22 May 2008

Why PowerPoint rules the business world

Working through windows, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

The problem is this: PowerPoint is a visual tool, and we are a visually illiterate society. Read more.

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15 May 2008

Cartoonists make the best PowerPoints

Great post by Austin Kleon:

FOR SUCCESSFUL POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS, LOOK TO CARTOONISTS by Austin Kleon: "Powerpoint (or Keynote) slide software solves the problem of presenting an audience with a narrative that demands both verbal and visual elements. A slide presentation succeeds when the visual display works with the verbal communication of the speaker to create a narrative in the audience’s mind. The juxtaposition of pictures and words conjure connections and meaning that pictures or words alone could not.

Some of the best uses of Powerpoint come from the masters of verbal/visual, picture/word communication: cartoonists."

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14 May 2008

Ladies Ned

Ladies Ned, originally uploaded by Pankcho.

Great image I found on Flickr.


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10 May 2008

Visual language conversation

go, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Recently I participated in a webcast where we discussed the emergence of visual language and debated some ideas about what it is and what it is not.

Here's the description from the Vizthink blog:

VizThink Blog Podcast 11: What qualifies as visual language anyway?: "In the visual thinking community, we frequently use the term visual language. Some would say that it gets used pretty loosely. So, today we began that discussion with 3 experts in our field in order to begin to understand what visual language really means. Neil Cohn, Yuri Engelhardt, and Dave Gray joined us to discuss topics like:

What is a visual language?
Does a visual language require a grammar?
What components make up a visual grammar?
Are certain forms of visualization a language and others not?"
There are quite a few visual examples that support the discussion.

I think the points where we disagreed are more intriguing than the points where we agreed. After you listen to the webcast I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

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Introducing the global collaboration cue card project

Dan Rose has posted an interesting exercise to demonstrate some of the differences between verbal and visual language.

Introducing the Global Collaboration Cue Card Project: "words are in fact models that are loaded with assumptions and values and... communicating with graphics is an effective method for conveying underlying and unspoken meaning."

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09 May 2008

Ten tips for global communicators

The difference between local and global markets is like the difference between the fishbowl and the ocean. To understand and engage successfully requires a shift in perspective. Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your global communications efforts:

1. Get outside your fishbowl.
To go global you’ve got to get out from behind your desk. Your culture surrounds you like the air you breathe, and you can’t understand it until you get outside it. Spend some time – an extended period, if possible – completely immersed in another culture. When you return, you’ll be surprised how many things you notice that were previously invisible.

2. Be authentic.
Being global doesn’t mean losing your identity. If you’re a global company that was started in Germany and is headquartered in Germany, it’s perfectly ok to be German. It’s a multicultural world and you are a part of it too. The key is to be respectful of other cultures while being true to your own unique identity.

3. Remember that you are a guest.
When you are visiting another country, or when you open an office there, you are a guest. The same rules apply that would apply if you were visiting a friend’s house. Be polite, respectful, and thoughtful in your communications.

4. Think visually.
There’s a reason why TV is booming while newspapers are going out of business. People understand pictures faster and more easily than words. With pictures you can communicate complex ideas instantly, and virtually nothing is lost in translation. And words need to be translated, while pictures are a universal form of communication.

5. Ask for feedback.
Share your ideas with global teams early, when they are in the napkin-sketch stage, and ask for feedback. When you ask people to participate in defining the message, you build trust. If you build your message globally, then deployment becomes much easier.

6. Engage.
To communicate you need to engage with people, and when you engage, you will make mistakes. If you never make a cultural error, you’re probably not communicating at all. Try to get outside your comfort zone. There is such a thing as being too safe. People will forgive your mistakes if they believe you are well-intentioned.

7. Respect is a two-way street.
If you work for a global company, your company’s culture may be as strong and important as the global cultures you interact with. There will be times when your company culture is directly at odds with the local culture. When those times arise, you need to have a clear policy on what is negotiable and what is not: Is fluency in English an absolute requirement? You may not want to hire interpreters for every conference call.

8. Localize strategically.
Localization is a slippery slope. You can localize to the regional level, to the country level, and beyond – there are nine officially recognized languages in South Africa alone. Balance the expense of localization against the benefits you expect to gain.

9. Listen between the lines.
Many cultures have subtle or indirect ways of dealing with conflict and communicating sensitive information. Watch people’s faces and body language for cues. If you sense something may be amiss, ask politely if you are missing anything, or take an associate aside for a quick chat. In conference calls it’s much more difficult: silence can be an indication of many things, including disinterest, confusion, displeasure, and even agreement.

10. Socialize.
In many cultures, communication outside of the office is as important as what happens inside. Take invitations seriously. Many of your most important lessons and ideas will come from informal conversations, where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

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04 May 2008

VizThink workshop in NYC

VizThink workshop in NYC, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Last week's workshop in New York last week went very well -- it was the debut of my latest thoughts on visual language, which synthesizes the work of many visual language researchers and information designers.

It's a major project but I am trying to boil down all the research into a simple "ABC book" -- a primer of visual language.

I believe my thoughts were well-received by the group, which included a broad mix of people, from designers to bankers. The group even included a brain scientist who said that the visual language concepts map very well to current concepts in brain science. I am looking forward to talking more about that.

There's still time to register for the Chicago workshop, which is coming up this Wednesday, May 7. You can register here.

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