The Evolution of the Illustrated Prezis

Jun 23, 2012 by

Many people have asked about how we do the illustrations for the Prezi presentations I build, so I thought I’d write a little about the process we go through. I say “we” because the presentations are mine, but I couldn’t do them without the help of an incredibly talented illustrator, Mat Moore.

We’ve worked together on illustrating books and presentations for three years now, and I’m pretty sure that Mat can now read my mind. Our process now goes something like this.

I call Mat and say “I need a new illustration, as detailed as possible (translation: I’m paying top dollar – make it awesome!), on the Future of Working. Because a lot of what I’m talking about will be related to digital and virtual work, it would be cool if the illustration was a corporate office park, but built entirely out of computer chips – remember we started doing an illustration like that once? Well, let’s really go all out this time.” Mat: “Okay.”

First (Rough) Draft of "Future of Working" Click on Image to Enlarge.

At some point a few days later, I get a draft. It is a ROUGH of what the sketch might look like. Just like with software design, it’s really better to make changes here, before the really hard work of illustration is done. This is the point where you have to tell the illustrator if you hate it, want specific details, etc. Sometimes I know that I want some very specific elements in the presentation (for example, in past presentations, I’ve asked for a money tree, a person straddling the “Internet” pipes holding a laptop, etc.). This is the time to tell your illustrator about anything specific that you really NEED to be in that illustration. It will be much harder to add it later.

At this point in our working relationship, Mat knows that he needs to leave me blank spaces, roughly rectangular in shape, to add the presentation elements. We didn’t know this when we first started doing these presentations, it has been a feature that has evolved over time. If you look carefully, you’ll see that every illustration has space specifically left for this purpose now. When I get next version of the illustration from Mat, there is still a little back and forth between us as we tweak the illustration.

Once I’m on the final version, I have to produce a SWF file for the illustration (the PDF versions are usually too big to be processed by Prezi). Then I look for the blank canvases that Mat has left me in the illustration. Here are a few examples of places where I will drop the “slides” in this presentation.

Nice rectangular spaces on this computer chip. Perfect for a sequence of slides on the same topic. Click on image to enlarge.

Here's an example of some less structured space that was left blank for me to add presentation elements. You can see the "before" and "after" in the comparison. Click on the image to enlarge.

Here you can see the same illustrated space without and then with the presentation elements. Click on image to enlarge.

In the final version, the presentation elements are so integrated with the image, that it can actually be difficult to spot them. The only real indicators are because the presentation elements introduce an element of color to the black & white canvas.

Final "Future of Working" Prezi. Click on image to enlarge.

You can view the final version of this particular illustration here: Future of Working or click through the embedded version below.

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Future of Working

Jun 23, 2012 by

For the last three weeks, in preparation for a presentation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Future of Working.  Not the Future of Careers per se, but the future of working and work-life – what will it be like to work in the year 2020?

So after much thinking (usually while doing mundane tasks like weeding gardens and sanding the house), discussions with other futurists, reading, and consideration of the outside pressures on the workplace and work-life, I’ve built a new presentation on the Future of Working.  I do have an audio transcript, which I hope to have my assistant transcribe soon, but for now you can get the general gist of what was discussed by clicking through the Prezi.

The illustration for this Prezi is really incredibly impressive (kudos to my illustrator, Mat Moore).  The setting is an office/industrial/agricultural complex, except the whole complex is built from computer parts.  We’ve worked together on these illustrated Prezis for years now and Mat leaves me blank spaces to incorporate the “slides” in the presentation, as you see in the image below.

Mat leaves open spaces in the illustrations for me to drop in photos and frames on the path of the presentation. Click on the image to enlarge it.

You won’t notice the incredible level of detail in this illustration until you view the zooms during the presentation. He’s really put in some incredibly tiny details like streetlights and trees.  I think I’ll have to print a poster-size version just to find all the easter egg details in this one.

Note the details like trees and street lights that Mat has drawn into the illustration. Click on the image to enlarge it.


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What skills should we be teaching to future-proof an education?

Oct 21, 2011 by

Some time last year I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what skills we could be focusing on in higher education to “future-proof” a degree.  What skills will stay relevant no matter what future careers look like?  There are two frameworks used and endorsed in K-12 education: Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Equipped for the Future.

I felt that the lists not quite right for adults that are returning or seeking an education.  Here is the list that I developed, and a link to the Prezi that includes many video resources that correspond with the skills.


  • Manage your information stream
  • Pay attention to details
  • Remember (when you need to)
  • Observe critically
  • Read with understanding
  • Set and meet goals


  • Media literacy (determine and create the right media for the job)
  • Present ideas digitally
  • Design for the audience
  • Depict data visually
  • Convey ideas in text
  • Speak so that others understand


  • Advocate and influence
  • Resolve conflict and negotiate
  • Collaborate (F2F or virtually)
  • Guide others
  • Lead


  • Interpret data
  • Make decisions
  • Think critically
  • Solve problems
  • Forecast
  • Filter information


  • Think across disciplines
  • Think across cultures
  • Innovate
  • Adapt to new situations
  • See others’ perspectives
  • Be creative


  • Formulate a learning plan
  • Synthesize the Details
  • Information Literacy
  • Formulate good questions
  • Reflect and evaluate
  • Know what you know


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Levers of Change in Higher Education

Jul 8, 2010 by

Here’s the latest Prezi on Levers of Change in Higher Education.

We’ve seen many major industries undergo dramatic change in the last decade (i.e. manufacturing, newspapers, and customer service).  While education seems “untouchable” to those within the system, there are many “levers of change” that have the potential for dramatic restructuring of higher education as well.  Online courses, adaptive computer assessment systems, open-source textbooks, edupunks, pay-by-the-month degrees, … these are just some of the levers that are prying at the corners of higher education.  In this presentation I will identify many of the levers of change that have the potential to shift higher education, resources to learn more about these, and a few scenarios that describe some of the possible futures of higher education. You can also watch the video of the live presentation here.

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Playing to Learn?

May 3, 2010 by

This is a rebuild of the Presentation I did in Texas called “Playing to Learn Math?” It is focused on a general audience in education and includes many more games and simulations than the prior version.  Before you click through, think about this …

  • 99% of boys aged 12-17 play video games
  • 94% of girls aged 12-17 play video games
  • 50% of teens played video games “yesterday”

Pew Research, Teens, Video Games, and Civics, 2008

Since 2006, the rate of Internet use for teens aged 12-17 has been 93-94%, with roughly 40% using the Internet “Several Times a Day” (Pew Research, Millenials: A Portrait of Generation Next) The next time you have a student who says they don’t have access to the Internet, stop and consider.  To not teach students to use the Internet (and use it appropriately) is akin to leaving out a crucial job/life skill like reading.  If that same student said they “didn’t have access to books” how would you respond?  Our campuses have both computer labs and libraries. Is it unreasonable for students to be expected to use both if necessary?

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