My Tools: Office Clip Art

Let me be clear right from the start – for the most part Clip Art is your enemy and should be avoided like a crocodile in a swimming pool.Loch Awe

But, in certain circumstance, Clip Art can be your friend, but there are conditions.

The first thing you need to know about Clip Art is that Clip Art is created in styles. You should NEVER use Clip Art from more than one style in a diagram, or set of diagrams.

Using more that one style creates diagrams that would look better if you had cut everything out of Hello and PC Magazine and stuck them on to a piece of paper with Prit Stick.

Styles are essential but how do you find items of the same style. Office online helps here, they show you the style and let you search on it.

If you do a Clip Art search on and find something that you like the style of and then open that drawing you get a dialogue similar to the one below:


Notice the style number down the right-hand side. The style in this case is 1540  which you can simply click on to get other items in that style:


Being of the same style these items go together in a diagram without looking like the diagram was drawn by a 2 year old with the aid of Crayola.

If you are looking for something specific you can obviously update the search terms rather than browsing through all of the items.


I’m showing style 1540 because I quite like it. It’s diagram Clip Art with items that are icon type representations of things that work well in the conceptual diagrams that I draw.

The other thing that I do is to put the icons that I am going to use in a messy set in the last slide, this is useful for quick reference.

There is another thing that I wish more people would do with Clip Art and that is to maintain the aspect ratio. The items look OK when they are the same height and width as the original. Shrinking items down should be done with your finger on the Ctrl key, that way the items don’t look squashed. A professional artist has spent some time making this Clip Art look right, squashing it makes it look wrong, as simple as that.

And while I’m on the subject, the items should all be the same size or a small number of different sizes. Again this is quite simple, select a number of objects and set the size to be the same using the menu. If you are using PowerPoint 2007 it’s in the Format menu.

The next thing that you need to know about Clip Art is that less is more. Like most design – simpler is normally better. Don’t try and fill the diagram with Clip Art, use it sparingly. If a box is the right thing to use – use a box, don’t use Clip Art of a box. Remember white space is your friend. Leave room for the diagram to breath.

And finally, if it should be a photograph (rather than Clip Art) please make it a photograph, there are loads of places where you can find the right picture for your diagram.

Rich Pictures

I’m doing a bit of work with Rich Pictures at the moment. I’m quite enjoying the storyboard elements of the process.

For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about then here is an example from the Open University:


Basis isn’t it? That’s the point.

There are a number of elements to a Rich Picture:

  • pictorial symbols;
  • keywords;
  • cartoons;
  • sketches;
  • symbols;
  • title.

The most interesting part for me is the “cartoons” part. As business people we can be so “professional” that we want things to look great from the start with fancy graphics. Rich Pictures allow us to step back and to deal in symbols and icons to depict an issue.

The challenge I am anticipating is that the Rich Pictures that I have created will need to go through a review cycle with “professional” people. As such I am going to have to battle the tendency to water down the message that comes with reviews. The challenge that I am wanting to depict is a big challenge with lots of facets to it. if we review it too heavily we will make it look far simpler and remove all of the value.

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