Tag Archives: color

Design Smarter: Learn to Generate Color

I will admit, color is one of my serious areas of growth when it comes to designing presentations. While I can manage to reasonably dress myself in suitable colors, the choosing of workable colors for a set of slides is something that takes me longer than any other part of the presentation process, especially if I choose to go it alone. This is why I appreciate the sites I’ll share with you today as well as the techniques I’ve learned from them in growing my design skills.  I’ll use the image below, courtesy of Mohamed Muha, for my examples.

Photo Credit: muha... via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: muha… via Compfight cc

First, experiment with the color wheel on Adobe’s Kuler

Adobe’s color generator, Kuler, is part of their Creative Cloud, a storehouse of tools creatives can use to collaborate, share, and create work. When I first discovered Kuler, I was intimidated–the site on first glance is for professional designers–folks who understand RGB, CMYK, Hex, and HSB values (not me at the time). However, Kuler’s user-friendly tools (creating a palette from an image, color rule options that allow users to choose from types of color schemes–analogous, monochromatic–without formal training, and the thousands of color palettes made available by Kuler’s community of users) quickly helped me create custom palettes that made sense both emotionally and aesthetically. Not sure where to start in Kuler? A great place is the create from image tool, which allows you to upload an image (ideally, one that communicates the emotional tone of your presentation) and create a color palette from that image.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 5.32.34 PM

This is the “colorful palette” I created using Kuler’s image-based color generator.

Shifting to the color wheel option with the same base colors creates a new variety of options.

Shifting to the color wheel option with the same base colors creates a new variety of options.

Next, draw inspiration for capturing mood and tone from Design Seeds

So, Kuler’s algorithm does a great job of grabbing pleasing colors from an image, but as you will learn, it often misses the point when it comes to mood and tone. Learning to grow as a designer means immersing oneself in the processes that lead to design success. After a time, you may be called upon to create a scheme without the help of a generator, so learning a bit from a seasoned designer can only help you grow. Design Seeds, which is curated by Jessica Colaluca, a veteran designer and consultant who has worked with Ford, Timberland, and Reebok, is a fantastic starting point for color generation inspiration. Jessica’s site, Design Seeds, features hundreds of original color palettes organized by color value and theme. You can also gain some insight into her process by checking out the about section of Design Seeds. Her blog, Fresh Hues, features even more color palettes organized by color as well as Pinterest-inspired mood boards.

One of my favorite new design-seeds palettes--I love the vibrancy!

One of my favorite new design-seeds palettes–I love the vibrancy!

The best part of Design Seeds is Jessica’s process and her treatise in defense of true color generation. Her process may surprise you, but it works. First of all, Jessica begins by tracking color and design trends; she then creates a list of images and colors that align with those trending moods. Next, she purchases photos and modifies them to create precision color; she then imports the images into Illustrator and mixes each color swatch. Finally, she polishes her work and shares it with the world under a creative commons license via Design Seeds. What is impressive about her process is her sensitivity to mood. What she often finds with color generators is that they miss important colors that the human eye would naturally gravitate towards:

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 5.41.46 PM

Can you see how Kuler provides a starting point to creating strong color palettes, but that is all–sensitivity to mood, tone, trends, and design inspiration will take you further than a generator or color picker can. As Jessica asserts:

“The quality that a person has that makes them love color, is the same one which is critical in creating palettes.” -Jessica Colaluca

I’ll leave you with my first attempt at a custom palette–it’s based on color grabbing, but my focus was on mood and vibrancy. We may have much to learn in developing color skills, but with tools like Kuler and Design Seeds, both you and I can be well on our way to smarter design!


Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Course introduction infographic

As I talked about in July, I’ve been working on building my infographic muscles. One project I’ve been involved in is an infographic to serve as a quick view version of the video and text course introduction our online students begin their month in Professional Communication and Presentation with. I used what I learned about designing an infographic to develop this deliverable. This isn’t a final version, as I still have a bit more tweaking to do, but I am stoked to share what I’ve done so far with you!


Color, Type, and Layout

One of my goals in creating this infographic was to maintain the overall look of other course materials. The course introduction for PCP was created by Alex Rister, so I drew my inspiration from her design. Alex previously shared her presentation with readers. Check out a version of the deck below:

This meant focusing on a simple color palette of orange, black, white, and grey, and two typefaces, Blackjack and League Gothic Caps. I appreciate the simplicity and cohesion of Alex’s design for our intro slides, and it translated very easily to the infographic form.

Intro Slides.002

In addition to considering color and type, I also worked to help students interact with and process the infographic by creating flow and organization through a left to right, top to bottom hierarchy and the use of lines and color to create segments.


Because I want this to be a document that is quickly processed, I chose to use icons from The Noun Project as well as simple shapes and diagrams to communicate the core ideas presented in the infographic. My favorite? It has to be the robot!

Intro Slides.003

What do you think of this latest project? I am definitely in the revision phase of Duarte’s presentation ecosystem, and am open to suggestions. What projects have you been working on lately? How have you been building your presentation muscles?

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

SIMPLE Design: Make Unity a Priority

I am fortunate enough to work for a school that provides teachers with some pretty neat tools for instructional design and student interaction. I teach an on campus iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation (PCP) six times per year. In addition, I also teach one to three sections of the online version of PCP. While I work on both the online and campus classes, in the past six to nine months, the PCP team has been tweaking and retweaking the online course. Teaching public speaking and presentation online is often the pits! How does one create the level of engagement and immersion needed to really help a student internalize weeks worth of material in only 60 hours, or 4 weeks? Well, in some cases, the answer is still forthcoming, but thankfully, I am able to at least engage with my students directly each week through our GoTo Trainings. If you aren’t familiar with Citrix’s GoTo Meeting, it’s becoming the industry leader for synchronous remote meetings, and it’s exclusively used by my school for internal meetings, workshops, and virtual classroom meetings/lectures. The service isn’t perfect and its inability to handle my media rich video archives has caused me to get creative with distributing the session to those who cannot attend it live, but the chance to interact with students and to clarify assignments, lessons, and intentions is invaluable to myself and other online educators. In PCP, I am responsible for holding the GoTo sessions for weeks 3 and 4. Week 3 covers the delivery “leg” of the presentation stool: what REAL Delivery means, how some of the more important aspects of that model fit into an online structure, some best practices for how to rehearse for the students’ upcoming Ignite presentation, and an open Q & A.

In preparation for this one-hour session, I have to adapt the unity and structure of my already existing REAL Delivery deck to fit this structure (as opposed to the structure of a four-eight hour block of class). The exercise leads me to think about two important lessons related to 1. design and 2. organization. In this post, I’ll cover the first lesson:

SIMPLE Design: Make Unity a Priority

real simple images.039

Although this deck is a hybrid of my Conquering Presentation and REAL Delivery decks, AND the inclusion of a few class-specific elements, my goal in creating a visual aid to accompany this session is to use unity–the repetition of key elements like color, text, background, shape, and image style–to communicate how this piece of the students’ learning journey fits into the whole. For most of us, unity means choosing a pre-made template and adding elements.

real simple images.041

Templates are wonderful examples of how unity actually works (choose key elements, repeat and variate on a theme) and why unity is important (consistency helps reduce confusion and puts the focus on content and meaning, not visual fluff). Unfortunately, the limited number of templates, combined with our ingrained use of presentation software (open program, choose template) makes templates cliche, watered-down versions of unity.

real simple images.042

To make unity a priority, focus on taking the idea of a template (repetition) and making it your own. Instead of using someone else’s vision to communicate your concept in a way that is instantly forgettable, use repeated elements to create a unified theme that communicates your concept in an original way.

real simple images.043

Here are a few best practices for choosing two of those key repeated elements, type and color.


real simple images.047

Focus on readability and consistency; your fancy font may be right in line with your topic and theme, but if your audience cannot read it, what’s the point? I cycled through several different choices for REAL Delivery, including my standby, Bebas Neue. I chose Utility all caps because I preferred the heavier weight and thickness when paired with Edmondsans. However, I found that not spacing my letters out somewhat (kerning) made readability a problem. So, when choosing a typeface, integrating it into your design and combining it with your other elements, remember the following:

real simple images.049

Finally, if you have the option of using a font or typeface beyond what is already included in your software, a great place to start is FontSquirrel:

Font Squirrel is one of my favorite sources for commercially-available typefaces and fonts. Their selections are high-quality, carefully selected, and lovely!

Font Squirrel is one of my favorite sources for commercially-available typefaces and fonts. Their selections are high-quality, carefully selected, and lovely!


real simple images.051

A second important element to consider in creating your own unity or making unity a priority is color. Here are three useful tips on choosing color from Ethos 3’s Color Matters:

real simple images.053

real simple images.054

real simple images.055

One final tip is to use a great color generator, such as design-seeds, which Alex Rister recently discussed on Creating Communication. Here are two of my other favorite color generators/color tools:

real simple images.056

Check in tomorrow for the second lesson from my GoTo Training experience: Murdering Your Darlings. Next week, we will move on to the P in SIMPLE Design, Pictures are Superior!

Check out the rest of the SIMPLE Design series below:

SIMPLE Design: Why Simple Isn’t Easy

SIMPLE Design: Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early New Years Resolution: Tweak Nonfunctional Slides

I’m always looking for new projects to tweak. Ideally, I’d like to devote my time to non-education tweaks; I’d love to show that my abilities extend beyond lecture-based materials. But, those projects are hard to come by for someone who spends 23.5 hours a day working in education. I decided to take a look through my older decks (some a good six years old, from my days teaching English and humanities at Valencia College); I realized they were all in serious need of tweaking. Despite spending hours poring through material and searching for pictures, this is what I tortured my students with:

The ubiquitous title slide; the standard bullet-riddled overkill.

Pictures are clearly secondary here. The content is still most important--but what's the point of the slide during a lecture? Is it a note taking tool? A teleprompter?

I probably stopped paying attention by this point too.

To begin with, I started looking for a set of slides I’d created in Latin American humanities that I thought would be great to integrate into my class. The deck dealt with the elements and principles of art, which I briefly covered at the beginning of the course’s unit on visual art. The slides were meant to serve as a crash course in analyzing how a piece of art is constructed. Well, I looked for hours through my completely disorganized Mac, only to discover that the file was indeed gone. I admit that part of my desire to start with that deck was that it was a hundred times better than what you see above, so I thought my job would be easier. Slides or no, I think the elements of art is a good place to start, so the next few series of posts will feature the deck as it develops.  Definitions and descriptions come from the J. Paul Getty Museum‘s excellent education section.

The elements of art are: line, shape and form, color, texture, and space.

Let’s begin with line, the most basic structure of artistic expression.

Line is at its simplest the visualization of an objects trajectory through space. Line can create emotion, movement, and energy. Lines can also be grouped to create shapes, and to create perspective or the illusion of 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional surface.

Monet in Sunset On the Seine in Winter uses horizontal lines to create a sense of depth and distance.

The use of vertical lines by Monet here indicates action, energy. Vertical lines are the domain of objects in motion. Note how horizontal lines here are used to give further depth to the landscape.

The intersection of horizontal and vertical lines creates shape.

Piet Mondrian is one of my favorites; his simple use of line creates structure and solidity combined with a vibrant energy.

Christina's World by Wyeth uses diagonal lines to create a sense of movement and to draw the eye to a particular focal point. The line of Christina's body, which is broken, unable to move on its own, indicates desire and longing.

Photographer Eugene Atget used curved lines to create an anthropomorphic composition in this photograph.

Consider line in your choice of images and your integration of text with these images. Consider images with horizontal lines to help indicate rest or repose; use images with vertical lines and vertical figures to convey action. Combine horizontal and vertical lines (and use clear grids) to create structure. Diagonal lines are lines in motion–use them to move your audience towards action, towards a conclusion. Curved lines are sensual and attractive. Use them to attract your audience to your core message.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Tweak Your Slides: the Workshop

I am off to conduct my favorite workshop, Tweak Your Slides for Educators. In an effort to continuously improve my own design, I’ve updated the presentation, added a few more examples, and revised my ten principles a bit.

I noticed today that this presentation has been viewed over 900 times. Neato! I am super glad the ideas that sparked my design obsession are helping others.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Creating Communication

21st Century Presentation and Communication Tips

An Ethical Island

How to Teach Without a Lecture and other fun


An Artist A Graphic / Web Designer / Blog Designer An Art dealer

Metscher's Musings

My musings in Brand, Marketing Communications, Social Media and Public Relations


A curated glimpse into a world of infinite beauty and creativity.

Moving People to Action

Conor writes about Intentional Leadership and Building Self Belief in those around you

Margaret Moon

Ideas about writing, design and communication

Remote Possibilities

Here’s to better presenting!

Jitesh's Domain

Game Designer. Producer. Gamer.

Homes by Helene Delgado

Your Neighborhood Real Estate Expert


Stand Out, Connect, Sell Your Idea!

Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

make a powerful point

about PowerPoint, presenting, slides and visualization.