GUEST POST: Kristi Govertsen – I’m a Hack

This week’s TUESDAY TIPS come to you from a good friend of mine, Kristi Govertsen. Dear Daniel’s Readers, I’m a hack. No, that does not mean that I am a computer hacker, magically making all my technology do deliciously awesome feats with a few well-placed keystrokes. I do mean that I’m a hack, a fake, a fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants, hope-nobody-realizes-I’m-winging-it-and-hoping-for-the-best hack.

And in my hackiness, I have developed some odd habits (or “fake-its” as I like to call them) that let me function as though I really know what I am doing. I think that some of these “fake-its” will be ideal for the newbie/novice out there who likes the idea of jumping in and trying stuff out without having to spend hours learning advanced and complicated software or techniques.

So today I offer you one of my favorite “fake-its”: PowerPoint+Evernote = Decent Graphic Design on the Fly.

Have you have had a picture in your head for a new business card? Or a postcard you want to use for a direct mail campaign? A calendar? A poster? A graphic for your website? An infographic for a blog post? Or just a cool idea for a card you want to send to your mom next Mother’s Day?

I think many of us experience this, but unfortunately, most of us feel somewhat paralyzed in our attempts to get these visuals out of our head and into a form that we can see and experience. And really, who wants to start from scratch learning new and unfamiliar graphics software?

I say, start with PowerPoint. It is a fairly intuitive way to mess around with graphics without having to know a lot. (Full disclosure, all the graphics that follow in this article I did using PowerPoint.)

Here’s what the basic tool bar looks like when you open up PowerPoint:

 Toolbar Main Text Shapes Pictures
Toolbar Main Text Shapes Pictures

Note: you have all your basics for formatting fonts and layout, but additionally you have very obvious buttons for creating shapes, text boxes, as well as inserting pictures and video.  No hunting through menus, no fussing around with fancy key commands. It’s all right there when you open up the program.

From here, you’ll notice little tabs across the top that say Home, Format, Themes, etc.  There are a couple of tabs here that are really useful if you’re trying to do quick graphics of things that are harder to do freestyle, such as charts:

 Toolbar Charts (PowerPoint will automatically take you to Excel to ensure that the numbers and the visuals are accurately proportioned)
Toolbar Charts (PowerPoint will automatically take you to Excel to ensure that the numbers and the visuals are accurately proportioned)

And Smart Art, which is really useful for graphics that need to show relationships, hierarchy, or varying styles of flow-charts.  No need to reinvent the wheel if your plan is to do one of these classic formats:

 Smart Art
Smart Art

When I started this article, realizing that I was going to be writing a little bit about visuals and graphics, I decided to do a little hunting around to find out some interesting facts about visual learning and taking in visual information.  I thought not only would I share a few of those facts (hoping to inspire you to the importance of  including more graphics in your communications), but I did my entire info-graphic using the features of PowerPoint, to illustrate (literally) PowerPoint’s ease and usefulness.

 Infographic Visual Information

Not only was I able to throw this together pretty quickly, I was able to utilize the Excel connection to create pie charts are completely accurate, and I used a sizing feature to ensure that the large triangle is exactly 400% larger than the little triangle.

Now there are times that I do need a more sophisticated tool to do graphics, or I need to use a template designed specifically to be used in programs like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator.  For example, when I designed my business cards and the cover of my book, the graphics needed to be in done with very particular programs so that the companies responsible for the final product could print them properly.  However, I still used PowerPoint on my first pass, just to do a quick, but really decent looking facsimile of what I would ultimately work on painstakingly in the more elaborate program.   Even when I opt to outsource a project to a professional graphics person, I still do mock-ups in PowerPoint, so that I can more accurately communicate what is in my head to the professional who will be doing the final drafts. This is where Evernote comes in handy.  If at some point the project needs to be handed off to another person, it is really helpful for me to have my graphics and notes all accessible in one place, so that I can quickly reference my notes and gather my thoughts before jumping into conversations.  Even for a project as simple as this blog post, I made a note in Evernote to capture my ideas, pictures, and relevant links to research.

 Evernote Guest Blog
Evernote Guest Blog

Thanks to Evernote, I can reference these items if I need to without hunting all over for the various components.   In fact, Evernote allows me to be a complete hack, because it definitely helps give off the illusion of having my act together.

So there you have it.  I am a hack, but I never let it stop me from launching forward with whatever harebrained idea I have in my head.  I know that if that idea is of the visual variety, I can immediately jump into PowerPoint and start bringing it to life.  I hope that you too jump in and give PowerPoint a whirl the next time you need to piece together some graphics.

 Embrace the fake its

About Kristi

Kristi and I have known each other since we were little. Back then, conversations centered around fuzzy blankets. Now, we get together when we can to belt out karaoke and to talk about tech, creativity, and general geekery. You can read more about Kristi on her website and her facebook page.

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