Category Archives: Graphics

Anti-example: 10 bad charts

Consultants are in the business of taking ambiguous problems, structuring them, and telling cogent, actionable stories. This often involves charts – yes – charts and graphs. The older crew – like me – is used to Excel, but you will also see Tableau, Cliq, and other Prezi-like craziness. First and foremost, the content needs to be relevant and accurate. Then, it… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to make decks for other people

Over my career, I estimate that I made 700+ presentations.  Some were executive summary or update presentations of 5-10 pages. Some were financial and operational reviews. Some were full-scale consulting engagement read-outs (e.g., 40+ pages).  They were all top-shelf and required enormous time / effort / love. Many of them were also for other people.… Read More »

Slideology 3: Designing effective slides

This is the final section review of Duarte’s Slideology (affiliate link). I am going to pick and choose what to share with readers. Consulting presentations (for good or bad) are fairly conservative and a bit regimented. As a result, the parts of the books about color, tone, font type, backgrounds, icons etc. . . is a bit… Read More »

Slideology 2: Use diagrams to tell stories

This is the second section review of Duarte’s Slideology (affiliate link). This agency has become a sensation after they did Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation and also a famous TED talk here. Chapter 2  – Create ideas, not slides. I will largely skip this chapter as the idea of brainstorming, understanding the WHY, sketching out… Read More »

Slideology 1: Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career – Duarte

Slideology is a book from 2008 about PowerPoint. It is well-structured, thoughtful, and a massively influential book in the “presentation business”.  It makes a whole lot of sense to me and is quite easy-to-read. Nancy Duarte has been doing this for 20+ years and makes some crazy good points. After listening to a podcast interview,… Read More »

Consulting tip: study charts, tables, graphs

Consultants see patterns. It’s a core part of our job to analyze data, separate the signal from the noise, and interpret the patterns. Some are better than others and it’s a talent that takes time to turn into a skill. Find good presentations and study them. Like an craftsman who can appreciates solid work, geek out on graphs and analyses.… Read More »

Consulting tip: Read the Economist

I have been reading the Economist since 1991.  So many reasons I like the magazine: Clear thinking, clear writing International in scope; not America-centric Libertarian thinking, but not “gold standard” fundamentalist Opinionated; strong point of view Witty (British, after all) Takes the long view (more trends and root causes, than hype and gossip) Eccentric (this… Read More »

No more excel graphs, Tableau is the future

Tableau. Yes, this is french for Table.  It is also the most user-friendly, powerful, and amazing desktop visualization tool for consultants. Tableau is a company based out of Seattle Washington, founded in 2003 to commercialize work out of Stanford. Fast-forward 10 years, and it is a publicly traded company of 1,500+ employees, $232 million in revenue… Read More »

Consulting advice: Don’t use clip art

Never.  My colleagues and I disagree about this. Some use clipart or photos to demonstrate the emotion or “mood” of a PowerPoint.  Not me. Call me a puritan. I tell my team to not include clip art or superfluous photos. It shows a lack of substance. If you need to cut/paste photos or something to “spice up”… Read More »

Good graphs, look at the Economist blog

I have subscribed to the Economist for 20+ years. Solid reporting. Libertarian angle, but with a strong heart. Another benefit are the excellent graphs. Consultants love graphs. Executives are visual people, and graphs can make an enormous impact without using too many words. The following graphs are all from the Economist blog called graphic detail.… Read More »

Veteran’s Day in the USA

Veteran’s Day. This date was chosen to commemorate the ending of WWI, and is a national holiday that honors all veterans. Anyone willing to risk their life and health for their country deserves honor.  No question about it. Canada, the UK, and Australia also celebrate the day. The government can be a good source of data. I… Read More »

The Great Eight: Trillion Dollar Growth Trends (Bain)

Bain & Company is known for big thinking. This 44 page report is no exception.  Bain reviews eight global trends that will each generate a $ trillion+ of growth. Trillion with a T. Look at the concepts below, and you can see this big-think, Alvin Toffler-type thinking.  It’s written in a fairly straight-forward way and pretty… Read More » Graphs + Humor

Graphics tell a lot story in a short amount of space. It’s descriptive without being prescriptive.  For some fun examples look at It’s a blog that Jessica Hagy has diligently been posting since 2006.  She hand-draws simple graphics that provide a lot of humor, and a surprising amount of truth. She also blogs for… Read More »

Infographics: Telling Stories with Data is a website that showcases thousands of infographics where data is displayed in unique and fun ways. For consultants who are in the business of telling stories with data, it is worth a few minutes of your time. Consulting presentations are simpler. 90%+ of presentations will be on PowerPoint and only use simple graphs with… Read More »

Misleading Graph #1: Starbucks Investor Presentation

Charts can mislead. In most cases, it’s accidental. Perhaps someone was over-eager to show good results, or maybe, just did a sloppy job of formatting. Whatever the cause, it’s bad mojo to put together analyses or charts that mislead. Here are some bad examples from Starbucks’ recently investor conference. You can see all the slides here.… Read More »

What is the fiscal cliff? Painful, but a much-needed financial diet

What is the fiscal cliff? This term has become a popular way to describe the abrupt changes expected in the beginning of 2013 due to the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, and the mandatory cut of several areas of government spending. The NY Times does a great job explaining it here. The US has been… Read More »

College football: Multibillion industry with great margins

Just watched the Alabama-Georgia game. For international readers, this was the equivalent of  the semi-finals for college football between two rival teams who both had a winning season so far (11wins-1loss).  It was a very close game which Alabama won (32-28). College football is huge business.  It generates enormous money for the universities. Forbes magazine listed… Read More »

Where America leads: #1 in military spending and #1 in arms exports

America has been the predominant military power for the last fifty years. With the break up of the USSR in the late1980s, the US stands alone in its military spending. Americans of my Gen-X generation, are now asking the question, “Should America Serve as the World’s Policeman?” and more cynically, “Can We Afford It?” Clearly,… Read More »

Consultant’s View on Romney’s Comment: 47% of Americans Don’t Pay Income Tax

Taxes are a universal complaint regardless of where you live. It is the stuff of bar conversations, news reports and Presidential debates. It is mentioned in the bible and let’s not forget that one of the twelve disciples was a tax collector (Matthew).  Okay, Mitt Romney, here we go. . . Is it true 47%… Read More »

Olympic Medals Measured by Population, By Productivity, By GDP

As a consultant, it always seemed odd that news reporters routinely compare the medal count between the USA and China – after all, the USA has 530 athletes compared to China’s 380. Seems like the total number of medals is only one of many potential metrics. For example, productivity (i.e., # of athletes needed to… Read More »

A consultant’s view of 40 Years of Olympics Data (1972-2008)

The Olympics are a wonder. At a macro-level, it is a family get-together of 200+ nations where all the international relations and the geopolitical clatter is replaced with sports. It’s a rare opportunity where xenophobia, racial stereotypes, and hatred are not accepted. At an individual level, it is hundreds of individual stories of ambition, sacrifice,… Read More »

Loyalty Points: Thank You Client

Consulting travel is brutal, but one of the benefits is loyalty points. We can thank our clients for the silver, gold, diamond, and platinum status we have with airlines and hotels.  Good ole’ Marriott loyalty points. Some places my wife and I visited using mileage: Toronto, Disney World,  Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Hawaii. … Read More »

How big is the Chinese economy?

These graphs from the Economist describe China’s economy, growth and influence. China certainly has issues (e.g., demographic imbalance, rich-poor disparity, censorship) but you have to admit, China has been putting up some incredible economic numbers. Chinese economy is HUGE. 1) Currently, the Chinese and US economy are approximately the 12-13% of the of global economy… Read More »

Bar Charts: Plastic surgery, meat consumption, reasons young people die

Consultants always appreciate visuals. Here are some great bar charts from the Economist showing the differences between countries.Note: not all countries are shown.  All great bar charts. Meat Consumption by Country by Product Luxembourg, United States, and Australia eat the most meat per capita Argentina eats the most beef per person (think pampas) Kuwait eats… Read More »

Better PowerPoint: 6 Ways to Make Your Point

What’s the so what?  You will hear this phrase used on projects a fair amount. It is certainly not the best usage or even politely worded, but it is critical: Your presentations need to have a point.     Since consultants are paid for insights, recommendations and results (and often paid on an hourly rate), clients… Read More »

Simple PowerPoints

Death by PowerPoint. Presentations can be boring. We have all sat in large conference rooms held captive by a speaker wielding a poorly thought-out PowerPoint.   To misquote a bumper sticker, “PowerPoints don’t kill, people do.” Don’t put lipstick on a pig: Some people respond to this problem by trying to “spice up” their presentations with animation,… Read More »