Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog

The Empire Strikes Back

-Seduced By The Dark Side Of The Force

In hindsight I’ve become increasingly aware of some shortcomings in my last post about technical presentations:

Returning to the master slide after each and every detail seems redundant in my presentation example. The Star Destroyer Blueprint is easily recognizable even in its miniature form and the viewers should have few problems recognizing the different parts based on the highlighting of the miniature model.

Return of The Jedi

Keep in mind that more complex blueprints could demand going into more detail. If this is the case the technique is an easy way to assure your audience is focusing where you want them to. When you’ve performed the return-to-master-trick a few times the audience should have familiarized themselves enough with the layout so that you can skip this interim step.

If nothing else I hope my slip-up has served as a reminder to the fact that no two presentations should be treated the same. Every case must be true to itself and follow its own dynamics.


PowerPoint Jedi

-Improving Technical Presentations

Strong visuals, less text, no bullet points and a clear story-like structure are some of the steps on the journey to become a PowerPoint Jedi. I recently watched a Q&A session with Garr Reynolds where he was asked how best to give a technical presentation. His answer was something like "Give the audience a copy of the printout". (Due to the low image resolution of PP-slides). I agree that this is a good idea but don't think it should be the final word.

Heart of Darkness

It is not uncommon that a detailed technical printout is at the heart of the presentation. Normally this would mean an audience familiar with most of the technical terms. If you're giving a presentation of this nature it still needs to be as effective as possible. It is important that you lead the audience so that you all focus on the same details at the same time. This is where the Rebel Alliance can help!

Attacking the Death Star

When attacking the Death Star, rebel leaders had to communicate the technical details to a crowd of pilots. They could have just handed out printouts of the thing and given a standard PowerPoint presentation. Luckily they didn't. If they did, the emperor would already have won. Instead they split the information into smaller chunks, focusing on one piece of the puzzle at the time. I suggest you do the same.

Death[star] By PowerPoint

Use the Force

By all means, let the audience have a printout of the technical information and begin the presentation-segment with the same image. Then you can start focusing on the details. I reckon you don't have an R2-unit to help you, but you might should have some sort of image-processing program and a high-resolution scan of the information you want to share. Create separate images from parts of the high-resolution image, detailing different parts. It is easier to show and tell, than just tell, so I've tried to give an example below.

A quick and dirty Keynote example

I've borrowed the blueprints from The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels (Star Wars) and Ansel Hsiao (did I get that right?) kindly granted me the right to use one of his 3D-renderings. Check out more of his work at FractalSponge.

Update: When exporting to flash a lot of the transitions etc. was lost on the way. I have therefore included a Quicktime-version where everything should look as planned. Macusers can also download the original Keynote-file, if they're interested(?)


Drew Struzan

Childhood Hero

While I briefly mentioned Drew Struzan in another post he definitely deserves a post of his own. He is, according to George Lucas, "The only artist worth collecting since World War II". While I think this is erhaps taking it too far, he has been one of my heroes since my childhood. Not that I was aware of it at the time, but I used to marvel at those fantastic movie-posters wondering what kind of magic was used to make them. A film with a poster like that had to be worth seeing!

Incredible But True!

Only several years later did I find out about the man behind the art. No magic-tricks, just an amazing talent in the visual arts. That his parents actually named him Drew is one of those coincidents that it is hard to believe. But it is nevertheless true.

The Hero Of A Thousand Faces

Better Than The Movie?

Being one of the most recognizable poster-artists in the world he is probably best known for his work on Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Even if people don't know about the man, they're likely to recognize the style. In addition to the almost super human technical talent, he also seems to recognize the storytelling aspect needed of a Movie Poster: Teasing the audience to see the film. I dare say Drew's work is often the best thing about a movie!

Personally I just find it gratifying to see someone build their success on an indisputable talent. Mr. Struzan makes the posters with a variety of natural medias and techniques, without the aid of Photoshop or other digital tools. Come to think of it, that sounds a little bit like magic after all...