Reviewed: Geetesh Bajaj
Date Created: January 24th 2007
Last Updated: February 26th 2009
Some presentation slides do convey so much more than others. More often than not, these are same slides that are simple and visual at the same time. By simple and visual, I really don't mean that you put in a box or a circle and add some captions -- any shape including boxes, circles, and other shapes have to form a relationship with each other so that difficult concepts transform to easier ones.
And such slide designs are not something that everyone can create -- these do require an understanding of visual balance and layout. Some of the new SmartArt graphics in PowerPoint 2007 do make the grade -- but again these are created for a more basic level -- as a substitute for bulleted text rather than a victory of design over content.
Fortunately, vendors like PowerFrameworks makes it easier for you to access such visuals.
PowerFrameworks is a subscription based web site that provides a library of ready-to-customize frameworks, metaphors and analogies that you can use within your PowerPoint presentations and elsewhere. New frameworks are added frequently.
PowerFrameworks is from a company of the same name based in Oakhurst, California -- my contact at PowerFrameworks was Kathy Villella -- thank you, Kathy.
I asked Kathy about how this site evolved. Here's Kathy's response:
I worked at McKinsey & Co., Inc., for nearly 15 years, until they centralized and relocated their presentation production resources to Madras, India. When I left McKinsey, I lost my “tools,” which were a basic set of frameworks, data-driven charts, and text tables. Therefore, I needed to develop my own set of tools in order to efficiently support my freelance clientele. It occurred to me that if these resources were useful to me, they might be useful to others. After much discussion and conceptualizing, Lisa Baker, who creates websites and does graphic design work, and I decided to develop a vastly expanded library of frameworks and production resources and offer them online. PowerFrameworks launched on July 4, 2006.
Even without subscription, you can access a few sample frameworks -- once you have downloaded and used these frameworks within your PowerPoint presentation, you might want to subscribe to the site. I discuss the pricing later in this review.
Once you subscribe, you can access a larger range of frameworks, tutorials, and animated sample presentations. A screenshot of part of their site interface can be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Site interface
Using PowerFrameworks is easy -- the difficult part is choosing which particular series works best for your particular requirement. Towards this end, the site layout does make things simpler -- and you can narrow down to exact visual variants that can work in a situation. Of course, you can also decide to choose two or three frameworks to find out which one works best.
Also, the idea-generation and best-practice aspects of the site ensure that you end up with the frameworks that work best for you.
The frameworks you download are all PowerPoint slides -- and the framework visual is a plain design without any text -- such as the one you can see in Figure 2 below.
Figure 2: A plain framework that you enhance
Once you add your own captions, you can play around with color fills and effects within PowerPoint to attain a coordinated look with the rest of your slides. I used the new Shape Styles in PowerPoint 2007 to create a quick makeover as you can see in the sample slides below
Figure 3: Adding fills and effects makes the whole thing come alive
You can also animate individual segments within a framework visual -- either together or in a sequence as required.
The PowerFrameworks subscription also provides you access to the chart of the month library.
An annual subscription to PowerFrameworks costs US$249.95 -- you can sign up online, and pay by credit card for instant access.
Support is through an online FAQ and tutorials -- and you can also get email support.
For what it provides, a PowerFrameworks subscription can be very valuable if you need to create visually informative slides -- most of the content on the site is good enough for generic usage -- and if you are in planning, research, or finance -- then you'll still find some great stuff. However, it's not really aimed towards the medicine or religious spheres -- but again there's tons of generic stuff.