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So you’re driving home, sweeping out the closet, watering the lawn, or performing any number of mundane daily tasks when suddenly it hits you - that great idea. Okay, now what?
Let’s face it, being an inventor isn’t easy and the process of creating something from nothing presents unique challenges every step of the way. Coming up with a great new concept is the first step and for some, the biggest hurdle. But once you finally have that idea, the work truly begins because as we all know, the devil is always in the details. How will it work? How should it look? How will you convey it to others?
If you’re lucky enough to be artistic and have skills with a pad and pencil, great – get busy! But if you’re like most of us and find that the amazing new design you’ve just committed to paper vaguely resembles something you once drew in second grade, consider Microsoft PowerPoint.
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t PowerPoint that boring and agonizingly repetitive slide show thing they use for school lessons, in-service classes, and business presentations? Yes, that’s the one. But PowerPoint, in the hands of an inventor, also offers some great basic tools that can be invaluable in the creative process, especially at its early stages.
So you’ve got that great idea as we mentioned and now you sit down, relax, and open your PowerPoint program. A brand new white page comes up, just waiting for your creative magic to begin. From here, you point your arrow to the top tool bar and click the “Insert” tab which reveals a number of choices: text, picture, clip art, shapes, etc. Inserting text in the form of the name of your product is often a great place to start and can be a powerful launching point. The CEO of a successful NYC design firm I have worked with always impressed upon me the importance and impact of a name on design. Names, as he so frequently pointed out, often encapsulate the product vision and can imply features, expectations, etc. Even the process of selecting the right name encourages your mind to take a hard look at what your idea is intended to be, do, and offer. And each time you reopen your project to continue working, seeing the name will also help you maintain your intended direction and goal.
I like to jump to the next step in the creative process by inserting some images that can help to begin forming the reality of the product. Let’s say your idea is for a new gadget that attaches to a car’s dashboard. Start searching for images of dashboards on the web and find one that you think will apply. In doing this, you will not only help yourself better visualize your concept, but by looking through many options you may also discover some potential problems or limitations that you were not aware of. When you find the image that works for you, copy or save and insert it. Inserting a few variations to review and decide on later is always a safe bet too.
From this point, it’s time to start on your product. If your idea is an improvement on something else and you can benefit from using that object as a “base” for your design, then by all means search for an image, insert it, and go from there. But if you need to start from scratch, which is often the case, go back to the “Insert” tab on the toolbar and click the arrow under the “Shapes” tab. This will reveal a nice selection of straight lines, curved lines, squares, circles, hexagons, trapezoids, and many variations in between. You will be amazed at how many possibilities this toolbox of basic shapes can offer. Just as an example, a few years ago I needed an image of a side-by-side refrigerator shown from the front, with one door open and nothing inside. I searched everywhere but just couldn’t find one, so I went to my trusty PowerPoint. Using nothing but some squares, lines and shading, I threw together the image you see at the bottom.
Of course, as with anything new, it takes some practice and experience to make the most of it. Once you have that however, there are really no limits to what you can do. In future articles, I will expand on this in better detail, including the use of 3D rendering with shading which can yield impressive results. If you can’t wait that long, you can always contact us at Inventor Angels and we’ll be happy to help you.
I hope you now have a better understanding and appreciation for PowerPoint. Sure it’s great for presentations (remember Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth?”) which I will expand on in future articles as well, but it also provides a solid starting platform for any new idea. It not only gives you the ability to craft your product, but by visually building it yourself piece by piece, you truly gain a better overall understanding of it - which you should. It is, after all, your “baby.”
Glen Eckert, Inventor Angels