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A few years ago when I started thinking about about the SlideMagic project I though it was all about the design. Just find a way for people to make beautiful charts and it will be a big hit.

I am close to completing version 2.0 of the SlideMagic app, and am now in a position I have never been in before: I can design the actual user experience of someone creating slides click by click, being free fom common software design platforms, standards, and practices. And here is the real magic. I make dozens of user interface decisions a day, what colours get copied, what things get highlighted, how font sizes are set, what box is selected after you did an action. Hundreds of small decisions add up to a big experience. You cannot pinpoint why it works, but it does somehow. It is all a matter of incredible attention to detail.

The pitch of SlideMagic is changing. It will all be about the speed at which you can design a pretty decent looking slide.

(Don’t tell this secret to anyone).

Photo by toine Garnier on Unsplash

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In the beginning, I see early adaptors of SlideMagic using it as a tool to create slides that are integrated in a regular PowerPoint presentation. Now that a 100% accurate and instant on the stop PowerPoint conversion is integrated in SlideMagic 2.0, this will be no issue. Your colleagues won’t notice your secret (and don’t tell anyone).

This is the the example of the type of slide that is very time consuming to create in PowerPoint:

  • Lots of images that need to be cropped, scaled, and positioned in a grid (often logos, or product shots)

  • A mix of text, data, and data charts

  • Multiple data charts that need to be lined up exactly

  • Multiple data charts that need to have the exact comparable scaling

SlideMagic 2.0 can do it in less than a minute and plop the chart straight in your presentation :-). Everything is a fully editable PowerPoint shape, every chart is a regular PowerPoint/Excel object.

And… if your boss wants you to add 2 rows (one between rows 2 and 3, and one at the bottom) 5 minutes before the presentation, you will have 4 minutes left to get yourself a coffee before the meeting starts.

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Overheard at a dinner last week: “when you paste one presentation into the other, all the colours and fonts got mixed up, we have to deal with this all the time”.

This happens for 2 reasons:

  1. By design: PowerPoint and Keynote offer lots and lots of designer freedom: fonts, colours, layouts, styles. Multiply even a small team x the number of things you can change in a file and there will always be differences.

  2. PowerPoint tries to help the user by harmonising formats when Frankensteining decks together. This is actually pretty hard to do and a better user experience would have been to make preserving the original layout the default one. Usually, charts look actually pretty similar, but if 2 users use a different colour code for “blue”, disastrous things happen when your computer is going to try to sort things out for you. (You can control this behaviour in PowerPoint, see this link)

How to deal with it? Have somewhere on the corporate file server a pristine, clean PowerPoint template that will always be the starting point of any presentation. Open this one first, then paste the slides of any other deck inside it (not vice versa), and fix any mistakes you notice. In that way, you prevent the spread of template degradation as each deck is reset to its original colours all the time.

The above is one of the reasons why SlideMagic has stricter template guidelines to have you spend less time in presentation hell at the expense of slightly reduced creative freedom

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

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Over the past 30 years, I did an INSEAD MBA, worked for a decade at McKinsey, and built a global micro brand in presentation design. Why coding, when this is something that 20 year olds do in far away places like Ukraine?

Yes, it is a bit crazy, but I would call it “calculated craziness”:

  • The world has changed a lot. It is now possible to build a software product with the only investment involved is the missed income of other things you could have done with your time. Try doing the same thing 20 years ago and think of the investment and effort you need

  • My previous business model exploited the fact that usually people who understand business are clueless about design, while I was lucky to combine both in my head. What I am doing now is exploiting the fact that people who can code (backend), usually do not understand design (frontend) either, and both of these usually do not understand user needs very well. When it comes to the niche of business presentation design, I found a way to master all three (still learning the coding part).

  • There is a big difference in between being a developer in a huge organisation with 1,000s of colleagues, working on a specific feature, and coming up with an idea, designing and implementing it in a full product.

  • I think it is very hard to design a completely new product by committee. Something needs to stick their neck out and do something bold, try it, change it, try it again, change it again, without the delays of too much debate about ideas and ho unfair it is that you ask people to turn around and undo/redo their work completely after 48 hours. For me on my own, there is no such thing as wasted time.

This all might not work, but at least I want to give it a try.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

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Canva acquired the free stock photo sites Pixabay and Pexels. The libraries of these companies will now be integrated in the platform (users creating documents with Canva can access the images for free).

Canva’s is a design platform with a much broader focus than “serious” business presentations: leaflets, websites, social media images, it enables small businesses to avoid paying for a graphics designer. The core revenue model is based on buying images to go into your design, and as such the acquisition makes sense.

For everyday business presentations though, I think images are actually less important, and cheesy stock images in the hands of the non-designer can actually do more damage than good. And Pixabay and Pexels have a fair share of these.

I hope Canva takes the opportunity to prune the stock image collections of these 2 companies. The player to beat is the free image web site Unsplash with images of much higher quality, but - for now - has a much smaller collection and lacks functional images that designers might need (a red bucket isolated on a white background).

The good thing of all of this is this acquisition shows investor appetite for the design market.

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If you are pitching a premium offering, your product/service needs to beat/exceed the combination in terms of quality, speed, weight, or anything that is relevant in your industry sector.

But then there are the small details. People don’t go to an expensive restaurant just to enjoy crips napkins, no the food quality should be right in the first place. But the small details are important to remind and reassure your customer or investor that they made the right choice (there is always that nagging insecure voice in the back of their heads that tells them they are “suckers” who have been taking for a ride at a silly high price).

Being on time for that meeting, replacing that 1990s PowerPoint template, it is not the most important thing compared to your core product offering, or is it? You are who you portray you are.

Photo by Lightscape on Unsplash

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In SlideMagic 2.0, I have pushed the use of colours in the application user interface further. The look and feel of the application will be the opposite of the slides you are working on:

  • If the slides have a dark background colour, the application will be light

  • The accent colour of the application will be the opposite colour on the colour wheel from the colour .you are using in your slides.

Here are some screen shots from the alpha version:

Brown/red in the slides, green in the app

Switch the slide background to dark, the app turns light

Slides on the clipboard are in the template bank are presented in the opposite colour so you can differentiate easily between the slides that are already in your presentation, and the ones you could add.

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This post by Humans of New York follows on my post from yesterday. This person might have it all sorted out, but 1) you are not working to please your boss, 2) you are not working to achieve “super chill” status, humanity will not progress much if we all do that.

“I used to be a corporate attorney for Coca-Cola..." pic.twitter.com/lb2LQh3NOc

— Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) May 10, 2019
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There are two ways a mentor can be really helpful in your career:

  • She continues to pull you up with her as she knows you will always deliver what she wants

  • You learn a lot from her and your increasing skills get recognised by other people than your boss

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

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File organisation on a computer is a pain. Going up and down directory hierarchies to find the right folder, then going backwards again if your machine prompts you to load a file from the location you last saved something in.

Back at McKinsey, one senior partner had a different paper filing system from everyone else: simply plop everything in chronologically: mixing up different projects, personal and work, etc. The arguments: it saves a lot of time to put things away, and a calendar timeline is actually a pretty good access mechanism for your stuff. (‘Where is that presentation I made 3 weeks ago?”) .

More and more, I go to a one directory workflow. The one directory usually ends up being the default downloads folder:

  • Save and load everything in one folder

  • Don’t bother naming images, look them up by thumbnails, if you can’t find them, search for a similar one online

  • Once in a while, go through the folder and put the most important things away properly:

    • Most work files expire: that version 29 you were so keen on saving in order to roll back to it, is no longer relevant by version 37. After returning from holiday, the hotel and car reservations are not needed anymore. All can be deleted safely. (That is the reason that the few bits of paper that are still floating around in my office first go in the “buffer box” before filing, usually the archive problem solves itself after 2 months)

    • There are exceptions: for my app source code: I need to be careful not to cause a massive corruption. Family photos, medical files, contracts, they go somewhere properly.

  • Use gmail search as your archiving index:

    • You can find when that meeting or call was, and pull up the required document

    • A true ‘commit’ of a document is usually not the version you save and call '“final final”, it is the one you deemed good enough to send to someone.

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash

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