term in the way most people, including me, generally do.
Many people are familiar with the moniker “the medium is the message,” but almost as many people seem to forget the mind boggling scope McLuhan applied to this observation. From my perspective what McLuhan studied was the interaction between artifacts of human creation (the media) and their effects on human society (the message) and how one might be able to infer structural changes of societies by the artifacts they create and use.
To me McLuhan did not so much devise a theory of communication as a grand unified theory of how the things mankind invents change the reality of mankind itself. Content is not what he is concerned about and thus his concept of media is not one that focuses on the relation distribution channels have to the information they carry. To McLuhan a light bulb is a medium.
Hence, oftentimes when we try to analyse the “media revolution” that is still ongoing, we hardly look at the shift in a McLuhanian sense. We look at content and wonder how it is shaped and how it will find its audience. Yet the McLuhanian message in this new medium is the phenomenon of networks themselves gaining importance beyond the communication paradigms that used to govern our media use; the point where those networks start to shape a societies perception of the world.
The change of the broadcasting media landscape over the course of only a few decades we are looking at is twofold already: First the interactions of producers and consumers of information have shifted from the broadcasting of mass media push/receive to a query-driven search/produce SEO content where users pull content instead of waiting for it to be pushed to them and producers react to that. Now the introduction of network distributed content sharing poses new questions and marks yet another shift.
We are still struggling to grasp the effects of the first shift. From the way truth is being constructed in the content that shows up in the top google hits we can deduce the hidden properties, the essence of this search medium. The reality of our society has changed because of the influence of the query. Framing of content is now embedded in a query driven feedback loop that was not there when gatekeepers decided what users would get to see.
Users looking for search phrases make the content creators time their articles to match recurring search patterns. An example of this are the video game scare articles that David McCandless analyzed. Worse yet, frames like “mosque at ground zero” get reinforced by the search pattern with only articles that do place the mosque there making it to the top, albeit the mosque is, in fact, located several blocks away.
Thus reality is constructed and with it a piece of our society. That’s what McLuhan was getting at. How from the reaction of society to a medium we can assess what the medium really is. Truth be told, about the effects of the new social sharing I am not yet sure, but it will certainly manifest itself in due time. Until then be weary of claims that the medium is the message when “message” means “content”.
I wrote a guest blog post over at Presentation Advisors. Jon asked me to write about presentation tools and methods that are open to presentation designers who don’t use the expensive Adobe software. So I wrote about robust means of distributing your content outside of Powerpoint and how presentation design might soon leverage the ubiqitousness of browsers. Do me a favor and comment on the post, if you have additional ideas, will you?
Seriously, if the design folks at Microsoft are able to dispell the bad habits that their very own software entails with such flair, one might start asking: Why the hell don’t they ship a Powerpoint version that helps users follow best principles instead of forcing templates upon them that promote this nonsense of bullet points, 3D-exploded pie charts and whatnot? The mind boggles. That should not keep you from using their excellent resources, though, so go ahead and check it out.
If you ever need some inspiration, be it for slide design or motion graphics, this is a great place to go: Art of the Title curates amazing intro and credit sequences from movies and television. Pure, unadulterated awesome.
Having created the graphic in Keynote to begin with, repurposing it in a slideshow (aka presentation) should not pose much of a problem, right? Then again, the content needs to be adapted to the different medium for the message to get across. Was I successful? You be the judge. What do you think?
PS: Here’s the abridged video version. I actually like the final sentence in there best to sum up my feelings.
Andy Kirk’s Visualising Data is a great place for novices and veterans alike to read about data visualization. This is his first entry in an ongoing series about visualisation resources. If you care about communication visuals at all, be sure to pay this blog a visit.