Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Make the Right Graphic and Avoid the Wrong Graphic

Recently, I was asked, “I need to show an ‘XYZ’ process (note: this could be any specific action, concept, or thing) but cannot find an example. What should I do?”

I offered them the following two steps to resolve their challenge, which you can apply when faced with developing a new graphic concept.

Step 1

Determine your ultimate goal for showing an “XYZ” process. (Uncovering your graphic's goal is essential when creating any type of graphic—process, organization, overview, quantitative, etc.). For example, is your goal to simply communicate the steps in the process or is it to show how your “XYZ” process is the superior solution? I call this step determining the primary objective. In my experience, most proposal graphics—more than 80%—fail because the author of the graphic has not determined the correct primary objective.

Recently, I supported an IT bid. My client (we’ll call them ABC Company) needed to show that their solution achieved their potential client’s goals, which we later determined were lower cost, increased network speed, and greater uptime. Unfortunately, the engineer tasked had not formalized his primary objective. His approach was to develop a network diagram. Below is an example of a generic network diagram similar to the graphic used. (The graphics in this article contain none of the original information, but the concept is similar enough for this explanation.)

The engineer was very familiar with the current network used by his potential client. He noted, “By restructuring their network, they would lower costs, reduce risk of down time, and increase overall speed.”

He was on the right track but knew it was unlikely that their potential client would link his graphic with their specific goals. Upon further discussion, we determined that ABC Company was offering to do more than a restructuring of their potential client’s network architecture to achieve these goals.
Uncovering the primary objective usually results in a completely different graphic. Let’s take a look at an example of the resulting superior graphic approach. (Here’s a secret: Your primary objective is most likely your caption. For example, the following would be this graphic’s caption: Our three-step XYZ process ensures lower cost, increased network speed, and greater uptime.)

Step 2

When faced with developing a graphic with specific content, your next step is to find examples of graphics that show the same concept. There are several resources I recommend for graphic ideas:

  1. Google Images —Type in your concept to see how others have used visuals for similar concepts. A great source to find ideas for how to develop your graphic.
  2. iStockPhoto—Type in a concept and you'll be given images that relate to your concept. You can download and purchase these images for immediate use.
  3. Visual Literacy Periodic Table—A great place to look for graphic ideas.

Also, through Billion Dollar Graphics you can use the following resources for graphic ideas:
  • BizGraphics On Demand—Type in a concept and see how many ways you can show your idea. (You can also purchase these PowerPoint graphics to use as a starting point for your graphic.)
  • Business Graphics Library—Search through our graphic samples for inspiration.
Your goal is not to find an example of a “XYZ” process but rather to find similar concepts like flow charts, cyclic processes, and step-by-step graphics. The concept is key. Next, tailor the graphic concept to meet your needs by adding your information. I recommend that you start with graphics that share the same concept. This step eliminates the “blank page syndrome.” Leverage a graphic with a similar primary objective and tailor the content and graphic elements to meet your needs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Think Outside the Pie Chart

You replaced your bulleted, text-heavy, boring slides with clear, compelling graphics. Unfortunately, some of your graphics are overused or fail to capture the essence of your idea or solution. (How many times have you seen a temple graphic—looking like the Parthenon—in a presentation?)

Below are some new ways to present your content visually and increase the power of your presentations. The following graphic types are the tip of the iceberg (to use a visual metaphor).

1. Bridge Graphic
This graphic is a metaphor depicting the connection or transition between two actions, concepts, or entities. A bridge connects two separate pieces of land. It crosses over rough water or highways to allow vehicles and pedestrians to safely pass. A bridge graphic is a perfect way to show two companies transitioning into one. Operational flow, process solutions (overcoming the risky waters), system integration, and many other concepts can be succinctly communicated using a bridge graphic.

2. Chain Graphic
Chain graphics show "linked" actions, concepts, or entities. Alternatively, chains illustrate restraint or security. Instead of a Venn diagram, what about a chain diagram? Instead of showing linked concepts with boxes and lines, show a chain of departments, processes, or people to convey the same idea. Use a lock to show a (secure) connection between actions or departments. Or just overlay the chain on top of items to demonstrate security.

3. Conveyor Belt Graphic
This graphic is a metaphor that depicts a repeatable linear process. Conveyor belt graphics are a great way to show forward movement in a process such as assembling a product, recruitment and training steps, lifestyle enhancements, course overview, or system development.

4. Dashboard
Dashboards present multiple metrics–potentially using multiple graphic types—in one consolidated format. It is a “holistic” view of information. On multiple slides you have pie carts, a map, a line chart that all relate to each other. Why not put these objects on one introductory slide to help your audience reach a desired conclusion. (You can then delve into the specifics of each piece on the subsequent slides.)

5. DNA Graphic
This graphic illustrates the synergy of multiple actions, concepts, or entities. Together they combine to create a new, better solution (and breath new “life” into the project). The strands of the DNA can represent two key concepts (like a software tool and a corporate process) with the chromosomes connecting the two via common elements (like activities needed to combine the strand content).

6. Dome Graphic
A dome graphic looks like a “snow globe” illustrating the containment of elements. The dome graphic is great at communicating protection and security. Generally, you combine a “stacked graphic” (shown here) with the dome to show levels in a system, process, or methodology and how the levels relate to one in a secure environment—the dome.

7. Fishbone Diagram
This graphic shows all factors that have an effect on a problem or objective. (Think cause and effect.) The small bones can represent categories, strategies, processes, and departments that join at the spine to create the final outcome.

8. Peg Graphic
This graphic shows the interconnectivity of actions, concepts, or entities to create a unified whole (think Legos®). Use a peg graphic for systems connecting and interacting with one another, building of a process, or departments coming together to form an improved or upgraded solution.

9. Pipe Graphic
This graphic metaphor represents the isolated flow of elements. Instead of using a flowchart, use a pipe graphic to represent concepts like consolidation, synthesis, or combination. Inversely, a pipe graphic can illustrate dispersion or diffusion. Pipe graphics are versatile and can communicate a wide variety of concepts.

10. Road Graphic
This graphic is a metaphor depicting the path between the “as is” or “before” state to the “to be” or “after” state. Like the bridge graphic, a road graphic can show transition and a connection for a process or system. A road graphic is perfect for demonstrating a “future state” or a long-term goal that is “down the road.” It could also be used as an ending to a presentation to illustrate the goal reached at the end of the process.

For more ideas check out Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Business Graphics or gather ideas at our Graphics Library or peruse BizGraphicsOnDemand.com to find thousands of graphics that better communicate your story.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review of BizGraphics

Training Media Review recently reviewed BizGraphics On Demand for their site. We're very excited about the positive feedback we received from the reviewer who thoroughly tested the BizGraphics site from signing up to downloading and using the graphics. Training Media Review is a great resource for unbiased reviews of corporate training technology, games, workplace training books, online courses, software, and up-to-date information about training resources.

Check out their review at http://www.tmreview.com/Review.asp?ID=1768. While you're there, you may want to search their site for other reviews about training and presentation resources and download free reports about authoring tools, recruiting, and presentations. For anyone involved in the training industry, this is a must-have resource to bookmark!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More News and How to Use Quantative Graphics to Illuminate Your Ideas

Mike's proposal graphics training is now accredited by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). Earn 5–10 CEUs (continuing education units) when you complete Mike's training on conceptualizing proposal graphics—graphics for presentations and oral proposals that answer RFPs and requests for various contract work from the government and private industry. APMP offers tools, techniques, processes, networking, classes, etc., to help business acquisition professionals hone their skills and win more business. To learn more about the APMP's accreditation program click here.

If you're attending the Annual Southern Proposal Accents Conference (SPAC) in Atlanta on October 30, Mike will be giving an all-day proposal graphics workshop on October 29th. You will receive 8 CEUs for attending the session. For more information and to register for this special training session, click here.

Also, Colleen Jolly, a partner in 24 Hour Company, is presenting at SPAC on graphics: A DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Guide to Proposal Graphics. She will focus on the basics of information design and various rendering tips and tricks so you can graphically improve your presentations and win more sales!


Below is a slide show by Hans Rosling, a doctor and researcher who identified a new paralytic disease induced by hunger in rural Africa. Plugging in world data on infant mortality rates, poverty, disease, and other economic and social trends, Dr. Rosling creates graphics that show the bigger picture of social and economic development with his remarkable trend-revealing software. This presentation proves how "seeing is believing" and how graphics can distill complex concepts into memorable and powerful visuals.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Exciting News

Recently, I was interviewed by James England from Learn to Write Proposals. This website is a wonderful resource for proposal professionals and offers an array of tools to help quickly and easily make your proposals better and win more sales. James interviewed me about using graphics in proposals. Check out the interview at here at Learn to Write Proposals.


I am giving a webinar—hosted by CapturePlanning.com—on September 16th at 2 pm (EDT) to show the benefits of BizGraphics On Demand.

Learn how you can download and edit the high-end graphics you need and save money and time. Our new product allows you to instantly download thousands of PowerPoint graphics—anytime or anywhere. You can edit these graphics in PowerPoint 2007 to use in your presentations or export them into Word, older versions of PowerPoint, InDesign, and various page layout programs.

To learn how BizGraphics can help your business, email info@BillionDollarGraphics.com to register for this free webinar.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Check It Out!

I have BIG news! In coordination with the APMP 13th Annual Southern Proposal Accents Conference (SPAC), I am providing a separate all-day proposal graphics training session.

Billion Dollar Proposal Graphics: How to Your Turn Text and Ideas Into Clear, Compelling Visuals

When: October 29th 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Training is coordinated with the APMP 13th Annual Southern Proposal Accents Conference (SPAC) event on October 30th held next door at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA. If you wish to attend SPAC in addition to the graphics training, please register here—if you have not already done so.

Where: Sheraton Suites Galleria, 2844 Cobb Parkway SE, Atlanta, GA 30080

Who Should Attend: Proposal professionals who need to communicate more effectively and efficiently:
  • Authors
  • Designers
  • Subject Matter Experts
  • Proposal Mangers
  • Proposal Coordinator
Price: $499 (includes lunch, book and handouts)


You can enroll via Google Checkout at 24 Hour Company's website where you can download a pdf describing the all-day training session.

You can also contact info@BillionDollarGraphics.com for more information.


Check out my article "6 Steps to Better Presentation Graphics" in this month's Presenters and Programs Forum newsletter. The article provides an overview of the essential steps to visually communicate your ideas for greater success.

Need speakers for your next function? Need tips for your next presentation? The Presenters and Programs Forum website offers a monthly e-newsletter that provides tips and trade secrets from experienced speakers and presenters. They also provide a listing of professional speakers. If you're looking for a particular program or a keynote speaker for your next conference, check out their catalogue of professionals from various industries.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

There's Always Time for Graphics

I recently surveyed business and design professionals about their biggest graphic challenges. The number one answer to my survey was … time. Either we lack time to make graphics or we spend too much time on tweaks, changes, and false starts. So to help my fellow overworked professionals, I have compiled four tried and true best practices to streamline the graphic process and save your most valuable commodity—time.
  1. Evolve the concept before rendering the final graphic. Rendering a graphic on a computer is too time consuming. Instead, make a rough sketch of your concept first. You do not need to be Michelangelo to communicate your ideas with a basic picture. Boxes, circles, stick figures, lines, arrows, and labels sufficiently communicate anything. (Look at how much is communicated by this simple pen drawing below.) Get a colleague to review your sketch. Ask them to explain it to you. Did they understand what you wanted your graphic to communicate? If not, make edits and ask again. Repeat this process until your reviewers agree that your graphic communicates the intended message. It is much easier (and takes far less time) to erase a few lines or scratch out a box or do a total redesign of a rough sketch than create a final computer rendering for each change.

  2. Leverage existing graphics. Create a library of graphics commonly used in your company’s presentations, proposals, and marketing materials. These graphics are your foundation for new projects. It’s much easier to start with an older, successful graphic and tailor it, than start with a blank piece of paper. If nothing else, your library of graphics will get you thinking graphically. You will be amazed how fast ideas come when you flood your brain with visuals. You can find graphic ideas in my online Business Graphics Library or browse the collections at BizGraphics On Demand.
  3. Make your graphics customer focused. Most graphics are trashed because they fail to connect with the audience. Give your future customers a reason to care. When looking at your graphic ask, “So what?” If your graphic can answer that question, you are on the right track. Highlight any features, benefits, and discriminators that will appeal to your audience. If you don’t know what they care about, you want to find out. Go to their website, ask someone who knows them, do your homework. Not knowing what your audience cares about means wasted time and certain failure.
  4. Use a template. Reduce the need for last-minute formatting passes by creating a template. Agree to and use a template that defines all variables of the graphics and layout at the beginning of the project: line style, font size, colors, etc.

For more articles like this one, check out the APMP NCA Executive Summary Newsletter where this information was featured in my "Ask the Graphics Guru" column.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Embedding Fonts in PowerPoint

A challenge many presenters face is what font to use in their presentations. Often, I recommend using a clean font like Arial. It works well especially with large text being projected on a screen in titles, graphics, and bulleted lists (remember that your slides shouldn’t hold paragraphs of text). For those presenters involved in government proposals, Arial is usually requested in the RFP. Plus, Arial is standard on nearly every computer (PC or Mac), so you needn’t worry about font substitution, if you’re presenting from different computer.

However, if your company has a specific font style or you would like to make your mark with a favorite font, then you may be able to embed the font in your presentation. TrueType fonts can be embedded into a PowerPoint presentation for PowerPoint 2002, 2003, and 2007 on a PC. (Unfortunately, they do not offer the option for Macs.)

TrueType fonts are an outline font standard (on Macs and PCs) and offer the best quality for viewing text on computer screens and via print. On a PC, you can embed TrueType fonts into your presentation so others may edit the your copy even if they do not have the font—a helpful feature for anyone presenting from a different computer or working with a team to create the presentation.

The following are instructions to embed fonts in PowerPoint.

In Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, follow these steps:
  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Save As.
  2. In the Save As dialog box, click Tools, and then click Save Options.
  3. Click to select the Embed fonts in the file check box under Preserve fidelity when sharing this presentation, and then click OK.

In Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 and in Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, follow these steps:
  1. Start PowerPoint, and then open the presentation that you want.
  2. On the File menu, click Save As.
  3. On the Tools menu, click Save Options in the Save As dialog box.
  4. Click to select the Embed TrueType fonts check box, and then click OK.

If a font is not TrueType or if it has a license restriction, you will receive an error message explaining why it can’t be embedded. (For more information, see Microsoft Help and Support from where these instructions were taken.)

Remember to test out fonts for legibility before you present. Make sure that everyone seated in the audience can easily read your text. Use fonts with flourishes sparingly. Your main goal is to successfully communicate your information. Minimizing font issues will help your presentation succeed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Searching for Newsletter Contributors

We are searching for professionals, like you, to contribute to our Billion Dollar Graphics newsletter. If you have a great story, best practice, communicative graphic, or a recommended tool/website, please contact us at info@billiondollargraphics.com and provide a 100 word or less synopsis of your article. Of course, our audience are professionals from all industries and vocations that need to communicate information visually so make sure that which you wish to contribute is of value to them. Thank you. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"GOOD" Information Graphics

In my search for newer and better information graphics, I came across GOOD—"a collaboration of individuals, business, and nonprofits pushing the world forward." This site contains many articles and blogs about various environmental, social, and political issues. And most of these posts are accompanied by very interesting and envelope-pushing information graphics, the kind of graphics that provide inspiration when trying to think of new ways to communicate your ideas. A few are shown below:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Making Meaning out of Data

I was recently made aware of a fantastic online article that speaks to how design bridges the gap between data and meaning. In my experience, not all designers can (or want to) spend time thinking about data in an effort to increase communication and understanding. Author, Jon Kolko, shares his insight into what great designers do everyday. Read it for yourself: http://www.jonkolko.com/writingInfoArchDesignStrategy.php.

It is also important to have a professional (and reasonably priced) website hosting service to share your important data online. After you finish, consider searching to find out if you are getting the most for your money from your website hosting service.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 Best Places to Download Graphics

Do you love your graphics? Does the quality of your marketing materials and presentations tell your audience you are the best-of-the-best? Are your printed documents overcome by bad clip art or, worst, do they drown the reader in a sea of text? At a glance, does your website tell visitors that you are a one-person company struggling to make ends meet? If so, now is the time to fix the problem.

Your current and future clients expect quality materials from quality companies and consultants. You can’t tout your professionalism to your audience by showing a low-quality presentation and distributing unprofessional marketing materials. Doing so will cause your clients to question your abilities—100% of the time. You don’t need that obstacle—too.

Great news! You can add quality graphics—and quality is critical—to your presentations and marketing materials for very little money, but you need to know where to look to get low-cost, high-quality graphics. Below is a list of the top ten sites I use to develop quality graphics and help my clients achieve even the most loftiest of goals (like winning $1.3 billion dollar contracts).

There is no substitute for the benefits derived from using a qualified, experienced designer; however, in these challenging economic times, companies are searching for ways to cut costs. Unfortunately, cutting the quality of your materials will increase your risk of failure. In the short term, use one of these low-priced solutions to weather the storm without sacrificing quality.

This list is by no means comprehensive. There are other websites that sell graphics, but these are the sites I use most often and recommend.

  1. Dreamstime.com ($1-$50 per photograph and illustration) (http://www.dreamstime.com) Dreamstime is a library of almost 5.5 million photographs and illustrations. Users purchase credits and use those credits to download graphics. The more credits you buy, the cheaper the per credit price. Users can also buy subscriptions, which further lower the cost of each download.
  2. iStockPhoto.com ($1-50 per photograph and illustration, $15-$100 for videos, and $1-$10 for Flash files) (http://www.istockphoto.com)
    iStockphoto is by far my favorite. They cost a little more but I find it easier to use and often find what I need in less time. Plus, they offer certain images exclusive to this site. It is set up similarly to Dreamstime. Users have a choice between credits and subscriptions. The more you buy, the lower the price per download.
  3. ShutterStock.com ($3-$10 per photograph and illustration) (http://www.shutterstock.com)
    Shutterstock requires a subscription (as low as $49) to download from their 6.6+ million-image library. If you are a high-volume user, this is the best choice, because larger subscriptions equal low-cost graphics.
  4. StockExpert.com ($1-$25 per photograph and illustration) (http://www.stockxpert.com) Credits and subscriptions give you the graphics you want from their huge library. This site is owned by Juniper who owns other stock image sites (like Photos.com). However, I prefer the user experience and the better selection of graphics at StockExpert.
  5. Stock.XCHNG (free) (http://www.sxc.hu)
    Stock.XCHNG is a great site if you need basic, professional images. Plus, all their images are free!
  6. BigStockPhoto.com ($1-$50 per photograph and illustration) (http://www.bigstockphoto.com)
    Choose from a library of over three million images. Like other sites, users purchase credits and use those credits to download graphics.
  7. BrandsOfTheWorld.com (free) (http://www.brandsoftheworld.com)
    Thousands of popular brand and corporate logos from around the world are available to download for free. Most logos are vector, which means they are resolution independent and can be scaled to any size.
  8. Pixellogo ($39 per logo) (http://www.pixellogo.com)
    One hundred pages of high-quality logos from which to choose. I recommend owning Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator if you wish to modify your new logo. Exclusive rights to use the logos are available for more money.
  9. StockLayouts ($39-$99 per brochure, newsletter, or other marketing document) (http://www.stocklayouts.com)
    StockLayouts offers thousands of brochures, flyers, newsletters, business cards, letterheads, postcards, posters, ads, and more in almost any format you choose.
  10. Cool Home Pages ($40 per website template) (http://www.coolhomepages.com/store/) Do you need a website but don’t want to spend thousands on design? At Cool Home Pages, you can find your dream website and download it for almost nothing compared to the cost of a custom design. I recommend hiring a web designer for backend programming and adding any extras to your new design. They can do it faster and better for a small investment on your part. Plus, it will still be cheaper than paying them to design and layout a new site.
Now you know my favorite graphic resources. Use them to increase the quality of your presentations, websites, and marketing materials. Success will come faster and your income will rise, because perception is reality. What your audience sees plays a BIG role in what they think and do.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Emotions Play a Major Role in Decision Making

If you know my process for developing powerful presentations, proposals, and marketing materials then you know a big part of success involves emotions. Below is a story shared with me by Rob Ransone of Ransone Associates (www.ransone.com). It is another story that proves the power of emotions in the decision making process...

On my proposal for Armtec, an Esterline Company, for its decoy flares proposal to the Army, they were one of two incumbents making flares. The Army wanted two contractors so that if one line burned, the other could still produce. These two were bidding for a new flare contract, with the "winner" getting 55% and the second place getting 45% of the contract. A new, startup company now entered the picture with a completely modern plant.

Armtec was concerned about its Quality Program--it had all of the requirements, but lacked some of the "bells and whistles." I opened the Quality Section with the following email from a young airman in Iraq, whose father worked at Armtec:

“Last night, unfortunately, we had to put dad’s flares to the test 86 times as (our C-130 was) targeted by a series of ground launched weapons right after takeoff from a classified location. The flares worked excellent, or I would probably not be here typing this to you today...” - An email from the son of our M206 flare case supplier

Also, I was impressed with the dedication and interest of the workers ... manufacturing the flares, so I had a company photographer photograph them doing their jobs. He did an outstanding job, and also got statements from them. I used these photos and statements in the illustration of Armtec's manufacturing process.

As a result, Armtec's evaluation and the other incumbent's were identical, except that the other bidder was scored "Good" on Quality, and Armtec was scored "Excellent," Armtec got the 55% award, bought the third bidder, and is now the world's largest manufacturer of decoy flares.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Graphics You Can Edit in PowerPoint!

I am prouder than a new papa to announce BizGraphics On Demand (www.BizGraphicsOnDemand.com). In a nutshell, it offers low-cost, high-quality graphics you can edit in PowerPoint. The library of graphics is searchable by graphic type or keywords.

It is my goal to push the envelope for visual communication with BizGraphics. I want to empower business professionals, engineers, sales staff, educators, and others by giving them access to editable, communicative graphics.

Your input and feedback is always welcomed. When you have time, please visit www.BizGraphicsOnDemand.com and download the free samples.