Saturday, July 9, 2016

On displaying theorems in slides

Last week, Freddy left this comment on On why I hate LaTeX/Beamer:
We have to think something about the theorem issue. If it is a mathematical presentation, the most important contribution is indeed a theorem. Think about a math thesis presentation: most results will be theorems :(
and I replied
I agree that in a math presentations theorems have a big role. The question is how you present them. As University of Manchester Mathematics Professor Nicholas Higham in "Handbook of Writing for the Mathemetical sciences write" writes "When you write a slide, aim for economy of words. Chop sentences mercilessly to leave the bare minimum that is readily comprehensible." Think about it, people may take their theorems directly out of their latex articles and dump them into their beamer slides without further thought. That is that Beamer fosters, but ultimately it Beamer is just a tool. As I wrote on the post, the responsibility lies on the person using it. 
Let me repeat this again
 Chop sentences mercilessly to leave the bare minimum that is readily comprehensible. – N. Higham
 If we slightly modify this, we can apply this advise to good slides
Chop sentences ideas mercilessly to leave the bare minimum that is readily comprehensible but meaningful.
Meaningful in the sense that the ideas retain their meaning, that ideas are not dumbed-down. Which brings me to the concept of atomic slides.
A slide should be like an atom: the smallest unit of self-contained meaning. And just as molecules are made out atoms, so are visual stacks.

There are so many different atoms! So decay faster than others, some are heavier than other, some bond easier than other, some don't bond at all. Just like the universe mostly made of Hydrogen, most slides should resemble that character. Other important atoms for life are Carbon, Oxygen and Nitrogen.

Back to Freddy comment, here is an example out of Nicholas Higham book. No f*king Beamer!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How to include sketches into slides

Nobody who is working alone on its own presentation should attempt this. This post is intended for people what to help a close friend, a family member or the significant other. So there you have been warn. Having said that, keep reading. I have some cool stuff to share!

For the last two weeks, I have been helping on a visual stack.  My frequent client described it as the best collaboration so far. We expanded on the "sketching theme" I wrote back in May of 2016.  Although you my client and I really like the results, I'll let the readers be the judge of it.  Here are some of the slides:

  •  Untersuchungsziele is german for Goals the of examination.  

I traced an image of a dart I found on Wikicommons. We had used the image as-is before, but this time we need to fit it into the sketch style.

  • Perspektivierung or the Perspective one takes on a topic.

Here we used show the real meaning of the word. Again, we recycled the idea, but this time I used Inkscape's Create 3D Boxes together if Inkscape's sketch Path Effect tool. I imported into Keynote as a native shape and change the type of the stoke.

  • Rahmen der Untersuchung (engl. Frame of the Examination)

Here we map the word frame to an actually frame and use the analogy of a magnifying glass for Examination.  I drew the frame with Inkscape and downloaded the magnifying glass from The Noun Project and apply the  Path Effect on the composition.

  • Institutionelle Passung 

Similar to the first example, I traced this using public domain icons from The Noun Project.

How to import sketches into slides

I'm not an artists or designer, I need to cheat to get these results. I trace images and icons on paper and scan them. On a further steps I worked the scanned images into native Keynote shapes. Here are the major steps once you have scanned the images

  • Increase the contrast of the scan image only if necessary.
  • Convert the Raster image into a vector graphics.
  • Convert the vector graphics into a native shape.

Increasing the contrast

In Gimp, duplicate the layer and set mode to Multiply

Convert Scan to SVG

In Inkscape use the Trace Bitmap Tool. I had to set the Threshold value of the Brightness cutoff to 0.8

Convert the vector graphics into a native shape

So far, so good. Here is where it starts to be painful. If you are using a Keynote, you'll need Adobe Illustration (AI) and a free plugin from Christian Holz to convert the SVG into a Keynote shape. But if you already have AI, you can convert from Bitmap to Vector inside it.

Other options

If you neither working on Keynote nor have AI, there is still hope.
  • You can do your slides in Inkscape or Scribus, or a combination and export every finished slide as png or pdf and import them into PowerPoint or Keynote, or  export the finished presentation  with all of your slides into a single pdf using Scribus.  
  • You can directly use the scanned images in your slides. If the background of the presentation matches the background of your scans you're good to go. Note that this will limit your options on how you applied your colours.

Tips on sketching

  • Use tracing paper and tape with masking tape.
  • Try different pencil types and pens.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Slide dissection: What Teachers make by ethos3

Let's analyse three slides from Ethos3's presentation What Teachers Make

We'll be looking at slide 1, 57 and 76.

Slide 1

The font is Georgia Bold. The contrast ration of the font size is about 1:3
Consider this comparison between a Georgia bold M of size 36pt and one of size 108pt. The M on the right much bigger than the one on the left.  What you are looking at is not length but area, so the actual contrast ration you are looking at is 1:9.

Let do its wireframe and overlay a Rule of Three Grid

The text is centered, vertically centered that is. Look at 4 intersection points of the grid, The focus point 'Make' lays precisely on the bottom two. Not much to analyse there. Let's make a big jump

Slide 57

   The font is Gill Sans and Gill Sans bold. We see at least 4 different font sizes. Let's make a wireframe again.  
This is one single object that occupies the entire slide. Although the object is tilted, text-heavy and asymmetric the slide feels balanced. The slide obeys the Rule of Three with a twist. But wait, there is more! Do you also feel the text moving from the lower right conner to the upper right. We can feel this orientation by looking at the wireframe. The dominant orientation is given not only by the shape but by its color. The tilt gives a sense of unease which goes very well of the topic at hand: a teacher calling a parent. What would we feel if we rotate the text back?

Slide 76

I love this one. This is the gravity slide. This is how you create movement in a slide.
Why? Why do I feel like words are falling and breaking as they fall down, forming a pile of…letters, I guess? You know what's coming…

That's right, wireframe! In a pile there is more on the bottom than in the top. We see that the font size used on the bottom text (no pun intended)  is bigger than on text at the top. Therefore the bottom has more area than the top. But also the middle layer has more area than the top layer…

So what?…

I hope you see that all these slides are text-based, and nonetheless we have look at them as objects, shapes of color.  So this is an invitation, an invitation to see your slides as objects to be position on a canvas. An invitation to analyse your own slides. The more you exercise your eye to see slides this way, the more likely you will produce better slides, and hey why not, prevent your audience from falling asleep while you present. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

sketch, sketch, sketch

I know, it's been a while. Last semester, the students did great podcasts. That is, great for their skill and prep time. So I'm dropping the idea of doing a podcast theme.

This week, I had the biggest breakout in slide design for a scientific talk.  I included sketches for abstract diagrams, instead of drawing them using vector graphics. I love the result, and so did my client and the audience. It made the slides for personal, it freed me the slideware technology, and opened a whole new world of possibilities.

What also  surprised me was how I could use vector graphics and sketches in the same slide. Here is another example:
The incredible thing is I don't know how to sketch! All I did was boxes, lines, triangles and circles. But now, I what to learn more about sketching!

Now I didn't sketch all of the diagrams. I downloaded some vector graphics, and use  line style that emulates a brush or a fountain pen:
Icons from the noun project. Creative commons.
Now, let me stop here for a moment and compare this slide with this one:
Not only less is more, but using outlines instead for color-filling, I got a more consistent style across my visuals. The former slide uses less ink. Lets break it down:

  • The calendar icons are gone.
  • The icons are only outlined.
  • Horizontal lines are gone.
  • The font style changed from bold to regular.
Now that we are comparing, let's compare one more. This time the very first slide with its all-svg counter-part:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Audio in presentations: The announcement

Last week I attended a seminar where audio interviews where played as an essential part of the presented research. The audio quality of some of the interviews was bad and the researcher looked concerned, so I offered some on-site very basic advise. Another researcher, who hadn't started doing the interviews intents to use a cellphone to record them.

The challenge in the doing interviews is big. Sometimes we record on unknown rooms, w don't deploy the recording hardware ourselves, not say anything about a basic sound-check. The variables we can control are few. One of those variables that can be control is recording gear, but universities and researchers can't afford descent equipment, and if they do they don't borrow it easily.

But on the other hand, just because we have access to language labs or smartphone have built-in software to record some voice notes, it doesn't mean recordings will be good. This led to consider starting a new series on audio for presentations. I think we can do better, and this series is aid do just that.  No to produce Hi-Fi quality sound, but to produce scientific data that we can work with and present.

The series will be focused on post-processing using Audacity, but I will be writing about hardware and set up. I don't want to dumb things one, so I'll be talking math, physics and electrical engineering. But fear not, I'll strive to make it understandable to the layman.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review, Edit, Repeat

When preparing a talk, how many times do you review or edit it? How many times does a director watch a movie she is making? How many drafts does a writer have of his latest novel? You know where am I getting at.  But I'll say "Juan, I'm not a professional speaker! This is not my real job, I have more thing more important to do!" Well, I have bad news for you. If you are reading these lines, it might be that communication is fundamental to your job. In fact, your might be complaining right now, this month, or the coming one about your company's management bad communication skill and know that's affecting you. But seriously, how good are you at communicating if you don't review your material or you don't edit it enough? Let that sink in.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to crop images with circles in Keynote

Here is a way to deal with images that come in different sizes and/or orientations: mask them with circles.  Here is what I mean

You have probably already seen this with Google and Apple productions. Circles are fun, dynamic, harmonious, and they are also points. Now, there is a whole visual grammar behind points, but that's not the topic of this post. Let's do the before-after thing. Consider this fake slide

By the way, also Featured pictures from Wiki Commons. The images are very good, but we can take them to the next level.  Their sizes are around 700px, so I'll mask them with circles with a diameter of 300px. This is the result

Certainly better, but how did I do it? Most Slideware packages allow you to crop an image with a shape.  Google it and you'll get the technical know-how. I'll demo with Keynote 6.  
  • Select a Circle: Insert > Shape > Cicle. Make it the size that you want. 
We'll rescale all images at the end, so don't worry. Concentrate on getting an good crop for each image. Also, the color doesn't matter. Remove the fill and leave the stroke, or reduce the transparency of the circle to see what soon will be crop. Think about what is interesting and leave enough white space.  
When are done with placing the shape on top of the image select both objects: the circle and the image. 
  • Hold Shift Key and click on each object to select them. In Keynote the order in which you click doesn't matter.
  • Crop: Fomat > Image > Mask with Selection.

I'll recap with the keyboard, since we need the extra step of duplicating the shape and match the background. 
  • Place shape on top of the image

  •  Mask it

  • In this case we need to to complete the shape. Duplicate the shape match the background.

  • Align it to the middle/center

 You can mask with all sort of figures. Remember to keep it simple. squares and circles work best.