Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Get My Graphic and Privia Form Strategic Partnership

Annandale, Va, December 4, 2012 Get My Graphic, whose vast library of editable graphics helps anyone easily turn words and ideas into compelling, winning graphics, today announced a strategic partnership with Privia, the industry leader in capture, bid, and proposal management software and services.

The organizations joined forces to give Privia users access to Get My Graphic’s extensive royalty-free graphic collection at a significant cost savings. Under the agreement, Privia has negotiated exclusive credit and subscription packages that provide easy-to-use professional templates, graphics, photographs, and icons to companies of all sizes.

Get My Graphic empowers every member of your team to quickly and easily use visual communication to achieve your goals and win more. Customers save time and money with affordable graphics that showcase your concepts and ideas for just dollars per graphic. And because the graphics are easily editable in PowerPoint, users are not required to be a graphic designer to use them. All graphics can be exported and used in any software.

Proposal evaluators and decision makers have heavy workloads and fractured attention spans. Organizations must make it easy for evaluators to do their job. They need to quickly understand a vendor’s solution and know why they should choose one over another. Using visuals …
  • increases the likelihood of success by 43%—3M and University of Minnesota 
  • takes 40% less time to explain complex ideas (60,000 times faster than text alone)—Wharton School 
  • improves retention 38%—Harvard University 
  • improves learning 200%—University of Wisconsin 
“Now more than ever, winning proposals require professional visuals that quickly and clearly explain your solution and highlight your differentiators,” said Mike Parkinson, founder of Get My Graphic. “Proposal data is often very complex, and a visual representation can make the difference between winning and losing. Proper graphics make a proposal memorable, more engaging, easier to understand, and help it to stand out from the others being evaluated.”

“We are very excited at the opportunity of collaborating with Get My Graphic,” said Glenn Giles, President and CEO of Privia. “After win themes, graphics are the most important component in proposal scoring. This is yet another way for Privia to help customers increase their ability to produce a proposal that wins.”

About Get My Graphic 
Download professional graphics you edit in PowerPoint (and export into any software). Get My Graphic is the perfect solution for all of your graphic needs: proposal graphics, presentation graphics, white paper graphics, sales graphics, marketing graphics, training graphics, educational graphics, business graphics, and information graphics. Founder Mike Parkinson, started the Get My Graphic website to empower everyone (non-designers and designers alike) to quickly use professional graphics to achieve their goals. Get My Graphic saves users time and money without compromising quality. Go to www.GetMyGraphic.com for more information and to browse their collection of editable graphics.

About Privia
Privia provides an array of products to help organizations streamline the entire bid, capture, and proposal process—from pipeline management and reporting to teammate collaboration and proposal development. Leading organizations such as CSC, Management Concepts, Merlin International, MicroTech, Scientific Research Corporation (SRC), and USIS are streamlining processes to save time and money in areas such as bids and proposals, past performance management, and contract management. Privia also offers a wide variety of professional services, including a team of proposal experts who are available to augment your proposal team. For further information, visit www.privia.com.

Press Contacts 
For Get My Graphic 
Mike Parkinson

For Privia 
Michelle Sullivan
Director of Marketing

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top 5 Executive Summary Secrets

Imagine you are driving to an important client meeting. Without warning the car in front of you stops. You slam on your brakes, causing the coffee in your hand to spill and soak your shirt. It’s 1:40 p.m.; your meet is at 2:00 p.m. so you continue to the client’s office wondering how to clean your dirty shirt. You pull up to their building and notice a clothing store on the first floor. Relieved, you quickly park your car and run in to find a replacement shirt.

“Help! I spilled coffee all over my shirt, and I have an important meeting in five minutes. Do you have anything in my size?”

What is the best response you could hear from the salesperson?

“Yes, we have the perfect shirt in your size and ready to wear—and it’s on sale!”

It is exactly what you need. You buy it on the spot and rush to your sure-to-be successful meeting.

When we receive an RFP, the submitter is asking, “Help! I have a problem. Can you solve my problem within these parameters?” Our best response is, “Yes, we can solve your problem within these parameters, and this is how we will do it.”

What do we find in the first paragraph of most proposals? Most companies start with their history or list of qualifications. Rarely have I seen a proposal that starts with “we can do it and this is how.”

We want to begin our proposals with “yes” followed by a summary of how we will solve the submitter’s problem. I use a combination of text and graphics. Combining text and graphics speeds communication, improves understanding, and increases the likelihood of success by 43%1. I start with a paragraph that states we can do it and this is how. I immediately follow up with a high-level visual of how we will deliver our solution.

The following are my top five executive summary “secrets”:

1. Know What You Want to Say
Stop writing! Do not write one word of any proposal section without first knowing the “elevator pitch.” Everyone involved with your proposal must have a one-sentence story that will echo throughout your proposal and resonate with your customer. Most writers will write without a solid, feel-it-in-your-gut understanding of your solution. Your team’s productivity and moral, your wallet and your proposal will suffer if you cannot quickly and clearly summarize your proposal in one sentence. (The sentence is your executive summary action caption.) You want to know exactly what you want to say—at a highest level—before you write one word of your proposal.

2. Tell a Story Facts Tell and Stories Sell
Stories are far more memorable and influential compared with stray facts or stitched sentences. Use a graphic metaphor, analogy or simile to tell the story of your solution. Walk the reader, step-by-step, through your solution. Start at the beginning and end with the solution. I choose my narrative and graphic based on my audience. The following graphics tell the same story and both do it in very different ways. There is a time and place for each.

I supported a $500 million dollar proposal where the competition was stiff. Anyone could win. We created a graphic that told the story of the customer getting exactly what they wanted—showing the customer’s perfect outcome using the solution proposed. We won and the feedback confirmed that our overview graphic was one of the reasons for the win.

3. Three Graphic Types 
There are three basic graphic types I see in most winning executive summaries. They are as follows:
  1. Literal graphic. Literally show your solution. 
  2. Parts to a whole. Show how each part of your solution connects to deliver the solution. 
  3. Process diagram. Walk the evaluator through the process one step at a time. These graphic types work together and are not absolute. I have used other graphic types, but these are the three I use most often. 

4. Step Up and Stand Out 
Evaluators are just like you and me. They make quick judgments based on what they see and read. We say our company is the best-of-the-best. If so, our proposal better prove it. Poor graphics (made by untrained designers using clip art and clashing colors with inconsistent or common graphics) and bad writing (written by untrained writers with poor spelling and grammar, hard-to-follow descriptions using passive language) scream that our company is unprofessional, unreliable and may fail to deliver.

Taking the extra effort to develop professional, compelling content and graphics is expected. Failing to include proposal experts means that saving money is more important than winning. (Have a realistic budget and stick to it.) I always take my proposals to the next level and eclipse my competition by using proposal professionals.

5. Customer Focus 
The executive summary is about the customer NOT us. The only information about us worth sharing is specifically related to how we will solve our customer’s problem. Stop including the year the company was founded if it is not a step in the executive summary level solution.

I usually start and end with the customer. I begin with their needs and challenges and end with the perfect solution. The client should be the focus from planning and early sales/capture activity to the delivery of the proposal so the graphic depiction should also start and end with the customer.

Most proposal professionals are hesitant to succinctly state the perfect customer solution (e.g., increased efficiency with a 38% reduction in cost is delivered by our solution). One reason many writers fail to state the perfect solution is the fear that they may get it wrong. If we are the right solution provider, we must pick a path and have a clear message. Either we understand the customer or we don’t. If we do not truly understand the customer, then we should not win.

Let’s take a look at these five secrets in action on the following executive summary page.

1. Know What You Want to Say 
The customer (DDS) wants “100% visibility always.” The text and graphic explains how this is achieved at a high level.

2. Tell a Story 
The text and graphics build the story from the ground up of the customer achieving their goals within their perimeters.

3. Three Graphic Types 
All three graphic types are used in the graphic: literal, parts to a whole and process

4. Step Up and Stand Out 
 The page design, graphics and content clearly communicate that extra effort was taken. The page quickly shows that this proposal and the customer’s solution are important.

5. Customer Focus 
The content and graphics start and end with the customer. The solution provider is an enabler (not the focus).

Show how the customer is your main priority, how you understand their problem and how you can deliver the best solution. If you capture your pitch in the very beginning of your proposal, then you will capture your client’s attention and win the work.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Win More Proposals with Better Graphics (Nov 14th Event in VA)

Information design is the skill and practice of preparing information so people can quickly and completely grasp the meaning and importance of your solution. Data is usually complex, and a visual representation can and should express its meaning much more clearly. Today, being able to Convey your message, while grabbing their attention and appealing to their logical and emotional mind is one of the key ways to win a proposal. Your goal with proper graphics is to make them memorable, give them something to remember when evaluating all of the proposals they are reviewing. With that being said, a bad graphic can actually be worse than no graphic at all.
This event will help you take what is in your and your teams heads and create a engaging, complete visual message.

Winning proposals require professional graphics that sell your solution. Three leading industry expert design professionals will discuss how the Proposal Manager and Capture Manager can best work in partnership with the graphics designer to conceptualize, render and produce professional graphics. Specific topics include:
  • How to craft the Executive Summary graphic 
  • How to develop quick turnaround graphics 
  • Why the proposal cover is important to the win 
 The marketplace is only getting more competitive, Bid and proposal budgets are tight, and Proposal professionals are looking for ways to get their message across efficiently and effectively in order to stand out from their competitors. On the 14th we will show you how appealing, professional graphics not only sell the solution but make an important and lasting impression on customers. This session will address these target markets:
  • Capture Managers: how to conceptualize the capture strategy through graphics 
  • Proposal Managers: how to work with graphics designers to develop graphics that sell the solution 
  • Graphics Designers: how to work in partnership with the proposal team to get the information needed to conceptualize, render and produce the graphics. 
All target audiences will learn how to work in partnership to conceptualize the winning solution, render it as a professional graphic and produce a winning design – for the entire proposal, executive summary, cover, and also for quick turn proposals.

Specific knowledge you should expect to takeaway:
  • Create winning, visually appealing, professional graphics that sell the proposal solution, including for executive summaries and in quick turn situations.
  • Create proposal covers that make a great first impression and tell the story of the solution.
Register now!

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Will You Remember? Help Find the Cure for PowerPoint Amnesia.

Dr. Carmen Taran of Rexi Media wants YOU to take a part in her new study where she searches for the answer to this simple question:

How many slides do people remember from a PowerPoint presentation after 48 hours? 

What do you think: 3, 4 slides? Maybe more? This empirical study implies 5 minutes of your time to watch a 20-slide PowerPoint deck. Then in two days, Dr. Taran will ask what you remember via a 1-question online form. That’s it. She will post her findings on our Billion Dollar Graphics blog, which will translate into practical guidelines on how to create more memorable PowerPoint presentations. You will also be able to download the slides you view.

Click here to access the research site. 

Help the world create better PowerPoint presentations and cure slide amnesia. Five minutes is all it takes to make a difference—and learn the secrets to more memorable presentations.

Deadline is November 10th. 


Dr. Carmen Taran is a leader in the virtual presentation movement, a forward thinker, and a cognitive scientist. She has a passion for virtual presentations and a healthy addiction to understanding the human psyche which comes in handy in her role as an executive coach at Rexi Media. Carmen's presentations and workshops help business professionals use communication skills to increase revenue, train or motivate others, and above all, to stand out from too much sameness in the industry. A published author, Carmen is frequently invited as a keynote speaker at various events. She has kept audiences alert and entertained at conferences throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Slide Approved by the Hoff

We had another successful week at the Presentation Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. A huge THANK YOU to Rick Altman and his amazing team for hosting another fun and informative conference with experts from all corners of the presentation industry including Dave Paradi, Carmen Taran, Julie Terberg, and Jim Endicott to name just a few.

Not only did we have a booth for Get My Graphic where attendees could test our product ...

 But I had the honor of presenting my Build-a-Slide workshop.
I taught the audience about determining the P.A.Q.S. before they design their slide graphics:
  • P -- What is the Primary Objective of the graphic?
  • A -- Who is your Audience?
  • Q -- What Questions does your audience want answered about your product/service?
  • S -- What are the answers to the audience's questions about the Subject matter?
After reviewing each of the P.A.Q.S and handing out copies of our Graphics Cheat Sheet, I split the class into teams. Based on the following criteria, I asked them to create a quality control process slide for a fictional hamburger business run by David Hasselhoff:
The class used the Graphics Cheat Sheet for ideas on how to show a QC process and applied the P.A.Q.S. steps to ensure they covered everything that the Hoff had requested. After they were finished, their team captains held up their sketches for the class. I was surprised and pleased to see that the teams had developed similar concepts.
Here is Andy Saks, owner of Spark Presentations, explaining his team's concept.
Even though every concept was well thought out and very creative, we could only choose one winner.
The winning team used a metaphor of a conveyor belt graphic with a burger (know your Audience, since it is a burger restaurant) being assembled at each step representing the QC process (answering the audience's Questions). Below each step in the process are bullet points explaining each step in detail (know the Subject matter). The primary object is stated in the title of the slide--More Burgers, Mo' Money!--with a happy, attractive woman enjoying the final product.

Thank you to everyone who took part in my class to make it a great workshop! If you have any questions about the P.A.Q.S. process please feel free to email me at info@billiondollargraphics.com or check out my book Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics, which details the steps I taught during my class to turn your ideas into powerful graphics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Royalty Free and Just Plain Free

In my last post, I addressed copyright law and Fair Use versus Public Domain in copying images and information from the Internet to use on your website and in business materials. With more and more people becoming tech and graphic savvy and businesses trying to cut costs, I learned of many colleagues illegally using graphics downloaded from the Internet without even knowing the consequences and the rules regarding downloaded images.

Now I want to review the difference between royalty-free and free graphics and how nothing is really free in life--as well as on the Internet.

Royalty Free
Back in the olden days of graphic design, you had to pay thousands of dollars for a photograph. You would interview and hire a photographer (if you didn't have one on staff), find models and have them sign release forms drafted by your lawyer, and scout locations. You'd spend at least a day shooting and then wait days if not weeks to receive your final photographs. Because, unlike today, not everything was digital and it took time to develop and print photographs. (How did we even manage it? Oh, the horror of waiting for something!) After you received your long-awaited images, your whole team would debate over which photograph had the best lighting, clearest image, and a model who didn't have something stuck in between her teeth. In the end, your boss might decide they really wanted a brunette and not a red head and the sight of the water in the background made him a bit seasick, so you should photograph her in the middle of a park instead.

So the process began again ...

Now websites like Getty Images, Fotolia, iStockphoto, and Dreamstime (several of the most popular sites) have millions of raster and vector images of models of every variety and in many unique locations available for immediate download starting at several dollars an image. Many of these sites also offer stock videos and music.

These stock image websites pay either an upfront fee to photographers/designers to sell their images on their site or pay the artists royalties based on the amount of downloads they sell. Photographers are required to submit model release forms for any photographs containing people. These websites have already paid the creators and are legally ensuring you are safe to use the image. For the price you pay for the image, it is a fantastic deal. You don't need to pay any royalties to the creator, hence the royalty-free label.

Most sites will have a standard usage agreement listed on their site. For example, Fotolia has several options for downloading and using their images and states on their site that their royalty-free license "allows you to use images in your projects without limitations on time, the number of copies printed, or geographical location of use." The price changes based on resolution, size, and usage. You will pay more if you are placing the image on a T-shirt being sold at your shop than if you were using the image on a sign advertising your T-shirt sale.

The one huge taboo with a royalty-free license is reselling the image as is.

Another license offered by Getty Images is a rights-managed license. You will pay a lot more for this option from several hundred to several thousand dollars. However, the images are magazine quality, and you are paying for exclusivity for either the duration of your campaign or product launch (up to five years). This solves the issue with using these royalty-free sites where any of your competitors could place the same image on their website or in their advertisements. Talk about a breach of brand identity!

Free Images
I am always cautious about downloading free images from the web. Often, the images are not high enough quality to be used as is and definitely not good enough to be used in print materials. If you're lucky, a professional photographer is offering free samples for self promotion. Though most likely, you're getting an image from someone who is far from professional and not using high-end equipment. Remember, you get what you pay for ... or don't pay for as is the case with free images. Plus, free images may come with stipulations that they are not to be used in printed materials or distributed widely. Be extra careful how you use the free images, if they don't have a rights of use listed on their website.

I have come across a few sites that offer free images and list their licensing agreement. This is not an endorsement of these sites but an example of where you can find free images. I suggest you carefully read their rights of usage before you download and use their photographs/graphics:
  • Freeimages -- They require attribution when you use one of their photos. Their rights of use are clearly listed here.
  • Stock.XCHNG --Managed by Getty Images, this site is devoted to building an online community of photographers and image users to share photographs. Account holders can upload photos for others to use or download photos for their projects. Rights of use are listed on the photo pages and many require attribution for use. 
  • U.S. Government Photos and Images -- This site contains links to images relating to government departments, military branches, political officials, etc. Some photographs are in the public domain and others require permission by the specified agency. The rights of use should be listed on the various sites.
  • The Noun Project -- You can find loads of icons that are fully editable and available in the public domain for free download. Their terms of use are listed here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Who needs permission? It's on the Internet. It has to be free.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known for developing the first compiler for a computer programming language as well as having an extraordinary wit, said, "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."

What she meant was to take your ideas and run with them. Don't wait for someone to give you permission to do what you know is right or create the next great innovation. Unfortunately, many people apply Hopper's quote out of context. I've read discussions lately on several forums about downloading images from the Internet to use on company websites and in proposals, presentations and other marketing materials. Some believe these images are part of the public domain once they are uploaded to the Internet.

And this belief can lead to costly consequences.

Recently, a fellow writer downloaded a photo from another website and used it on her blog, which has less than a thousand views a month. A few weeks later she received a cease and desist order from a lawyer representing the photographer who owned the rights to the photo. Immediately, she removed the photo from her blog and apologized, pleading ignorance because she didn't understand copyright laws regarding images found on the Internet. However, her apology was not enough, and the photographer sued her for copyright infringement. She was found guilty and had to pay several thousand dollars to the photographer—in this case, asking and paying for permission would've been much cheaper and easier.

Although I feel sorry for my associate, I do understand the photographer's point. He had spent a lot of time and money perfecting his craft and creating this photograph. His living is made off of the sale of his photographs. Every image used without his permission is a loss to his business. Imagine how the writer would feel if her stories were being distributed for free on blogs and websites, especially without attribution.

Below are two important terms regarding copyright that are many times misunderstood:

From Wikipedia: 
  • Public Domain —Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired,[1] been forfeited,[2] or are inapplicable. Examples include the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, most of the early silent films, the formulae of Newtonian physics, and the patents on powered flight.[1] The term is not normally applied to situations when the creator of a work retains residual rights, in which case use of the work is referred to as "under license" or with permission. In informal usage, the public domain consists of works that are publicly available; while according to the formal definition it consists of works that are unavailable for private ownership or are available for public use.[2] As rights are country-based and vary, a work may be subject to rights in one country and not in another. Some rights depend on registrations with a country-by-country basis, and the absence of registration in a particular country, if required, implies public domain status in that country.
  • Fair Use —Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.
Fair use mostly applies to the citation of written works, so I would recommend contacting the owner of the image and asking permission before thinking that fair use would apply to your instance and find out how attribution should be made. In my book, Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics, I included several images by other designers and received permission to include them in my book. I even asked Google for permission to use a screen shot of their interface as a sample of good design.

Attorney David L. Amkraut wrote an article, The 7 Deadly Myths of Internet Copyright, which provides an essential overview of copyright law. I highly recommend reading his article and sharing it with others to educate yourself on the law before either you or your company use any Internet images.

Next week, I'll blog about where to find free images and "royalty-free" images.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

5 Steps to Bring About Change in Your Graphics Process

Whether you want to revise your review process or update your company’s graphics, the challenge is the same: How do you affect change in an organization that is (very) reluctant to change? During one of my workshops this question was asked, and the best answer came from the audience, “After a big loss, offer your solution to the problem.”

A significant loss may cause your entire organization to question their process and become more open to change. Strike while the iron is hot. When the time is right, use the following five steps to compile your case before meeting with decision makers to guarantee executive and team buy-in to your new graphics process.

Step 1: Identify the Problem Explain the problem (remain positive and avoid finger pointing). Back up your opinions with facts. Offer empirical evidence to support your assessment. Connect the dots. For example, prove that it takes approximately six hours to create a graphic of average complexity—from concept to drawing to rendering. It then becomes obvious that leaving two hours to concept and render a graphic will lead to mistakes and an unprofessional final version. If possible, present a graphic designed with too little time for rendering and one graphic that was given the proper time. You can also share the client's relevant negative comments regarding designs that were obviously rushed.

Step 2: Offer a Solution Offer a solution to the issue. Support your solution with evidence that it will work. For example, was the solution effective elsewhere? What were the results? Who agrees with you and why is their opinion valuable? Back up your information with numbers when possible. (I recommend that you never highlight a challenge without offering a solution. Finding fault without providing a solution labels you a complainer as opposed to a problem solver.)

Step 3: Link to Benefits Link your solution to organizational benefits. Show how everyone will benefit. Make it clear. Never assume the benefit is obvious. Always put the most valuable benefit first. Do not build up to it.

Step 4: Empathize Empathize with your audience. Does your solution mean more work for them? Why would they be reluctant to embrace it? Anticipate and answer their objections early.

Step 5: Be Quick Keep it brief. Get to the point and ask for questions. The questions will help you determine your audience’s opinion of your solution. Ultimately, their feedback will help you put your solution in place. The more you listen to what they have to say, the better. It shows you have their best interests in mind.

This “win-win” approach will present your recommendations for change in a way that makes it easy for others to see that you have everyone’s best interest in mind.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Build-A-Slide with Me at the Presentation Summit

That's right, folks!

October 7th-10th in Scottsdale, Arizona, I'll be giving a Build-a-Slide Workshop at The Presentation Summit. We will take your biggest slide challenges and work on them together in real time to create better slides, better graphics and better presentations.

Need more reasons to attend? Maybe you're wondering (like this lovely lady at the right) just how The Presentation Summit can help you. Whether you're in proposals, marketing, training, graphic design, sales, or just love creating presentations, The Presentation Summit will have what you need. I guarantee you will learn something new! Here are the top reasons, I love The Presentation Summit:
  1. Not only are industry experts speaking at the conference, but they are attendees as well. You may find yourself having a drink with Rick Altman (the conference host himself and writer and presentation guru), lunch with Connie Malamed, dinner with Dave Paradi, or a late night snack with the developers at Microsoft. Not to mention me and a host of others attending the conference all who would love to talk to you about presentations and offer any advice. What other conference gives you this kind of personal access to presenters in a laid-back, fun environment?
    The Makeover Maven
    from Rick Altman on Vimeo.
  2. It's not just about the slides. Although I and several others will be teaching about graphics and building better slides, that's not the only ingredient to creating memorable presentations. You'll learn techniques to take amazing photographs, speak like a pro, and tell a story your audience will remember. Through keynotes and workshops, you'll learn expert presenter secrets. The Presentation Summit shines a light on the four pillars of presentation success: message, design, technique, delivery. Beyond the Software from Rick Altman on Vimeo.
  3. Ask a Microsoft guru. Microsoft MVPs will be on hand to personally answer any questions regarding PowerPoint including special tools and any other features about which you want to understand. The Help Center from Rick Altman on Vimeo.
  4. Fun and learning. The Presentation Summit has the atmosphere of a retreat, yet the experts and accomplished speakers only found at large conferences. With after-hour PowerPoint games, cocktail receptions, group outings, and a beautiful setting in Scottsdale, The Presentation Summit offers something for all levels of presenters. True Audience Engagement from Rick Altman on Vimeo.
  5. Discount for our BDG readers!!! Rick Altman is offering $75 off registration throughout the month of August. Just enter GMG75 in the Comments Box of the registration page.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Updated Graphic Cheat Sheet

Two years ago, we created a Graphic Cheat Sheet to help our readers find the right graphic to communicate their ideas. We didn't realize how popular it would become and how our audience would grab up Graphic Cheat Sheet posters at conferences and workshops. We've since revamped the layout and added new icons. You can download a FREE pdf of the sheet here:
Get My Graphic Cheat Sheet
The Graphic Cheat Sheet offers you suggestions for graphic types that best convey various concepts in simple, complex, and quantitative ways. For example, if you want to show Synergy, scroll down the far left column to the row labeled Synergy. Under the Simple column (for information not too intricate), you will see suggestions like a building block graphic, chain graphic, or pyramid graphic. For more robust concepts of Synergy, you can look under the Complex column and find suggestions like a funnel graphic, vee diagram, collage, or a stacked graphic. For numeric concepts of Synergy, look under the Quantitative column to find a pie chart and dashboard graphic. Whenever you're stuck with how to visually communicate your ideas, break out this cheat sheet! I created the sheet to give you new ideas for graphics and force you to consider different ways to show your information. Maybe for Hierarchy, you always used a pyramid graphic. However, in reviewing the sheet, you notice that a stair graphic or a temple graphic might work better and offer another way to visually communicate your information and keep your presentations and marketing materials fresh. Hope this sheet helps you find better and more creative ways to communicate your ideas. As always, you can email me at info@BillionDollarGraphics.com with any suggestions for articles or other helpful resources or graphic questions.

Want to learn more about choosing the right graphics and how to improve your presentations? Check out The Presentation Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, October 7th-10th. I'll be giving a workshop as well as exhibiting our new Get My Graphic site. There will be amazing experts on presenting like Rick Altman, Julie Terberg, Connie Malamed, Dave Paradi, Geetesh Bajaj, Carmen Taran, and many more. We'll also be giving out printed copies of our Graphic Cheat Sheet during our session and at our booth at The Presentation Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, October 7th-10th, so stop by our booth and workshop to say "hi!"

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Want More Avengers? Check out this Infographic.

With behind-the-scene changes happening on the Billion Dollar Graphics site (to be announced soon), I've gotten behind on my blogging. I plan to have new, fun, in-depth, and informative posts starting in June. In the meantime, being a comics as well as a graphics geek, I found this cool article posted on Blastr about an infographic of the Avengers' universe: http://blastr.com/2012/05/massive-infographic-makes.php.

The full timeline appears in the Art of the Avengers book. It's a great example of how a timeline can help simplify a storyline and show how various characters and plot points come together in an engaging way. Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Problem and Solution to Explaining ConOps

The Problem 
First, I want to define ConOps for those readers unfamiliar with the term:
Concept of operations (ConOps) is a document or graphic that communicates the characteristics of a proposed system from the stakeholder’s perspective (those who will use the system). ConOps can be a combination of quantitative and qualitative system characteristics. ConOps show how a set of capabilities may be employed to achieve desired objectives or an end state.*

Most ConOps solutions are complex, multidimensional and multivariable. Frequently, ConOps explanations are requested for Government proposal submissions. With such a multifaceted topic, how do you explain your ConOps in a way that your audience (evaluator) understands?

There are two reasons why most ConOps explanations fail.
  1. Familiarity. The subject matter experts (SMEs) that develop the concept of operations are intimately aware of the proposed ConOps details. When sharing ConOps information, SMEs either provide too much or too little information, because they make assumptions about the audience’s (evaluator’s) understanding of the content. 
  2. Writing. Explaining ConOps in person is challenging. Explaining ConOps in an easy-to-understand written document is almost impossible. To successfully explain the ConOps textually, the reader must be 100% immersed in the document, and the writing must be clear, concise, professional, and audience-focused. That’s a problem. Readers are often distracted, and most documents are not professionally written (i.e., written by an experienced, trained writer). 
 The Solution 
Follow these three steps to clearly explain your ConOps in a way that will help you succeed where others fail.

Step 1—Simplify 
Why? Because your audience is not an expert with your ConOps. Explain it in a way that the reader understands. Your ConOps document wasn’t created for you and your team to read; it’s intended for your audience. Do not include content, acronyms and abbreviations that may confuse your audience. Keep it simple and clearly identify any benefits, outcomes and discriminators (things that set your solution apart from your competition).

Step 2—Use a Graphic
Why? Because when done right, graphics are easier to understand and remember than text alone. Additionally, graphics uncover omitted parts. For example, missing a step in a process is obvious when shown in a process diagram but might be overlooked on a page of text.

ConOps graphics are often a combination of multiple graphic types. The audience, content and message drive graphic type selection. However, most ConOps graphics fall into three graphic categories:

1. Graphic types that show how parts relate to the whole process or system. Use this approach as a roadmap throughout your document. Highlight each element and explain each in greater detail at the beginning of relevant sections throughout your document (see the temple graphic below with the blowout of the column). The following are two examples of graphics that show parts relating to a whole:

2. Graphic types that literally show the system in use. These graphics use photographs, drawings, schematics, floorplans, models, and other visuals that remain true to reality to depict your ConOps. The following two examples illustrate how each system functions in a real-world scenario:

3. Graphic types that show process. Show how your system combines data, structures workflow, allows for continual improvement, manages risk, or offers a unique process flow using these graphic types. The following graphics illustrate the process through which the final outcome is reached:

Add other graphic types within your ConOps graphic as needed. For example, consider gauge graphics to show quantitative data (shown below).

Step 3—Validate Your Solution
Why? Because SMEs and authors often miss or miscommunicate part of the solution due to over familiarity.

Ask someone who is similar to your target audience to review and explain your ConOps graphic to you. Do they understand it well enough to articulate the presented solution? If so, you are on the right path. If not, use their feedback to improve your ConOps graphic.

The next time you need to share your ConOps, use these three steps to more clearly explain your solution.

 *Summarized from Wikepedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concept_of_operations) and my own experience.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Power of a Memorable Shape

Do you recognize this shape? With what do you associate it? A brand of soft drink, maybe?
If you said Coca-Cola®, then the millions of dollars (if not more) that Coke has spent on advertising and creating and copyrighting this shape has worked. And, yes, Coke holds the rights to this bottle shape. When Coke first started out, there were many competitors who attempted to imitate Coke down to the cursive font used in its logo. Anyone hear of Coca-nola? To make it easy for consumers to find the "real thing," the marketing geniuses at Coke worked with bottle manufacturers to develop this unique hobble skirt bottle. Now consumers would have no problem telling the real Coke from the rest—even in the dark.

This hobble skirt bottle was based on the latest women's fashion of the same name seen in this photo from Wikipedia. It doesn't look very comfortable or allow for much mobility, but it certainly exaggerates a woman's curves. Maybe that was why this bottle shape was so appealing and memorable. ;)

Coke is one of the most well-known brands around the world. From stadiums to restaurants to gas stations to movie theaters, Coca-cola products are sold and their signature colors and unique cursive logo are on full display on the soda machines, refrigerated units, menus, and signs hung on walls and doors at thousands of establishments. (Notice how I didn't include Coke's logo in this blog, but I bet you pictured it perfectly.) Recently, I watched CNBC's Coca-Cola: The Real Story Behind the Real Thing and was inspired by their straightforward—and subconscious—marketing and how this brand has pervaded not only the world but our memories.

When you looked at the bottle's silhouette what did you feel? Did you remember the last time you had a Coke? Was it a pleasurable experience? Were you on vacation, taking a lunch break, watching your favorite football team win the Superbowl?

In CNBC's report, they interviewed Coke executives who talked about Coke's "memory bank." How they purposefully placed Coke products and sponsorships where people enjoy themselves like movie theaters, vacation spots, and arenas. Their early advertisements included Santa Claus, who coincidentally wore the same the colors as Coke's logo. Norman Rockwell painted many of their advertisements showing idyllic Americana scenes where the subjects enjoy a nice, refreshing Coke. All these seemingly very different marketing efforts come together to cause the image and taste of Coke to resonate with us and bring back positive memories of when we enjoyed this beverage. If we are having a bad day, just have a Coke and remember the good times and we'll feel better.

At one point, Coke had dropped the hobble skirt shape from their bottles when they went to plastic, especially from their 2-liter bottles. You may have noticed in recent years, they are employing this curvy shape once again. In fact, they found their transactions increased by 1 million a week when they went back to their signature bottle shape. It just proves how strong the image of Coke's bottle is linked to our memories and how we buy.

As you work on marketing and advertising for your product or service, consider how you can make it more memorable by attaching it to a story or a positive feeling or even highlighting a unique image the consumer will remember—especially when they are ready to purchase.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Complex Story? Get Inspriation from Game of Thrones and Use a Map

HBO's Game of Thrones premiered last week. For those of you not familiar with this amazing series, it is set in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros with multiple storylines involving the kingdom's noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne. At the beginning of each episode, they recap what has happened in the previous episodes—very helpful considering the complex story and cast of characters involved in this show. Then I realized the opening credits were just as important to setting the scene as the recaps.

The opening shows a few kingdoms on a map of this fictional land. We see the architectural features that comprise each city and the location (the warm south by the sea versus the cold northern wall). As viewers, we get a sense of where characters are located in relation to each other as the story unfolds. How far are the battlegrounds from these kingdoms? How far are the enemy families from one another? We see the vastness of the land and understand how long it would take to travel between the kingdoms and how far each family's rule reaches. We can compare the different climates and topography that will also influence the characters' skills and political alliances. Overall, it adds to the viewers' understanding of the story.

If your company has worldwide headquarters or does a lot of business across the country in various cities, a map graphic is one of the best ways for customers to understand your reach and ability to personally meet their needs in diverse locations. Being nearby is a benefit to clients who want to know your team can give them the service and attention they desire. What kind of image do you get when I say that we have offices across the United States? It's a vague statement, since there are thousands of cities in the United States where we could have offices. Also, how many offices do we have? Are they central to our clients, if they need one-on-one help? What if I simply gave you the image that shows you exactly where our offices are located and a description of the services offered at those locations? You may find our offices are close to you. Doesn't this paint a clearer picture to help you understand the benefits of using our service?

What would have more impact: telling a client that you provide telecommunications services throughout the Western Hemisphere or showing it?

A map graphic can support your story and demonstrate important details that words alone can't convey. You can find these editable PowerPoint map graphics and many others at BizGraphics On Demand.

If you generate a lot of map graphics and need specific, detailed area maps, check out GMARK PowerPoint Solutions. I met Jamie Garroch, the man behind GMARK, at the Presentation Summit last year. His company created a product called vMaps, which allows you to create in PowerPoint multiple styles of fully editable maps. It's easy to use and at a low price point to fit any budget.

For you next project, consider using a map graphic and show your audience how your vast empire can support them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Clients Aren't Buying? Add Graphics into Your Marketing Mix

Assuming you have a good solution, the issue is that the value of your solution is lost and fears were not allayed within your proposal and/or marketing materials. You want to sell the value or benefit of your solutions to your future client. What specific problem does your solution solve for your client? In what ways will your solution benefit your future client? How is your solution better than similar solutions? If you can answer these questions and quickly share this information with your future client, you are close to a sale.

Look at it from the buyer’s point of view. Why should the buyer care? (In America, we want sellers to get to the point.) A buyer wants a pitch focusing on their specific needs (not generalizations), and it must be compelling. Research your target audience. Is your solution tailored to them? For example, if you are selling new software, how will it save them money, time, or streamline their processes? In essence, how does it benefit them specifically?

This is where graphics come into play. Graphics communicate up to 60,000 faster than text, they are remembered (at least) 38% more, and are proven to increase the likelihood of a sale by 43%. If the benefits and discriminators are woven into a compelling visual, your likelihood of success increases dramatically. Developing customer-focused graphics for proposals, forces you to think about your solution from the client’s point of view and boil everything down into what matters to them. It also shows you are committed to their business. Because you have the resources to develop clear, communicative, compelling visuals you separate yourself from your competition. Your future client assumes that if you have the resources and commitment to develop effective graphics, then you probably have the resources to meet their needs. (For hundreds of graphic examples, go to http://www.billiondollargraphics.com/businessgraphiclibrary.html.)

This brings us to the next issue: fear. Your future client’s fear of choosing the wrong solution must be allayed. Their organization’s and personal success is on the line. If they choose poorly, they will be reprimanded or worse. The old saying is that no one gets fired when buying IBM. Why? Because IBM was considered a reliable, stable company. Essentially, IBM was synonymous with low risk. You want to communicate that your solution has little to no risk involved. How you do it depends upon your market. For example, would fears dissolve if you demonstrate how your company’s solutions have helped others to succeed (assuming the benefits are applicable to your future client’s goals)?

Many proposals involve another layer. People buy people and people do not buy from people they do not trust. Trust is established through rapport and reputation. For example, if you take the time to get to know and understand your future client you have an advantage. They now know and trust you, and you have insight into their biggest needs and concerns. You can address those issues quickly with a graphic. Your future client can use that graphic to easily up-sell your solution to their boss.

Any way you look at it, using graphics to quickly communicate the value of your solution and discriminators while allaying the fear of failure is a recipe for success.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Communicate with Aliens

In the early 1970s, astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake were approached to create a message for the Pioneer 10 spacecraft on its journey to Jupiter.

A message for extraterrestrials.

Since this craft would be the first man-made object to leave our solar system, the scientists thought it might be possible for a technologically advanced society to detect Pioneer 10 in interstellar space. To otherworldly beings who found this craft, they wanted to communicate the location and appearance of the craft's creators and the time period it was launched.

So, how would Sagan and Drake communicate these messages to an alien race—a race no human had encountered before?


They designed graphics for the Pioneer plaque. How else would you communicate with an alien race that has no knowledge of our language or our appearance or even our planet?
What does this image say to you? Do you think it communicates clearly time, location, and appearance (their primary objectives)?

A lot of thought went into the details of this relatively simple image, which in closer inspection is a lot more complex than it looks:
  • At the top is the symbol for hydrogen, chosen because it is the most abundant element in the universe. The small vertical line below the hydrogen symbol represents binary digit 1. The transition of a hydrogen atom from the electron state spin up to electron state spin down can specify a unit of time and a unit of length, which are both used as a legend for measurement in the other images on this plaque. (Math is the universal language, though I believe graphics are a close second.)
  • To the right is obviously an image of a man and woman. But look closely at the details. The binary representation of the number 8 is shown between the brackets indicating the woman's height. Using the hydrogen legend, the viewers can calculate her height as 168 cm. Both figures are standing in front front of Pioneer 10 as point of reference to average human size. The man's hand is raised in a gesture of goodwill and to show how our limbs move and show off our handy opposable thumbs.
  • Fourteen of the lines radiating from the left image contain long binary numbers that represent periods of pulsars by using the hydrogen atom legend as a unit. The fifteenth line extends from the center behind the figures and depicts the sun's relative distance to the center of the galaxy.
  • A schematic diagram of the solar system is seen at the bottom. A small picture of Pioneer 10 is shown following a trajectory past Jupiter and exiting our solar system. Again, binary numbers were added next to each planet to detail their relative distance to the sun.

What would you change if designing it today? Wired UK is holding a contest for a redesign of the Pioneer plaque. Check their site in a few weeks to see what designers 40 years later would do differently.

One criticism of the plaque has to do with the designers making assumptions about their audience. (Of course, how do you know your audience, residing light years away?) Some critics have said they shouldn't have used an arrow to indicate the craft's trajectory.


Arrow graphics are a human, earthly icon, inspired by arrows used in hunter-gatherer societies. Odds are an alien species would not have used or ever seen an arrow.

Guess it really does help to know your audience.

Friday, March 2, 2012

When and Where to Use Graphics in a Page-limited Document

With travel this week, I've decided to keep this blog short and to the point (as some of your documents need to be).

When should you use a graphic when space is limited?
Here are three reasons to choose a visual representation in a page-limited proposal or marketing document:
  1. Your solution is complex. Often a graphic can communicate complex concepts more succinctly than text alone. Consider network diagrams, quantitative charts, dashboard graphics, Gantt charts, organizational charts, and process diagrams. All communicate complex information that is easily digested.
  2. You want to ensure your information stands out. Good graphics pull our eyes to them because, to simplify the explanation, they look different than the text around them. Visuals communicate faster than text because text is decoded linearly and graphics are absorbed all at once. Graphics are instantly stored in long-term memory whereas text must go through short-term memory before they are stored in long-term memory.
  3. You want to quickly communicate the professionalism and commitment to the project. Graphics show you care and speak to the quality of the service/product your company provides.
Where should you place graphics in a page-limited document?
Anywhere they are needed. The golden rule is a graphic per page, but I have found it unrealistic to shoehorn a graphic onto every page despite tight budgets and page limitations. Place your graphic as close as possible to the associated text for better clarification.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Space Too Tight? Use These 7 Tips to Slim Down Your Graphics

Sometimes no matter how much we try to convince our clients that less is more, we find ourselves shoving oversized content into an undersized space. Maybe your client wants to save money by only printing a two-page brochure, even though they have four pages of information. Maybe they could only afford a 1/4-page ad with enough text and graphics to fill a half-page space. Or maybe you are working on graphics for a page-restricted RFP and are over by several pages. If you are suffering from bloated content, then here are my 7 tips to trim down graphics and make them fit in tight spaces:
  1. Exclude extraneous words and descriptors. Change “Our Systematic, Quality Evaluation Process” to “Evaluation Process.”
  2. Use known acronyms. For example, “quality control” becomes “QC.”
  3. Use a sans serif, narrow font like Arial Narrow for graphics, tables, and callouts. (If your document does not embed the font, make sure the end user has the font.) Sans serif fonts are cleaner looking and easier to read for short chunks of text and small sizes. Narrow fonts shorten the width of each character, which allows more content in the same space.
  4. Decrease line spacing where possible. For page-limited proposals, I recommend using a .85 multiple line spacing in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and the same line spacing as font size in Adobe products (for example, 10-point line spacing for a 10-point font).
  5. Use short arrowheads.
  6. Remove all unused space.

  7. Delete extraneous imagery. If an image quickly communicates information, keep it. If, however, the image merely supports the information, delete it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

O' Caption, My Caption

To use a caption or not to use a caption with a graphic?

That is a question posed to me during the start of many projects—especially proposals.

I highly recommend using captions with your graphics. I am referring to the “title” of your graphic—also called a caption. This article does not address numbering graphics or referencing specific RFP requirements for proposals. (Of course, you want to make it easy for the evaluator to find and link your graphic to an RFP requirement, so why wouldn’t you do this?)

Good captions accomplish two things:
  1. Quickly and clearly share your graphic’s primary message.
  2. Give the reader a reason to care about your graphic.
If your goal is to influence or persuade your audience, your caption should be one sentence long and include a “benefit” and a “how” (often the solution). Place the “benefit” before the “how” to give the reader a reason to care about your solution. Whenever possible, include quantitative data to further validate your assertions. Professionals in almost every industry have a visceral, gut reaction to quantitative data, because what is measured is improved. Measuring or quantification tells the reader that your solution is tested, process-driven, repeatable, and lowers risk. The following is an example of a good caption.

If your goal is to clarify or explain (persuasion is not needed), your caption should summarize the content of your graphic. For example, “Company X’s organization.” Marketing materials (including proposals) are intended to influence, motivate, and persuade, and I always include a benefit: “To ensure an easy transition, Company X’s organization includes key personnel with 20 years of iFind software experience.”

To be successful, your graphic must be consistent with your caption. To confirm that your graphic is synonymous with your caption, remove the caption and ask others what conclusion they reach after reviewing the visual. If it is similar to your written caption, you have a successful caption. If not, modify your graphic or rewrite your caption based on your goal.

Sadly, most graphics do not communicate what the caption states. The solution is to write your caption first and then create the graphic based on the idea stated in your caption.

I use slightly different approaches for graphics in printed materials versus shown in a presentation:

Written Proposals
  1. Placement: Captions are shown beneath your graphic. It is the accepted convention and therefore expected. Your goal is to make it easy for the reader/evaluator to find what they are looking for.
  2. Style: The style should be different than the body text, so the reader knows it is associated with the graphic and not the surrounding body text. (You can certainly get away with a different color or size if it follows your template and/or RFP requirements.)
  3. Government vs. Commercial: The approach I recommend for Government proposals is not the approach I recommend for commercial props. Government proposals tend to require condensed line spacing (leading—the space between lines of text) whereas commercial proposals include more white space and can be a smaller point size.

Oral Proposals
  1. Placement: The caption should consistently appear at the bottom of your slides. Think of it as you “take away.” It is the final word or conclusion of the slide.
  2. Style: The caption is large enough and distinct enough to be readable and consistently recognized as the “take away.” I place my captions in stylized boxes no smaller than 14-point type (usually 20 point).
  3. Government vs. Commercial: For commercial proposals that do not have strict RFP stipulated outlines, I use an edited, shorter version of the caption as the title. I do so because the purpose of a good slide title is to make the audience care about the content of the slide. For Government proposals, place the caption at the bottom of the slide (see rule #1).
Follow these rules and match your caption to your graphic to ensure clear, concise, compelling communication and watch your success rate rise.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spark a Fire! Five Tips to Grab and Hold Your Audience’s Attention


Even the best presentations lose your attention. Why? Because your brain is fast. Your mind drifts once you decide the information presented is unimportant or uninteresting; therefore, it is unnecessary to pay attention. You need to be engaged to stay focused. Your audience is exactly the same. The following are five techniques to capture and hold your audience’s attention throughout your presentation.
  1. Surprise. Say, show or do something that is shocking or unexpected. It can be as simple as a loud noise (a clap or a few notes of music) or an odd picture added to your slide deck. The purpose is to reengage the audience’s brain. Being unpredictable or incongruent snaps the mind to attention. For example, I attended a presentation where the hidden presenter “typed” sentences on the screen instead of speaking. The audience was dead silent and engaged the entire time.
  2. Cognitive Dissonance. Keep your audience guessing. Hold their brains off balance by feeding bits of information as opposed to revealing your point early. Build a graphic slide by slide as if assembling a puzzle. Slowly reveal parts of your graphic, briefly speak to each part and build your graphic so your point is revealed in the end.
  3. Story. Tell an interesting story that complements your presentation. Remember the saying, “Facts tell and stories sell.” Stories hook audiences from the start. Share a unique story to hold their attention but be sure the story ties into your presentation.
  4. Involve. Ask your audience to participate. Play a game, pose a question, solve a puzzle, or perform an exercise. For example, avoid telling your audience everything. Let them learn through trial and error. Give your group an exercise and ask what worked and what did not.
  5. Senses. The more senses (hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch) you engage, the stronger the interest. For example, play sad music, show images of neglected animals and give your audience a cuddly puppy toy to pet while telling a moving story about animal rescue.
Combine these techniques for a winning presentation. During my graphic training sessions, I show the symbol on the right (allegedly created for the United States Department of Homeland Defense for use during disasters) and ask, “What does this mean?”

By doing so, I use two of the techniques listed above to capture my audience’s attention (“Cognitive Dissonance” and “Involve”).

Know your audience. If your audience feels manipulated and your approach held little relevance to the topic, you will lose their attention—and trust.

In the end, your goal is to affect your audience emotionally. Use these five techniques to spark a fire within your audience. Give them a reason care. Get them excited or concerned to engage their hearts and minds during and after your presentation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Noun Project

On Twitter recently, I saw a link for The Noun Project and immediately knew I needed to share this link with my readers. I had just interviewed Nigel Holmes where he discussed symbols/icons and keeping graphics simple. He also mentioned social scientist Otto Neurath and artist Gerd Arntz, who had collected every single icon they had made in three-ring binders. Working together, they became pioneers of modern-day visual language. The Noun Project seems to be taking their work and going a step further. This site not only collects symbols but allows you to download and use these symbols for free.

Yes, that's right FREE.

(However, I highly recommend leaving a donation to help maintain and grow this important project.)

Check out the icons below. Notice the simple lines and shapes used to visually communicate these various concepts.

As these icons prove, you don't always need complex visuals to communicate complex ideas. In fact, Edward (the designer behind the project) had been creating simple sketches of ordinary objects when he became "fascinated with their complexity and mechanics." Then, while working for an architecture firm and needing to do presentations, he became frustrated with the lack of free resources for high-quality symbols/icons. He toyed with the idea of "collecting every single noun-symbol" and placing it on a website for the public to download. Years later, Edward (along with support from his wife and an old friend) started The Noun Project with the goal to "share an international visual language." People from around the world are welcome to upload their "noun-symbols" for inclusion on this site (subject to approval).

What an amazing and inspiring concept. I urge you to go to this site and bookmark it now. Whenever you need inspiration for how to communicate a concept; a simple way to show a person, place, thing, or idea; or icons for your next job check out The Noun Project.

And make sure to leave a donation—or buy a t-shirt. You can create some very interesting—and visually communicative—t-shirts from their library of icons.

Very cool!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shape Friends=Math Friends

A couple months ago, a friend's 5-year-old niece won McGraw-Hill's "What Math Means to Me" contest. Her artwork will be shown in upcoming McGraw-Hill My Math student materials (print and online) as well as in the Museum of Math in New York City.

Quite an accomplishment for a kindergarten student!

For the contest, students had to draw original works of art that told a story of what math meant to them along with a short narrative with the same theme. My young associate's winning piece (shown here) told the story of learning shapes in math and "equated" it with making friends at the same time. See the piece above and also check out the website below:

Shape Friends=Math Friends

Like the image of the Hand Turkey from our previous post, this student took something simple (triangles, rectangles, squares, etc.) and transformed those shapes into a story of friendship blossoming out of learning math. Many times it takes a child to find a way to communicate a complex idea in a simple way. However, I think we all can do this—and I think we all should do this. Look at the simple shapes of objects, which you use everyday for work. What ideas can be conveyed by using a pencil shape? What about the rectangular shapes of a computer monitor or laptop? Could you use any of the objects pertaining to your work to create a graphic that communicates your company's message or sells you ideas?

Not only did she draw a great picture, she also told a story. This part was given weight during final judging. Audiences connect more to your vision if presented with a story. Combine an image of your product with a short paragraph speaking about someone benefiting from using your product. Maybe you show a silhouette of your pencil used for drawing plans with a story about how the pencil helps to shape your ideas.

I challenge you to take time in your day to think with the freedom and creativity of a child. You'll be surprised at what you create.