PowerPoint Clip Art is Dead. Now What?

In December 2014, Microsoft retired its clip art gallery. Now when you insert clip art in PowerPoint, the program searches Bing Images and delivers pictures that have been tagged with a creative commons license.

There is some upside. Bing Images can find hundreds of thousands of pictures for any search term, dwarfing the size of the clip art gallery. And the internet adds a bazillion new pictures every day while the clip art gallery grows stale. So the thinking was good.

But there’s several problems, which will change how we insert clip art forever

  1. You mostly get photographs, even if you try to filer on just “Illustrations”. Try it. Search “handshake” and limit to Illustrations only. You’ll primarily get photographs.
  2. There are no vector images in Bing Image search. Vector images are made up of many shapes (lines, squares, circles) that are grouped together. If you want to edit an image, you can’t do it with the Bing Image results.
  3. It’s a lot more work to verify the license for each picture. Now when you insert an image, you need to go back to the source website to verify the license. Do you need to add attribution? Who gets the attribution? Can you use it commercially? Every image becomes a fact-checker’s nightmare.

So this means we need to have some new habits when we insert images in PowerPoint.

1. Add “clip art” to your search term. If you search “shaking hands” you’ll get mostly photographs, even if you filter on Illustrations. That’s because Bing Images doesn’t know how to recognize PowerPoint’s filters yet. So if you want to limit to just Illustrations, search “shaking hands clip art” and Bing will look for images tagged as clip art.

 

2. Find other sources for clip art. There are lots of sites that give free clip art. Just search “free clip art” and you’ll find sites like ClipArts 101 and Clipart.co, which might be free but don’t have the highest quality images to choose from. Noun Project is a favorite of many designers for its extensive set of high quality and free icons.

 

3. Use installed fonts instead of pictures. There are lots of fonts built into PowerPoint that will give you small images. Check out this blog post on how to use the Wingdings and Webdings fonts to make small icons.

 

4. Install free symbol fonts. Search any font website for free symbol fonts and install them on your computer. Some of my favorite sites for free fonts are DaFont, Font Squirrel and Font Space.

 

5. Unclick “Include Office.com Content”. In my version of PowerPoint 2010, I can still access a small portion of the clip art gallery. But I need to unclick “Include Office.com Content” or else it will search Bing Images. If I unclick it, Bing Images doesn’t get searched and I can scrape around in what remains of the clip art gallery.

 

6. Quick – hoard all your vectors! Scrounge around in the remaining clip art gallery and save those vectors. They may be gone soon. In addition, go through all your existing PowerPoint decks and save all your vectors into a central place. Pillage any deck you receive and loot all the vectors. You may need them some day!

 

7. Download this set of vectors. I did steps #5 and #6 and saved 150 pieces of vector clip art. Enjoy!

 

8. Search for WMF files. WFM (Windows MetaFile) files are one easy-to-use format for vector images. So add “WMF” to your search terms. For instance, “shaking hands WMF” will return tons of editable vector images on Google Images. You’ll have to download the images to your desktop and then insert them as pictures (not clip art) so it’s a laborious multi-step process. Add them to your master deck!

 

Verifying the license is the biggest problem of all. Who wants to snoop around a poorly constructed website looking in vain for clear license rights, and clear attribution instructions. Sheesh!

Perhaps Microsoft can work on fixing these problems to truly make the clip art feature more valuable by connecting it to Bing Images, and not less.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Is This Ethical? PowerPoint and the Michael Jackson Trial

At Michael Jackson’s manslaughter trial, lawyers opened with PowerPoint slides showing Jackson’s dead body under the word “Homicide”.

At the Forbes.com blog, Carmine Gallo rightly points this out as an example of the power of using pictures to persuade an audience – called the Picture Superiority Effect.

But an important question is this: when is using the Picture Superiority Effect a smart communication tactic, and when does it cross over into manipulation?

Does this image of a dead Michael Jackson really help a jury to make a just and objective decision? Or, instead, does it bias the jury even before it’s had a chance to hear one shred of factual evidence?

In fact, researchers have found that pictures do bias a jury. For instance, one 2006 study at the University of New South Wales found guilty verdicts jumped from 9% to 38% when lawyers showed juries photos of blood-splattered clothing.

That’s a sobering swing in judgment. Did the pictures lead to more accurate jury decisions than the facts alone? Or, did the pictures convict an innocent man?

As communicators, we know the tricks of how to persuade an audience. But at what point are we ethically bound to put the persuasion tactics aside and let the audience decide based on the facts alone? This PowerPoint slide of Michael Jackson is, in my opinion, a disgraceful abuse of the Picture Superiority Effect. What do you think?

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Story of US Housing Market Boom and Bust in 3 Pictures

The essence of a story is that it has a beginning, middle and end. As an example, take a look at this story, told in three pictures, summarizing the US Housing market Boom & Bust.About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Find the Perfect PowerPoint Font in 5 Steps

You want the perfect font to complement your perfect picture. For instance, this uncreative slide has the default Calibri font. Ugh! Which font would work better? Here’s five steps to find the perfect font.

1. Determine the shape/lines in the picture. Use the drawing tools in PowerPoint (or just eyeball it) to find the shape and character of the major lines in the image. Are they more straight or curved? Thick or thin? Pointed or flat? In this picture, the major shape is straight lines with a lot of irregularities like knobs and sharp spikes.

2. Brainstorm possible fonts. Now brainstorm a list of fonts that match the major shapes. In this case, I’m looking for fonts that are straight but with irregularities or sharp serifs. Any of these fonts might work.

3. Consider the personality of each font. Is it serious or playful? Loud or soft? Shabby or elegant? What personality best matches the image and the mood you’re trying to establish? In this case, I’ve sorted the list with the more serious fonts at the top and the more playful fonts at the bottom. We’re going for a more serious mood so will try the fonts at the top first (left), rather than the playful fonts (right).

4.  Don’t create an invisible frame. Be careful not to place the text so it creates an invisible picture frame around your slide (left). Instead, make the borders on the top and side different widths (right) and eliminate any hint of a picture frame.

 

5. Sweep with the picture contours. Finally, place or angle your text so it sweeps naturally with the contours in the image. In this case, putting the words on separate lines creates a right margin that sweeps up and right, parallel with the lines of barbed wire (left). Or, a slight angle marries the text and image (right).

This blog post was inspired by a chapter in John McWade’s book How to Design Cool Stuff. Special thanks to grendelkhan for the menacing barbed wire photo.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

3 Tricks When the Picture Won’t Fit

Sometimes your picture fits awkwardly on the slide, leaving an unfinished-looking section of slide. What do you do? Here’s my three favorite tricks.

1. Use a background color from the picture. Find a color that matches the picture using Color Cop, and use that color to fill the side box. Now this slide looks like it was “designed” rather than thrown together.

 2. Make the picture smaller. Crop and resize the picture, and then put a wide border around it and tilt it to look like a Polaroid photograph (video demonstration). Add a drop shadow behind it. Use Color Cop to find a background color that matches the photo.

3. Make the picture bigger. Increase the picture size and crop it so it fills the entire PowerPoint slide. Make sure the text fits the contours of the picture. In this example, the text curves around the eagle’s head (left). Text that is justified left creates an invisible border that cuts this picture in half (right).

Good: text sweeps around the image
Poor: text cuts image in half

Amateurish slides dent your credibility. Spend the extra time with your pictures so they look designed into the slide, and not just slapped awkwardly into place.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.