At the Presentation Summit conference, I saw two presenters use iconic people on their slides. One was Nancy Duarte, a very well-known presentation designer, and the other was Wayne Michael, who spoke on how to create your own graphics. Michael took these iconic people to amazing heights, creating all sorts of characters. He did this by adding clothing, hair, and so on.
Here’s an example I created.
You can use these icons any time you want to represent people but don’t have a suitable photograph.
Some people say that simpler is better for understanding and recommend icons like this. Others emphasize the need for an emotional touch that only photos can give. I think that you need to know your audience and choose wisely. I certainly wouldn’t recommend giving up photos for icons; photos can be so very powerful. But sometimes, icons work well.
Making people like this is easy and once you have them, you can reuse them many times. You can create variations, too, until you have a valuable library of icons. Follow these steps:
- For the head, draw a circle. (If you hold down the Shift key as you drag, you’ll always get a perfect circle.)
- Format the circle with the fill that you want. I recommend using one of the styles in 2007 or 2010 that give a 3D look, or filling the circle with a radial gradient. You may want to remove the outline.
- For the body, draw an oval and resize it to fit with the size of the head.
- Format the oval to match the circle or use a radial gradient.
- Now you need to cut the oval in half to create a flat bottom. If you’re using 2003 or 2007, follow these steps:
- Right-click the oval and choose Save as Picture. Save the oval as a JPG or PNG file.
- Insert the picture that you saved (Insert> Picture).
- Select the picture. In 2007, display the Format tab that appears. Use the Crop button to crop off the bottom of the oval.
- If you’re using 2010, you can use the same steps, but I’ll show you a brand new way to cut off the bottom. It’s quite a secret because it’s so hidden:
- At the right side of the Quick Access toolbar (at the upper-left corner of your screen), click the Customize Quick Access Toolbar down arrow and choose More Commands to open the PowerPoint Options dialog box.
- Click the Choose Commands From drop-down list and choose Commands Not in the Ribbon. (Now you see how it’s hidden.)
- Scroll down to the Shape Subtract command, select it, and click Add. If you think you might like this sort of editing capability, also add Shape Union, Shape Intersect, and Shape Combine. Click OK to close the dialog box.
- Draw a rectangle that covers the bottom half of the oval.
- Select the oval first, then press Shift and select the rectangle. (The shape that you select first will remain.)
- From the Quick Access toolbar, click the Shape Subtract button. Here’s the result.
- In all versions, zoom in, and add eyes, a mouth, and whatever else you want. You don’t need a lot of details; remember, these are icons.
- Select all the shapes and group them.
- For the audience on the slide, all I did was remove the eyes and mouth! Then I selected everyone in the audience, grouped them all, and made them slightly smaller.
Nice post! We find that icons come in particularly useful when used in diagrams, or with animations. For example, if you were demonstrating that the number of people suffering from a particular illness had fallen by half, you could show a number of these icons – and then on your next click, have half of these fade out. This is a simple way to demonstrate your point visually, and would do so much more effectively than a photograph!
I love this little tutorial. Iconic graphics are so cognitively efficient, because there are no extra visual cues it makes for a direct and speedy communication. And, of course, your little people are so cute!
And I learned that concept from you at Presentation Summit! Plus I saw iconic people like this in two of the sessions.
Pretty cool – and especially liked the easy directions! Thanks for including us 2003 people in your instructions.
Not sure what I’m doing incorrectly but after I select shape subtract nothing occurs so I’m unable to modify the oval body as you indicated.
You need to select first the object you want to keep (the body) and then the object that you want to delete (the head). The objects need to be overlapping — that could be the problem. Let me know if that helps.
I’m a big fan of creating your own icons – much better than random clip art. By the way, you can make the body shape directly using the “Chord” shape.
So cute, Ellen. Nice idea, Jessica Pyne. Thanks for sharing.