Tag Archives: Apple

What the designing of the Boeing 777 taught me about how to use Apple’s Keynote to give memorable presentations

My attention this week was partially taken up with the news that the Boeing Corporation had completed tests on a core component of its newest design, the 787 Dreamliner, below.

Boeing 787 roll out at Everett

Boeing 787 roll out at Everett

The Dreamliner is Boeing’s answer to rival Airbus’ giant A380, which recently commenced service from Melbourne to Los Angeles with QANTAS. Smaller, and with a longer range, Boeing believes it is a better match for what the flying public desires than the Airbus competitor.

Built of new lightweight but very strong materials, some of the parts being assembled here in Melbourne, the Dreamliner is undergoing many tests before taking its first ever flight. This week on its website Boeing showed video of a very important test outcome: the destruction of the wing box, the central part of the aircraft to which the wings will be joined as well as the fuselage. It needs to be able to withstand huge forces and strain. You can see the test here.

In my work with fearful patients, especially those who believe severe turbulence will rip the wings from the aircraft, I show a similar test performed by Boeing more than ten years ago when its 777 was being tested before entering service. In this case, Boeing built a plane just for the purpose of destroying it, to see what forces the wings could withstand before breaking. To do this very strong steel cables were attached to each wing tip and pulled up in increments, with the hope the plane’s wings could withstand 150% of the worst the weather and a pilot’s poor handling could throw at it, as well as test it in advance of heavier versions being built.

In regular flight, wing tips can flex above or below the centre line by six foot. In the test, the wings bent twenty four feet from the horizontal before an explosive compression took place. You can see the video I show below:

It’s a pretty impressive video, and can start the cognitive shift fearful flyers need in the quest to feel safe on board commercial aircraft. (Touch of irony: The guy in the frame above holding his neck is former Boeing Commercial VP Allan Mullaly who was initially in charge of the 777 program. Later, he was cherry-picked to become Ford’s CEO and it was he and the other Detroit CEOs who copped huge ridicule when each flew in their company’s corporate jets to Washington DC seeking automotive bail-outs this week.)

I first saw this video, narrated by actor Peter Coyote, after a visit to the Boeing plant in Everett, Seatte, WA, and purchased the five-VHS tape series, made by PBS.

The design and manufacture of the 777 set new principles of collaboration for Boeing, between various departments as well as launch customer, United Airlines. (In the wing destruction video, above, the guy who puts the binoculars to his eyes, at 1’27”, is United’s liaison staff member.)

But the design of the airliner was also a first for Boeing in that it used computer workstations to perform many of the designs previously performed by hand on paper. Different departments  designed various systems, such as air-conditioning, hydraulics, moving control surfaces, interior design, etc. At various times in the past, full-sized aircraft mockups were designed, often out of wood or clay (much like cars are designed) to see how the various systems “came together”.

Every so often, a hydraulic element would “interfere” with the positioning of say an air conditioning duct. Then it was back to the drawing board for each department to eliminate this “interference”. Call it stamping out the bugs, to use a coder’s lingo.

What they had to do was design “affordances”, room for piping and other elements like wiring to co-exist in the same space. The advent of large and powerful computers and CAD/CAM software allowed engineers to make redesigns easily achieved while calling up other departments’ system designs to make sure of their shared affordances. (If you go back to the Boeing website and look at the middle video describing the undercarriage, you’ll see how many systems are involved and the close tolerances needed to allow the gear to move into position.)

It is here that I learnt of this concept of affordance, and I now apply it in my presentation magic training.

If you got to Wikipedia, here, you will see a variety of definitions of affordance, some of which contradict each other.

But if you’re reading this while toying with your iPod, then you’re likely to experience the kind of affordance I have in mind for my presentations. It’s an aspect of industrial design that leads the eye and hand to act in a certain way. The iPod’s scroll wheel and menu system were designed such that no manual was needed to operate the device, and learn its nuances.

Indeed, just this week, I was showing a colleague an iPod for his first time. He wanted to borrow it to record some lectures, and I was happy to lend it to him together with attachable iTalk recorder hardware. Within a few minutes, with me guiding him with words, and he using his fingers and thumb, he caught the essentials and reproduced them on his own without my advice.

This is affordance at work, and it has perhaps reached a near-zenith with the iPhone where again one needs very little instruction as to its use, and the design implicitly guides you into action. Contrast that with how Steve Jobs described its so-called “smart phone” competitors at the iPhone’s release almost two years ago, and you will also understand the concept of “interference”, where the menu system seems to be conspiring to make your use of the competing phone difficult and thus stressful.

Users, and audiences for that matter, give up if the task they are being asked to perform is too stressful or interfering with how they usually do things. Sometimes they know what they should do, and other times they don’t understand how things operate but that doesn’t matter as long as they get the main message. This is how magic becomes entertaining, when we know we are being fooled, but don’t know how the trick is done.

In presentations, I use my knowledge of neuroscience, and the social psychology of persuasion, to create affordances leading the audience where I want them to go. This is why the use of colour, pleasing animations, movies, sounds, text which matches voice, and other affordances make for engaging and memorable presentations.

It’s why I choose to use Keynote rather than other software because it better matches my desire to create affordances, not just for the audience but for slide design, while say, Powerpoint seems more intent to my taste on creating interferences.

This is why I so often describe Keynote as eliciting creativity because it seems to reduce the likelihood of interferences, even though at times I wonder what the programmers were thinking about. For instance, in Keynote 4, the addition of Instant Alpha has changed the way I work with Keynote. Look at the video below to see what I’m talking about.

Using Art Text’s wonderful icons, I wanted to use a paper clip to create a special effect, which most in an audience wouldn’t notice (but a Keynote user would).

Here’s what it looks like when I try to place the paper clip onto the picture in a way that emulates the real thing:

All that happens is that the picture covers up the clip. Of course, if you send the Clip forward of the picture, you will simply see the clip sitting on top of the picture, not doing its job of being a paper clip.

But with some use of a new affordance introduced in Keynote 4, Instant Alpha, a photo retouching device previously only available in third party software such as Photoshop, and somes screen shot magic, I can fool the eye into believing the photo is being placed between the loops of the clip – a 3D illusion in 2D, seen below.

It’s a very simple illusion which many wouldn’t bother to notice because it’s something they do most days (using paperclips) and is hardly outstanding. But those who create presentations will momentarily wonder how I did it, knowing it’s doable, but which “magic” was elicited to do so.

If you got a hold of the original Keynote file I created, you could “reverse engineer” my actions by looking within Keynote’s Inspector at the actions I created and seeing each step. In my Powertools session at Macworld 2009, I’ll be creating features like this, some more complex, and showing how to use Keynote’s abilities to elicit illusory acts which take quite some time to plan and execute in the design phase, and which may only last a few seconds in the audience’s attention span. So be it.

The whole idea about knowing the secret of affordances is that you are abandoning the cognitive style of Powerpoint (which is about making life easy for the presenter with bullet points, copy and paste text, and chintzy clip art providing a dumbed down message), by making your slides tell a story to make life for the audience easy, allowing your central message to penetrate and stick.

You see, if your presentation contains interferences – jarring transitions, pixelated images, written text competing with what your saying, and smartass animations for the sake of it – your messages are compromised and won’t stick. What will stick is an idea that will spontaneously form within about three minutes (the length of a speaker’s “honeymoon” period after commencing their presentation) which is that the audience will first check their watches, then their iPhones or Blackberries, and then how covertly they can leave the auditorium.

Affordances, if you know how to create those that sync. with how the brain works, will engage your audience. The best affordances involve the audience. Some presenters choose to do this, depending on their personal style, by asking questions directly of the audience, or having them chat to the person next to them, or have them close their eyes and imagine a scene, or break people up into small groups and have them do tasks. All well and good, and I’ve used each of them and more in workshops.

But I take particular pride in involving audiences without their knowing I’m doing it by my cognitive style, supported by what I can do with my voice, my body, and my slides.

In my Powertools workshop, we’ll look at all these factors and how to (hopefully) seamlessly integrate them while always keeping a focus on the central story. Indeed, telling stories is a major affordance by my definition, tapping into the human hard-wiring for story telling.

While it’s great to become extremely competent with your presentation software, knowing its in’s and out’s and becoming technically proficient, the danger is that this same competency can become an interference if all you do with it is to show off your prowess and thus lose your message in the process.

I’ve seen this happen when some have seen my presentations, taken some of the effects and devices, and applied it without suffcient thought to why I did what I did. What’s left is a pastiche of clever animations, funny cartoons, and an audience that leaves amused but not persuaded.

And a presenter who thinks they’ve abandoned their old traditional means of presenting in exchange for something for the 21st Century, but they’re only part of the way there. As are we all!

While Wall Street went “meh” over the Let’s Rock keynote, Steve Jobs stealthily showed us the next version of his presentation software, Keynote

Whilst Wall Street sighed with feigned non-interest at the outcome of Apple’s “Let’s Rock” presentation on Tuesday, and others wondered if Apple had lost its sparkle with no surprises – the rumour sites put paid to that – another group of Apple observers were watching keenly.

This is a group that has come to learn that there is one Apple product that Steve Jobs does not keep wrapped up tightly and hidden under a bushell, lest the rumour sites steal his thunder. Indeed, I think what I’m talking about is the only product that Apple regularly lets the public see ahead of its release, with nary a mention. Those who have visited my blogs from time to time know of which product I speak: Keynote, Apple’s presentation software first released at Macworld 2003.

Nowadays, during each of Steve Jobs presentations, Keynote observers watch for tell-tale signs that an update is imminent. We saw a little hint at this year’s Macworld keynote, when the Macbook Air was released: a few new transitions.

But at Tuesday’s “Let’s Rock” iPodfest, we got the message loud and clear that a significant Keynote update, perhaps a version update, not just a point-update (ie Version 5 rather than version 4.0.4) was on its way.


Since my teachings with Keynote so emphasise the visual (“the visual system is to broadband what the audio system is to dial-up”), how better to demonstrate the likely forthcoming update by sharing with you screenshots of Let’s Rock presentation, in the order I spotted them. Perhaps there are others I missed, so please let me know: les-at-lesposen.com

Let’s Start:

The first hint comes very early in the keynote, just a few minutes in:

This is actually the placing of the word “Music” onto the screen, in a starburst kind of way, much like the old Screen Gems logo used in TV shows of long ago. Let’s see what happens a moment later:

Now we can see the word “Music” appearing. The effect is hardly subtle, but one that really draws your attention. Let’s see what happens next:

The starburst finshes its “orbit” and the full word is revealed. This is a full-on animation which these screenshots can barely illustrate in an adequate fashion. But even so, I see them as evidence of new effects. Together with what else we see as the keynote progress, it can be taken as evidence of continued improvement in the Keynote app.

Nextnew image manipulation abilities or just an imported Photoshopped image?

Take a look at what comes next in the Jobs’ slideshow: an image of iTunes 7, below:

I want you to notice an effect I use frequently in my own Keynotes, especially when I’m showing book covers, newspaper articles, or journal papers. This is a skewed image where the left edge angles down to a shorter right edge, as if the image was rotated slightly. This has the effect of drawing the eye along the image from left to right, and in my own slides there is a large amount of black (or white space) where your eye moves to and you just “know” something will appear there. This is me taking control of the message delivery by directing your gaze where I want it to go – let’s call this “direction” as compared to the magician’s “misdirection” where he sets you up for a “gosh, how did he do that?” moment.

Currently, to do this effect in Keynote means using another software, such as Photoshop or GraphicConverter. Indeed, even Powerpoint for Mac 2008 has rudimentary image manipulation tools which I have used to distort and image then import it into Keynote. My guess is, judging by this image, Keynote is about to match Powerpoint’s ability, if not leapfrog past it. Look further at the image above, and note how the reflection leaves no gap at the bottom, which is what would happen if you just dropped in a Photoshopped image. This gives further support to the notion that Keynote has received upgraded photo tools.

Next: New text animations

Keynote has far fewer animation effects than Powerpoint, but what it does have screams at you that you are seeing a Keynote rather than more of the same Powerpoint. In the next series of slides we see a new text animation effect. We start with a number displayed, “8,500,000” and underneath it, “songs” in smaller print.

In actual fact, the animation has just begun, if you notice how the “5” and the third “0” are a tad brighter than the other digits.

In the next slide, a moment later, we see this:

There is the same “5” and “0” and the comma, but also notice that in the word “songs” some letters have gove missing. Transpositions are taking place, as we see in the next slide:

In fact, we now see a new text image: 125,000 Podcasts. But notice how the “5” and the “0” in 125,000, and the “o” and “s” in Podcasts are brighter, having remained from the previous text (8,500,000 songs). What an interesting transition, and I’m going to be curious to see when to use it in my own slide creations when I get my hands on this version of Keynote. And what the development team have called this effect!

Moving along… a “flip and hang” transition

In the next new transition, we start at the point where Steve is discussing the pricing of Standard Definition (SD) television shows (priced at $1.99) and how iTunes 8 will also now support High Definition (HD) at $2.99.

Here’s how we move from one price point to the other. We start with SD:

Notice in the next image a moment later how the price starts to flip upwards:

… and in the next slide, as it flips right over, it and the letters “SD” are being replaced by the $2.99, and the HD letters:

But in the next slide, below, we see the fun element. The “HD” has now appeared but the price $2.99 is still flipping around on a different time basis. Again, another transition that captures the gaze.

And in the next slide both HD and $2.99 rock on their horizontal axes – quite an unusual yet strangely familiar effect.

Next: Follow the bouncing hoola-hoop

One of the things I teach in my Presentation Magic classes is how to draw the eye to specific locations on the slide. There are any number of reasons for doing this, and any number of ways. Most presenters are utterly lazy and use those awful laser pointers to circle or point to something on the slide. Most times, it looks as if they have early onset Parkinson’s Disease because it’s very difficult to hold the pointer steady, and drawing circles around specific areas is usually of little help.

My preferred solution is to know ahead of time, when you prepare your slides, just what on the slide you want your audience to look for. You can state it: “Now, of you notice this column in the spreadsheet” or “Let’s take a closer look at this aeroplane’s engine exhaust”. Or, you can either circle these areas with a shape outline, or grey out the areas around the target location, leaving the target the only object in full colour or you can cut out the target, enlarge it, and bring it forward over a fuzzy background image. These are but two ways of drawing the audience’s eye where you want it to go.

In the slide sequence below, we see that Keynote’s developers have attended to this and we get a new way, probably one of several, to highlight a specific area of a slide. We start with the iTunes interface once more:

In the next moment, at the bottom left corner, we see a purple circle emerge – it actually bounces onto the slide from the left:

… and like a demented and distorting hula hoop keeps bouncing over to the right:

…bouncing and rolling…

… almost there…

… until fully formed as a circle, it highlights the new “Genius” icon in iTunes 8:

I’m guessing this is just one of a few new ways Keynote will allow you to highlight various aspects of a slide, and I am guessing its developers have been looking closely at how some of us have been using Keynote’s abilities and both making it easier for us (less clicks) as well adding features from their own imaginations.

Such as this graph below, which shows the “rock solid” growth of iPod sales. So why not use a slab of rock to drive home the point?

Jobs reaches the end of the new Nano announcements with a replication of the “screen gems” effect but its orientation is vertical, whereas at the beginning of the keynote it was horizontal. Let’s see. We start with the new Nano:

And with the curviness of the new screen, it’s a no brainer to “highlight” it:

… drawing attention to its new appearance, now added to by movement of the “screen gems”:

… which really gets the eye’s attention:

Were there other new effects I missed?

Well, I kind of got the feeling that one of my wishes for Keynote came true: A Ken Burns’ effect where one could enlarge and pan across the slide, dropping down onto a section to highlight. But perhaps I was only seeing things, and it was the camera videoing the keynote that was performing this effect.

Yet perhaps….

In any case, out of all this rather obsessional Keynote watching, comes the renewed belief that we are in for a Keynote upgrade, hopefully way before Macworld, so I can incorporate its new effects in my two-day workshop, shortly to be announced by IDG/Macworld.

I’ll write more about this in the next few weeks as the Conference starts to shape up, and perhaps the Keynote community can share with me some of their desires for Keynote. I have a strong suspicion the Keynote team at Apple will be listening closely to our ideas for how to further improve Keynote, and help it to help us elicit more creativity and less boredom in our audiences.