Tuesday, October 19

Forget Photoshop, PowerPoint 2010 Rocks for AHA-G!

First, I must make it clear (once and for all!) that I do not work for Microsoft (or get paid in any way by them!), and I am also NO GREAT SUPPORTER of Microsoft products in general, including Microsoft Office 2010. However, I will admit that I have been using PowerPoint ever since I got into e-learning, and have interestingly never stopped loving it, especially in mashing up graphics (Although, PowerPoint can be frustrating at times).

Secondly, no doubt Photoshop fanatics are going to scream foul and use long-winded scientific methods to illustrate all the things that it can do, which PowerPoint can't do. True! But, most educators are not graphic designers, and want to simply develop cool/relevant graphics to spice up, or enhance their websites (e.g. blog), or presentations quickly (EFFICIENCY)! Also, it takes time to master Photoshop (basics), while in PowerPoint you can learn some amazing stuff within seconds.

Thirdly, Apple fanatics are going to say, "What about Keynote?" Yes, of course Keynote is 10 times better than any other presentation tool on planet Earth! But, unless it is so disruptively good that it gives me genuine reasons for me to convert to Keynote instead, well...FORGET IT!

However, I am always open to change, so you never know. For example, I did use Nokia phones for 10 years, but when the iPhone came along, I said Adios Amigo to Nokia. In terms of mobile learning experience (iPhone Vs. Nokia), it was NO CONTEST! Every time I play with a Nokia phone these days, it makes me wonder... What happened? Hopefully, Nokia wakes up, because Finland kind of depends on it being successful. Anyway, my wife bought a Nokia phone yesterday, so it can't being doing that bad. So, if Keynote can do what iPhone did to Nokia, then why not?

Alright, enough defending... Let's attack!

First, I would like to thank Tom Kuhlmann for inspiring me to explore PowerPoint as a tool itself to create or mash-up graphics using Clipart (ungroup & group) and images. My first Clipart mash-up in PowerPoint (2007):

Tom Kuhlmann not only inspired me, he also shared my first Clipart mash-up in his post entitled: 3 Sure-Fire Ways to Make Your E-Learning Graphics Sizzle (Great tips, so please read it, too!)

If you notice the image above carefully, you will see my old ZaidLearn header/banner (September, 2007), which was terrible. Anyway, my current blog header is better (I think), and it was developed 95% using PowerPoint (Cropping was done in Microsoft Paint). So, in addition to PowerPoint, I have to admit that I still use Microsoft Paint (cropping) and Notepad (cleaning up hidden PowerPoint/Word/HTML scripts!) a lot, as they empower me to do certain things more efficiently.

It was actually Erkki Pung (an awesome designer from Estonia) who kind of sparked me to write this post, as he asked (through e-mail) if I could cook up a short story (for his homepage) about the designing process in e-learning.

That got me thinking, and then I thought, why not write about something that is practical and that basically anyone with the tool in their hand could do, and that got me thinking about how I create graphics for my blog using PowerPoint. Yeah! Why not share my secret graphic design process (oh boy!). As the graphic design process is not overly complex and rather fun, I believe anyone with a few tips can do it.

Besides Photoshop (and PowerPoint) there are tons of other graphic visualization tools that we can use to sizzle photo effects (PhotoFunia), word clouds (Wordle), diagrams (Gliffy), cartoons (ToonDoo), cartoonish animations (GoAnimate & xtranormal), 3D models (Sculptris), etc. In short, we are certainly not limited by choice. Actually, we are overloaded, and many are still clueless (including me!) of all the amazing possibilities we have at our disposal to create attractive, stimulating, and relevant visual learning/thinking triggers, which I call AHA-Graphics or AHA-G (Nothing to do with A-HA...That Norwegian group!).

When we talk about AHA-G, we are focusing on creating graphics that sparks the reader, or viewer to think about something relevant to what we want to say or write. If the graphic looks out of this world and is attractive is a bonus, but that is not the main objective of an AHA-G. In a way, an AHA-G wants to shock, click, inspire, and make you laugh, all at the same time. If we can shock (emotional engagement), click (Aha, I got it!), inspire (motivate interest), and make you laugh (Haha!)...Now that is a great AHA-G.

To create AHA-Gs, I mostly (92.5%) use PowerPoint, because I still find it the most user-friendly and efficient tool around. Actually, besides using PowerPoint to create cool graphics, animations, and diagrams, you can even trim videos and do some really spectacular things with PowerPoint 2010, which I will illustrate later in this post.

My 5 Favorite AHA-G features in PowerPoint 2010 are:
  1. Remove Background
  2. Artistic Effects
  3. Picture Styles
  4. Picture Effects
  5. Trim Video (Not exactly an AHA-G effect, but I love it!)
If you are lost, let's watch me play around with some of the cool PowerPoint 2010 features:

Oops, I forgot to show you how to create quickly a text bubble, group images (and Clipart), and finally save an AHA-G as a picture (JPG or PNG). This happens when you don't use a script (outline). Anyway, here is part 2, including the missed AHA-G(ems):

Here are some more great examples of using PowerPoint to create graphics that sizzle:
Click here for even more PowerPoint screencast tutorials.

If you are wondering how the AHA-G design process works for me, here is brief description:
  • STEP 1 - Visualization
    When I am exploring a topic (upcoming article) in my head, I like to let the story (idea) linger in my head for at least 4-5 days before I begin writing (Something I learned from Einstein, I think!). To support the story, I also try to visualize an AHA-G I would like to include to spark the creative thinking cells even more. The end product always looks very different from what I originally thought, which I find truly exciting and inspiring. It is like Forest Gump's mum famous quote, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." AHA-Gs should be a visualized fusion of the expected and unexpected. So, if it can shock, click, inspire and even make you laugh , now that is in AHA-G worth spending perhaps 1-2 hours to mash-up. Usually, it takes me around 30 minutes to develop the main AHA-G for each article. Most time is spent finding images and moving them around to reach my AHA-G moment.

  • STEP 2 - Find Images to Mash-up
    So, this is where you are going to break the copyright law...NOT! Personally, I mostly use Clipart, Pictures (from Microsoft), and Google Image search. So, I might be breaking the law quite often frankly, and I might one day be sued by Yoda and Mr. Bean. But, sometimes we need to take risks to inspire people to think (Don't quote me on that!). If you are looking for images to infuse into your AHA-Gs that will not get you into trouble, this post by Tom Kuhlmann has a pretty good collection of free (or cheap) image repositories to pluck from.

  • STEP 3 - Add Text Bubble(s)
    The problem of just mashing-up a bunch of images into an AHA-G, is that readers might miss the point unless your master piece is very direct and clear. To minimize that and amplify your message or point, I like to add one, two or three text bubbles. And you can create some sizzling fonts and bubbles in PowerPoint within seconds (Try doing that in Photoshop!). Interestingly, what I originality wanted to say is sometimes adapted or contextualized to the images discovered, and other times it is the other way around. For example, I might have some idea about a text bubble, but then when I find an awesome image, it might trigger a totally different text bubble, which is kind of cool! So, let the mind do the talking and be flexible, because you never know what pops-up. However, if you feel that text bubbles is not necessary, then skip it.

    Anyway, the AHA-G is just the support act, supporting the main event; your article and message. Meaning, sometimes people need to read the whole article to understand why this AHA-G is like that. Aha, now it makes sense. Awesome!

  • STEP 4 - Crop & Save
    When you have finished your AHA-G master piece, it is time to crop (and resize if necessary) it. First, you need to group all the images and Clipart included, and then you right-click and 'Save as Picture' (All can be done in PowerPoint). I like to save it in JPG format, because it becomes light and easy (to view), however if you want it too look more crisp (pixel wise), then you might want to save it in PNG format (size will increase, though!). I used to crop and save it in JPG format using Microsoft Paint, but since you can do all this in PowerPoint, then why bother?

  • STEP 5 - Upload & Review
    Finally, you are ready to upload your AHA-G to your blog or site (unless it is for a presentation), and review how it fits into the big picture. If you feel it is saucy and sizzling, then your AHA-G is done. If not, then edit and upload again until you feel great about it. Sometimes, if your AHA-G turns out to be really offensive religiously, sexually, culturally, racially, etc. then you should rethink and redo. Well, that is what I would do!
Finally, we should not think of an AHA-G as necessarily a still image, because it could also be an animation or video, if that is the thinking/learning trigger needed. Perhaps, we should then call it AHA-V(ideo), or something like that :)

Here are some of my favorite AHA-G mash-ups:



Alright, any average graphic designer would think all this is crap, and that Photoshop is a 100 times better than PowerPoint 2010. However, if you just want to create some sizzling AHA-Gs efficiently, PowerPoint 2010 is pretty good. For the record, 9 out of 10 AHA-Gs above were created with PowerPoint 2007.

Yes, I have to admit that I used to use Photoshop to remove backgrounds from images, but in PowerPoint 2010 you have finally got that awesome feature called 'Remove Background' (big button). Now, I can convert completely and ditch Photoshop for good. This means shorter learning curve, less clicks, quicker output, and more AHA-G moments. I arrest my case!

That's it! Of course it is not the whole story, but at least you got a glimpse on how I create AHA-Gs, and that I am taking sabbatical leave from Photoshop until I am convinced otherwise :)


Pandora said...

Loved the presentation Zaid (and your enthusiasm)
I'm sure you won't mind that I flagged it in the Scaffolds and Helpful Hints Discussion topic in week 2. I also hadn't seen Screenr before so I'll look forward to playing around with it.
Thank you
Susan O'Grady

ZaidLearn said...

No problem :)

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thing I try to teach people. Can I count on a sequel?