Duarte Design helps Al Gore "go visual"
June 01, 2006
Duarte Design absolutely kicks butt when it comes to presentation design. Duarte helps their clients clarify their content, differentiate their core message, and create the most compelling presentations on the planet. Duarte gets visual storytelling. And just who are Duarte's clients? You've probably heard of a few of them: Apple, Adobe, Kodak, Google, Cisco, Symantec, Sun,...Al Gore. Al Gore?
When I posted about Al Gore's one-man traveling slideshow last week, I had totally forgotten (misremembered?) that it was Duarte Design that helped Al Gore create those compelling slides that are so crucial to his live presentations. Then I received this comment from Ted Boda, a Duarte designer who worked with Al Gore on the project
"Al Gore's presentation was in fact using Apple's Keynote presentation software (the same software Steve Jobs presents from) and did so for a number of reasons. As a designer for the presentation Keynote was the first choice to help create such an engaging presentation."
Apple's Keynote anti-aliases its fonts and graphics, scales vector objects and supports QuickTime videos easily and without any plug-ins. Duarte used a combination of Keynote's graphics and graph tools, Illustrator, Photoshop, AfterEffects (for more complex animations) and dropped in numerous videos from different sources to complete his presentation. Some of the videos dropped were up to 1920x1080 (HD), they played and scaled extremely well and was something our team could not even begin to think about doing in PowerPoint."
-- Ted Boda
Of course! Now I remember...and it figures. One look at Al Gore's live show and you can see he got help from the best. And Duarte's the best I've seen. Last December I had the pleasure of spending a few of hours at Duarte Design, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Nancy and Mark had invited me in to their office to share my experiences in Japan and to look at some of the Duarte Design "special sauce" that makes their process and design work so good (and their clients so happy). The Al Gore project came up in conversation, but (with my jetlag at the time) I completely forgot about it until I heard from Ted.
Duarte helped take Al's visuals up several notches
Yesterday I asked Nancy Duarte a few questions about working with Al Gore. Here's what she said.
Q: How did Al Gore find you guys?
A: "We were referred to Mr. Gore from Apple's graphic design group because of our mastery of Apple's Keynote application. Keynote really was the only option since it handles image, video and animation so well. He had just joined the board so our office location was very convenient."
Q: What was the process like?
A: "We had been working closely with him on his presentation for a while before the concept of a movie was proposed. He would call us with ideas and take us in a direction. Once we'd identified stories or images and had them animated, he would come in for a review. He was brilliant, charming and affirming. Our Account Manager and Designers put their own sweat into the piece because he (and the cause) were very contagious. He would call their cell and say "I heard about these bees in South America, check it out for me" or "I came up with a way to make this section more powerful, why don't you think about this or that." He was refining the file each time he presented it and calling us with feedback and we'd go for another round. As we researched facts and resourced images, people were very helpful when we told them who wanted the images and what it was for."
Q: It's not every day that a global leader stops by the office, what was Al really like?
A:"We always try to pretend that folks like him come by every day. We'd have a cold Diet Coke ready for him and then he'd get right to work. Even though he is one of the most powerful men in the world, he was consistently kind and thoughtful. Each time he delivered the presentation locally he acknowledged our firm which was astounding to us. He would make sure we had seats and invitations to the swanky presos too. It's funny, because he's actually one of the most thoughtful and gracious clients that we have."
Churn, baby, churn
One good piece of advice found in Guy Kawasaki's Rules for Revolutionaries is the idea of constantly striving for improvement, or churning. In Japanese we might refer to this idea as "kaizen" or an attitude of continually looking for ways to improve, even the smallest of details. It is interesting to see that Al Gore was constantly learning from each presentation and refining his message and his visuals along the way. This is a good lesson for all of us. If we present often, we should always be looking for ways to tweak our content or our supporting visuals to make it better. This does not always mean adding more; often it may mean subtracting or simplifying. Experience can be a great editor for us, helping us to churn our message over the weeks, months, or years.
Unseen Al Gore Campaign Video
A lot of people have been commenting on the "new Al Gore" in 2006. Although he won the popular vote in 2000, one of the knocks against him was his "wooden" communication style. Some said he was boring, stiff. As far as his "wooden" presentation style of the past, part of it may have been his fault. Perhaps he played it too conservative, held it back too much. But the media played a part in creating and perpetuating the dull, stiff, Gore-as-a-robot persona, a great distraction from the substantive issues of the day.
In this unseen footage filmed by Spike Jonze during the 2000 campaign (also see part II), we see an Al Gore that is funny, relaxed, and engaging. This piece was never widely seen in 2000. Some say that if it had aired, the election may have turned out differently. Who knows. But it is a wonderful little documentary-like piece with the vice-president. This is the man the media mocked as wooden and stiff? In part I and part II Gore addresses his reputation for being stiff on several occasions. The same guy we see hanging out with his family in this video is the same guy we see giving Keynote presentations about global warming to packed houses across the US. In both cases he seems different from the Al I saw on TV six years ago. Maybe he's just learned to take "the real Al" public. Maybe he's just learned to be himself in front of the public. Whatever the reasons for his transformation, he is today quite the speaker. And thanks to Duarte, Al Gore is a pretty savvy visual communicator as well.
Note: Duarte Design has spent a lot of time helping Al Gore with his live Keynote presentations. Additional firms played a role, of course, with graphics in the film and with the trailer for the film.
• Duarte: The purple cow of presentation design firms.
• Checkout Duarte's cool examples of presentations and implementations of motion graphics (as well as web, etc.).
• Contact info for Duarte Design
• "Unseen Al Gore Campaign Video" Part I
• "Unseen Al Gore Campaign Video" Part II
• "Al Revere" (Interview with David Roberts).
• Realclimate.org: "For the most part, I think Gore gets the science right."
• Gore on climate skeptics (with video)
• The resurrection of Al Gore (wired magazine)