An Interview with Christian Lund-Sørensen
Interviewed By: Geetesh Bajaj
Date Created: April 22nd 2008
Last Updated: February 28th 2009
Christian Lund-Sørensen is co-owner
and serves as Managing Director at SkabelonDesign. He is responsible for all international activities in the company and also focus
on strategic development of the company. Prior to joining SkabelonDesign,
he careered in the media business serving as sales executive and
strategic analyst. Christian is a PowerPoint utility expert and has
advised a large number of global companies in productivity optimization
and brand control in PowerPoint. Apart from SkabelonDesign Christian
is co-owner in two other Danish software companies.
Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and SkabelonDesign.
Christian: SkabelonDesign is a Copenhagen (Denmark) based company with offices in Atlanta (US), London(UK), Lyon (France) and Madrid (Spain).
SkabelonDesign develops templates and solutions for PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Outlook. Our primary objective is to operationalize the use of visual identity in corporate communication within the Microsoft Office applications. Our customers benefits are efficiency, consistency and a life-to-the-brand brand within the everyday programs used by staffs on a daily basis. I’m Partner and Managing Director of the company. I’m responsible for all our international activities and work in close relation with our customers, distributors and strategic partners across the globe.
Geetesh: Tell us about your brand consistency products for Microsoft Office.
Christian: Looking at how brands are controlled in different channels, it is clear that almost all branding areas are completely controlled and maintained by a very small group of people at corporate level. This goes for e.g. websites, TV-ads, print, direct marketing, sponsorships, etc. But when it comes to Microsoft Office, the brand control leaves this exclusive group and enter the hands of vast numbers of employees in the companies – very often creating what we call ‘Brand Anarchy’. Our value proposition is dual. We focus on streamlining visual identity in the everyday life of the corporate user and on top our tools add significant productivity wins to all business processes involving the Microsoft Office applications. We supply tools for managing visual identity in Microsoft Office, and thereby achieve an unmistakable and uniform communication. We see management of visual identity as a substantial element of corporate communication. It emphasizes corporate profile and ensures that investment in visual identity pays off. SkabelonDesign helps organizations – usually in co-operation with those in charge of design, communication and marketing – streamline their visual identity. With our solutions we embed corporate visual identity in all internal and external communication done via Microsoft Office.
Geetesh: One aspect of your PresentationEngine product is that it has been designed from the ground up with the presentation designer in mind – how did this aspect evolve, and what sort of research did this entail.
Christian: All the members of the SkabelonDesign team are experienced PowerPoint experts. We love PowerPoint and see great value of constantly pushing the limit of what PowerPoint can do. However, in the area concerning usage of PowerPoint as a tool for streamlining corporate branding we experienced that PowerPoint itself did not live up to the requests that we continuously received from our customers. In 2003 we engaged with the Corporate Brand Director of Carlsberg Breweries and a number of other large corporations on a development project that had the primary objective to create a tool for PowerPoint that would significantly enhance brand control, best practice sharing and productivity in the everyday work with PowerPoint. This project evolved into version 1.0 of SD PresentationEngine - a product that in the current version 2.10.16 is used by almost 300,000 users across the globe. As with all our development SD PresentationEngine is customer driven and we’re constantly on the lookout for finding and solving generic corporate challenges in the work with PowerPoint.
In PowerPoint 2007 we’ve obviously been blessed with a lot of new opportunities. Especially all the new design features significantly boost the opportunities compared to what we were able to do in PowerPoint 2003. But the new opportunities in PowerPoint 2007 have at the same time introduced a ‘jungle’ of one-click-away design features that makes it hard for the average user to navigate and produce presentations within the boundaries of a given corporate visual identity. And hence almost impossible for the corporate brand ambassadors to control the brand in PowerPoint. This is one of the main focus areas that we’re currently solving in close relation with our customers.
Geetesh: There are two aspects of PresentationEngine: one is the actual product, and the other is the actual customization and branding – can you explain more about the latter, and how you help clients with that aspect.
Christian: SD PresentationEngine is a standard software that is customized to fit the needs of our customers. We strive to keep the configuration and customer maintenance as simple as possible in order to give our customers the option of taking complete control of the product within the company. In other words our customers don’t need us to build their PresentationEngine. This has shown to be very successful and a large number of our customers are currently self-running. We do however very often serve as advisors on how to manage branding within PowerPoint and on what kind of PowerPoint material organizations need in order to share and rapidly produce presentations according to visual guidelines. Also we have a large number of strategic partners that work within development of corporate visual identity. These are design agencies or advertising agencies. Our typical implementation process is 3-legged and involves a close communication between design agency, customer, and SkabelonDesign. Our customers and strategic partners see us as bridge-builders between brand development and brand usability within e.g. PowerPoint.
Geetesh: PresentationEngine is a product that’s aimed at the enterprise level of business. Do you have any plans of making it accessible to small and medium business sectors?
Christian: Actually yes. SD PresentationEngine in its current form is definitely very much a value adding product for enterprises with huge problems within brand control and with substantial productivity potential. The larger the company, the bigger the challenge. We do however already have a lot of customers in the small and medium sectors. Many of these run Light versions of SD PresentationEngine. Companies or departments that deliver professional services basically experience the same problems regardless of the size of the company or department and hence our customer segment is wide spread in size and branches. Also, were planning to launch a number generic single-user versions of SD PresentationEngine during the course of 2008.
Geetesh: Can you share some case studies for PresentationEngine – even if you don’t provide actual names of the clients.
Christian: SkabelonDesign help hundreds of companies across the world controlling their brand and enhancing productivity in PowerPoint. Our customers vary a lot in size and type and also it is very different how their favorite features list in SD PresentationEngine is composed. Some emphasize the strong knowledge sharing facilities. Others point out their time savings on the unique image handling features. And some point out the integration facilities between Excel and PowerPoint and the embedded brand formatting tools as the most substantial win with SD PresentationEngine. For specific customer cases I recommend the readers of this article to contact our local offices.
Geetesh: Do you want to share any trivia – an unconventional use of your products, or a message that you want to provide to Indezine readers?
Christian: Yes. Among many I would like to point out one in particular. We’ve experienced an interesting development of the perception of PowerPoint among our strategic partners in the design development business. The designers are used to working with the Adobe Creative Suite programs (Illustrator, PhotoShop etc.) that obviously provides tremendous opportunities and almost unlimited flexibility in the design process. In a historical perspective the designers have seen PowerPoint as an unavoidable and very limiting barrier to creativity that they’ve constantly be confronted with when delivering corporate visual identities to their customers. It has been an almost impossible task for them to implement advanced designs in the Microsoft Office applications. What we’ve seen with especially the introduction of SD PresentationEngine for PowerPoint is that designers feel confident creating advanced designs without worrying about how the designs will be implemented and used by the end-user in PowerPoint. Furthermore we’ve experienced that the designers even invite PowerPoint and SD PresentationEngine to the design process and often prefer to do designs directly in PowerPoint with the added flexibility that SD presentationEngine provides. This development is perhaps the best example of how we at SkabelonDesign see ourself as bridge builders between design development, implementation and usage.
SD DesignToolbar™ ensures fast production of PowerPoint slides and integration from Microsoft Excel.
SD SlideShopper enables you to compile a presentation by shopping for Best Practice slides from other presentations.
Link to 3 minute SD PresentationEngine demo video: