xrematon

July 5, 2020

A life without PowerPoint

Filed under: Business,Innovation,Marketing,Technology,Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 11:43 am
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PowerPoint – love it or loathe? I’m not sure where I sit here, probably, boringly, on the fence.

But what I can tell you is there are some workplaces where using PowerPoint is the norm; and that also there are also some places where PowerPoint is a rarely clicked application on the desk top.

Experiencing the latter made me realise there are ‘unintended’ consequences of working predominantly in PowerPoint compared to predominantly not.

A very simple one is time. I personally find creating content in PowerPoint takes up a lot of time. To create visually engaging material, you have to effectively map out each slide in turn to work out where each point will be made, and how to place the supporting evidence in such a way that it reinforces what is being said but does not clutter the side. And if someone decides the point needs to be expanded or compressed, that can effectively mean starting from scratch as the content has to be re-organised and restructured on the slides differently.

Obviously, creating a visually engaging slide which consists of just one tasteful, atmospheric and evocative image would perhaps take not so long, but which type of image is appropriate and evocative in the right way is incredibly subjective. And actually, finding a good image (without copyright constraints) can be surprisingly time-consuming.

My next consequence is about telling the story. A Powerpoint, to be read solo, can often leave the reader audience short changed. Powerpoint, through its structure of separate slides, can seem like it is just a succession of points but it is hard to know how to interpret their integrated meaning – in essence, what to make of all this ‘stuff’? In fact, it could be argued that a PowerPoint is invalid unless presented with a presenter.

But it isn’t the case that points presented in Word are ‘faultless’. In Word, the succession of points happens smoothly and seamlessly, which means that the author can potentially manipulate the reader with their seductive flow, points building on points, with the connections and implications all carefully spun through. It is harder to see beyond what the author has intended in Word; we are at their mercy and easily seduced.

In my new Powerpoint-lite work world, it is even the case that seminars and conferences can take place without the usual reliance on slides and decks. People just stand up and talk, not even with notes sometimes, just a person in front of other people, saying the things that they know are important and people looking at the speaker and listening to them. In fact, the only time in this Powerpoint-lite world that I have come across glitzy slides is when consultants, the merchants of spin, have taken to the stage to sell and show off, not to share and inform.

And perhaps therein lies the clue as to the difference: my Powerpoint-lite world is far from consultancy and spin; it is the world of pensions where points needs to be carefully thought through and making the wrong choice can have consequences.

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June 16, 2017

Through the keyhole

Filed under: Consumer Trends,Technology,Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 8:04 pm
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Time for another photo essay. This time I have some images from a visit to Eltham Palace. Eltham has a fascinating history: in its original incarnation, it was a place where royalty resided, from Edward III at the start of the 14th century to being where Henry VIII spent his childhood. However, it fell into disrepair during the Civil War and then rumbled on as a farm. Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes, Eltham Palace’s new heyday came when wealthy socialites Stephen and Ginnie Courtauld gave the house and gardens a lot of TLC. The Courtaulds restored the medieval Great Hall and then added in a splash of modernity: Art Deco extensions and cutting edge innovations from that time. It was this angle – the latest technology from eight decades ago – that most intrigued me.

Time for the first photo: an image which shows how the building combines old and new. Here we can see the medieval Great Hall on the left, and then the new extension on the right.

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And what about these new technologies? Well, there are some similarities in the approach taken to integrating tech then and how it is done today. One is the desire to make technology invisible: lights were put in alcoves out of sight but with their glow would spread out over the ceiling, often made to ‘go further’ with carefully positioned mirrors. Music would float dreamily throughout the room from hidden speakers – obviously not really visible in this picture!

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Now, how does that compare to these speakers from today disguised as anodyne wall decorations?

Another quirky feature was the centralised vacuum cleaner, powered by a motor in the basement. Better than a robot cleaner surely?

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And there were plenty of other features, such as electrical clocks built into the walls, phones (very new then), underfloor heating, and more. These features were reflective of owners’ concern to make sure that everything was just right. Apparently Ginnie chose the colour of the leather on the seats in the dining room (a soft pink) as this set off ladies’ evening wear best…

The central hall was the most stunning space – Art Deco with lots of lovely warm wood (for both furniture as well as wall decoration). The design here, as in much of the rest of the Palace, was reminiscent of the décor for luxury liners with furniture integrated into the walls and circular shapes (think port hole windows and curving walls).

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I have included a set of final pictures to show another surprising aspect to Eltham Palace. Though the Palace is in London (zone 4), it is surrounded by gardens and fields, and thus walking round outside feels surprisingly green and non-urban.

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The towers and spires of London can be spied as a distant memory on the horizon.

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December 15, 2016

The new Design Museum – photo essay

Filed under: Innovation,Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 7:45 pm
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Something visual for a change….

This week I had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Design Museum, moved from its old site in London Bridge to a newly refitted building off High Street Kensington.

The building is nestled alongside Holland Park and set a bit of a way back from the bustle of the street. The museum is also close to the block of luxury flats which were developed simultaneously and formed part of the same property deal (more detail on this, and about the architects, can be found here.)

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The most striking feature about the building is the huge (some might say over-sized) atrium into which one walks on entering.

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The atrium certainly creates a lovely airiness, but it also means that everything else is either squatting in underground bunker floors or squeezed off at the edges. As an example of the latter, let’s take the cafe, often an important part of the museum experience – a place to sit, rest weary legs and chat after gazing at an endless vista of intriguing displays. In the Design Museum, the cafe is not more than a glorified small alcove off to one side of this atrium. It has no access to daylight (there are no windows) and, even though I visited at a non-peak time (early-ish morning midweek), it was already very full.

However, I did enjoy spying other elements of interest in the building, such as the spiralling beams coming off the triangular skylights…

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…as well as the concrete pillar stretching up one side.

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As my visit had no ambitions beyond getting an impression of the museum, I did not explore the exhibits in any detail. but here are some that caught my attention.

Firstly, one almost de rigeur for a design museum – a vase made by 3D printing – surprisingly light.

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Secondly, the more ‘off the wall’ item – a jacket woven from human hair – which I found personally so repulsive that I couldn’t to be near it any longer than was required to take this picture.

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Thirdly, a rather random, whimsical offering – a close-up from a kitchen mock-up constructed entirely out of wood.

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My final image are the water jets you come across as you walk back to join Kensington High Street. I am sure they will be a great hit with children on hot summer days, though I don’t think you will find me coming back to appreciate them. I would rather spent the time admiring the rural aesthetics of my garden.

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