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PowerPoint Chart Tips 04: Inspiration is Not Afar

Find ways to get inspiration to create better charts.


Product/Version: PowerPoint

Sometimes, don't all charts look the same? And then some pessimist may tell you that all of them look so uninspiring! That does sound a little cruel. But how can you and your charts look more motivated? And what can you do to be more inspired, and in turn create charts that inspire others?

The answers are all around you, there is inspiration everywhere! And in this article, we will try and highlight some ideas that will get you inspired.

To begin with, explore financial statements, even if they are printed or within PDFs - these have great charting examples that can inspire you. You can find plenty of such financial statements from the downloads section of the websites belonging to banking and financial companies such as Citibank, McKinsey, etc. (see Figure 1).

Download reports online
Figure 1: Download reports online

Having said that, charts printed on financial statements mimic paper rather than slides and can thus afford to contain minute detail something that’s not really in place within charts shown on a slide. Did that sound confusing? Let us share an analogy to understand this better:

  • Let's start with a business newspaper, where a sheet or two has listings of stocks along with their rates. This is something that can be compared to a sheet within Excel or another spreadsheet program.

    Stock market quotes in a newspaper mimic spreadsheets?
    Figure 2: Stock market quotes in a newspaper mimic spreadsheets?
    Photo Credit:  Andreas Poike by  Creative Commons
  • Now let us look at a report or even a legal agreement spanning pages. Such documents are intended to be printed, and can use smaller font sizes and even detailed charts and other graphics. This is something that can be easily compared to a document created in Word or another word processing program.

    Printed documents created within a word processor
    Figure 3: Printed documents created within a word processor
    Photo Credit: Desi by Creative Commons
  • Now consider a slide created within PowerPoint or another slide program. A similar analogy for a slide could be a business card! Even though you may be mistaken into not realizing the benefit of this analogy when you see the slide projected on an entire wall, be assured that a slide should ideally include no more info than what you can see on a business card. That's all the comprehension power your audience has unless you are providing them with printed or PDF handouts, but those handouts are not your slides!

    Slides are like business cards (or even bulletin boards)
    Figure 4: Slides are like business cards (or even bulletin boards)
    Photo Credit: Woodley Wonder Works by Creative Commons

Based on this analogy, there's no reason why you cannot get inspired by financial reports, but you will have to dilute and adapt that inspiration to something that works well within the confines of a slide! This also means you must have no more than one chart on the slide, or at the most two. And even then, your charts must be clean.

Want more inspiration? You can find entire boards on sites such as Pinterest that contain charts of all types (see Figure 5).

Pinterest provides so much inspiration
Figure 5: Pinterest provides so much inspiration

There's even more inspiration on national television, especially the news and business channels. Look at the charts they show, they are almost never too detailed since they are more akin to slides, just what you need!

Still more inspiration can be found in magazines and newspapers. We often cut out samples of great looking charts and other graphics from newspapers and old magazines. We then paste them all in our chart scrapbooks. More often than not, we either scan or photograph our source content. If the content is within an online magazine or ebook, we use screen capture programs such as Snagit to create more source content. We then use PowerPoint slides to create a digital scrapbook, this sort of scrapbook makes an awesome inspiration bank.

Do you have your own inspiration idea? Do share with us by dropping a comment on this page!

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