There are multiple ways to transform dull charts and illustrations into show pieces in PowerPoint. Today I will talk about using 3-D shapes and transparency.
As an example I am going to transform the dull time-line illustration you see below:
Let’s start by adding a header where you can include a title for the timeline. Remember simple is always better so let’s not seek out a template and instead insert a rectangle across the top of the slide and format it. I will do the following:
1. Remove the outline
2. Make the “Shape Fill” the same gradient blue/dark blue as the background except add a 77% Transparency to give it some contrast.
3. Bevel the rectangle (shape effects -> Bevel -> Circle option)
4. Add a text box with white 32 size font of your choice (I have Calibri) and bold.
Next we will create a backdrop for the timeline events. Let’s start with the “2010″ and “2011″ headers. For these I just used two rectangle shapes, solid fill (dark blue), and 21% transparency.
The individual months are two identical tables (1×12). I formatted with white font, gradient (blue/green) fill. Note that I just created one and then copied and pasted for the next year.
I then added 8 identical rectangles along the months as a backdrop. I formatted them the same as the two month header shapes. Note that I also changed the shape outline to a light blue to make it pop a little bit. If you are confused so far, just see the image below to see my progress:
Next we will add the timeline activities. Instead of the standard rectangle shapes originally used, I will replace them with “Cube” shapes instead (Insert -> Shapes -> Cube).
We also want to use some color to distinguish the three timeline activities. Instead of all blue let’s make it yellow -> green -> gray. I also made them gradient (light NOT dark) and 25% transparent. Remember you can simply double click these shapes and start typing so there is no need for text boxes. Just be sure to format the font (I did white, bold, 16 font).
As a side note if you want to highlight an activity for any reason, a glow is nice visually appealing way to do it. You can simply double click the shape, select Shape Effects -> Glow.
See my progress with everything mentioned above in the image below:
Notice the “Go-Live” arrow is just gradient green (light gradient) with the same glow we just did to highlight the second activity. This transformation is now complete. When you do this on your own it does not have to look exactly like mine at all. Feel free to play around with the gradient stops, colors, and fonts. Also add some animation and build effects to set the pace or accompany pre-determined talking points.
If you get anything from this is that there are things you can do to dramatically improve charts, graphs, or any kind of illustration. Remember to just think outside the slide!